March 18th, 2015
Last month, on the first-ever National Adjunct Walkout Day, adjunct professors held protests all over the country. A quick look at the numbers makes it easy to see why: A typical adjunct makes about $25,000 a year, receives no benefits, and works on a contract that lasts only one or two semesters at a time. Over the past few decades, instead of offering full-time faculty positions, colleges have increasingly hired adjuncts as a way to cut costs and circumvent the protections afforded to tenured professors. As a result, adjuncts now make up about half of all college and university faculty nationwide. Even though they have advanced degrees and do work that almost everyone agrees is vitally important, many of the people who teach college barely make ends meet.
I have experienced this myself. I have a Ph.D. in applied mathematics and work as an adjunct professor at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). Like a lot of adjuncts, I have mixed feelings about my job. On the one hand, I love the work I do. At CCBC, I feel that I am part of something hugely important — providing equitable access to education. On the other hand, I made less than $20,000 last year and do not receive health insurance or other benefits. This makes it virtually impossible to save money, or maintain more than a modicum of financial security.