American higher education, once the envy of the world, is continuing to slump towards a becoming a factory for debtors. With falling public tax support around the country for our two and four year colleges and universities, students are underwriting the enormous growth in tuition and administrators’ salaries with student loan debt. Adjunct (contingent) faculty are the majority of the teachers. They are also underwriters being paid so poorly that many qualify for food stamps.
We noted this several years ago in our article, “The Gig Economy in the Academy – a note“.
Recently we noted this report below on PBS News Hour from February 2014. In the report Professor Peter Brown (SUNY New Palz) notes that since 1970 adjunct pay has fallen 49% while college presidents pay has risen 35%.
In digging into this a bit one can understand how dire the situation is by observing the fact that the number one policy initiative for the New Faculty Majority, an adjunct teacher organization, is access to unemployment insurance. Perhaps we will see others in the Uber economy agitate for such a basic right of employment.
From the Executive Summary:
According to data from the United States Department of Education’s 2009 Fall Staff Survey, of the nearly 1.8 million faculty members and instructors who made up the 2009 instructional workforce in degree-granting two- and four-year institutions of higher education in the United States, more than 1.3 million (75.5%) were employed in contingent positions off the tenure track, either as part- time or adjunct faculty members, full-time non-tenure-track faculty members, or graduate student teaching assistants…….
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Also published on Medium.