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Adjunct dilemma

Published November 28, 2012 1:01 am

Part-time faculty are underpaid
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's Economics 101: If there are many people willing to do a certain job for low pay, the pay for that job will remain low. The same could be said of other career payouts, including benefits like health insurance and retirement contributions. When employees appear unconcerned, why should an institution offer more?

In the world of academia, there is the added stigma of a part-time faculty member appearing to be more "blue-collar" than her full-time colleagues if she complains about her pay. Intellectualism seldom brings a high salary, and true academics think about more intrinsic rewards.

But adjunct instructors at Utah Valley University face more of a practical stigma from not being able to make a living teaching because the pay is low, even for people with good academic credentials but not, perhaps, doctoral degrees.

It seems that UVU — and other colleges — are taking advantage of the part-timers' unwillingness to make a fuss. About two-thirds of UVU's 1,600 faculty members are adjuncts, and they teach nearly half of all course sections.

Several Tribune staffers teach part-time as adjuncts.

One UVU part-timer told a Tribune reporter he expects to make $22,220 for teaching 30 credit hours a year. That's about half to a third of an average UVU full-time professor's salary, and the adjunct is shouldering what would be considered a full teaching load.

It's true that adjunct instructors generally do not have the highest possible academic degree, usually a doctorate, although some do. But it's obvious many of them have considerable teaching experience, and many have extensive backgrounds in the subject they teach.

Adjuncts allow UVU and other fast-growing institutions of higher learning to inexpensively offer more course sections, so students can progress at a steady pace toward a degree. They are usually paid on a semester basis. They usually do not have a long-term contract and teach according to a department's need from one semester to the next. So they have no job security, no benefits and a low pay scale that doesn't rise much, if at all.

This growing underclass threatens to replace full-time, tenured professors and those graduating with advanced degrees who want to teach full time. In 1975 full-time professors made up 47.1 percent of the academic workforce and adjuncts 34.3. By 2009 adjuncts had increased to 46.2 percent to tenure-track professors' 34.3 percent.

Students pay the same for an adjunct as for a full-time professor. To be fair, universities should treat adjuncts as professionals.




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