U-Pay Chronicles: adjunct pay

U-News Staff

Adjuncts, or part-time instructors, are increasingly hired to carry out the education of undergraduate students. According to a graph compiled in 2011 by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Research Office, the average degree-granting institution has faculty composed of 51 percent adjuncts, 30 percent tenured or tenure-track, and 19 percent full-time non-tenure track.

With this data in mind, one might wonder why there is such a national reliance on adjuncts. Simple: the wages paid to adjuncts are much lower and more cost effective than a full-time lecturer’s pay. According to a report in 2013 from a Coalition on the Academic Workforce survey, the average pay per course in 2010 was $2,700, which closely matches UMKC’s English Department adjunct pay of $2,400 per course. If an adjunct teaches a full load (four classes) both fall and spring semesters, before taxes that totals about $19,200 per year. Even if they happen to get summer course work, adjuncts here and nationwide max out at about $25,000 per year. On the other hand, according to the AAUP 2012 study reported in “Chronicles of Higher Education,” tenure and tenure-track professors made around $110,488. However, this national average is higher than UMKC’s average pay, which ranges from $63,500 for associate professors to $108,200 for full professors.

By comparison, the Bureau of Labor reports that the average salary for a high school teacher, as of 2012, is around $55,000 a year. Though adjunct positions are filled by either people in the process of receiving a Masters degree, doctoral degree, or other terminal degree, teaching jobs in high schools only require a Bachelors in Education. The pay disparity can’t, therefore, be attributed to education level. It must be something else.

Daniel Mahala, associate professor of English at UMKC, admits that adjuncts and full-time lecturers act as “sub-professionals.”

“A full-time lecturer in the English department doesn’t earn as much as a teacher in the Missouri school district,” Mahala said.

The average Missouri teacher in 2012 earned $46,406, according to the Missouri National Education Association. In contrast, the average English full-time non-tenured lecturer at UMKC makes $30,888.

The reliance on adjuncts isn’t random.

“There are financial incentives that serve as the basis for part-time employment in order to cut down on costs,” Mahala said. “But the only legitimate reason for adjuncts is to cover class schedule fluctuations. If a university has a surge [in registration], they need adjuncts to cover that. But when half the teaching is covered by adjuncts, it’s an attempt to save money.”

He explained that the wisest thing to do in terms of adjunct pay would be to “prorate [the per-course pay] to equal what full-time faculty get, so there aren’t incentives to subsidize.” However, Mahala admits that this won’t fix everything.

“Full time lecturers are still at risk for abuse,” he said. “Though not as much as adjuncts, full-time lecturers can still get fired for any number of reasons, they tend to have heavy teaching loads, and they don’t get to participate in the governing aspects within the departments. In the end, the best solution is to provide more funding for faculty pay.”