Adjuncts Teaching All the Classes

If you are a college student today enrolled in four classes during any given semester, it is likely that only one of your teachers is employed by your school in a permanent position that comes with a middle-class salary, job security, and benefits. The other three are contingent faculty, often called “adjuncts”; they have job titles like “instructor” or “lecturer” rather than “professor” but their roles in the classroom are the same. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), adjuncts at U.S. colleges and universities now comprise “more than 75 percent of the total instructional staff.”

So says Minding the Campus in Adjuncts and the Devalued PhD.

At my SLAC this would not be true. There are three adjuncts and fifteen full-time folks in the English department. Most departments are similarly constructed, though many have fewer full-time faculty.

I don’t even think this would have been true at the community college I was privileged to teach at last year either.

But if you are going to a big state university, most of the undergraduates get taught by adjuncts and grad students. I’d say almost 100% for freshman and sophomores at least. So that’s where the 3 out of 4 comes from.

4 thoughts on “Adjuncts Teaching All the Classes”

  1. Where I currently teach, there aren’t a lot of adjuncts teaching. BUT, there are more people who are full-time instructors than tenured or tenure-track professors. Like me. The difference isn’t terrible when first starting off; our salaries are a bit lower than a starting tt prof, we have benefits and retirement, and only one more course to teach than normal faculty. The difference really begins to show after years of service: no raises, no chance for promotion, little say in how the department, program, or university is run. So while using full-time instructors is certainly more humane than over-reliance on adjunct labor, it’s still contingent and it still creates a multi-tier system of educators working within the university.

  2. The 75% adjunct number seems a bit high but not too far off. My college’s English dept has somewhere around 60 adjuncts, with far fewer full timers. The dependency on adjuncts has created a sticky situation and the adjuncts are the ones who suffer – after all, why pay full time salaries and benefits to those who are willing to do more for less.

  3. At my community college, roughly 80% of the classes taught were taught by adjuncts. I say were, because that was the last figure I could grab before all the budget cutbacks. Maybe it’s lower now, since we have halved our student body, and the full-timers have a required amount of classes they have to teach? Good for the students–still the pits for us trying to get full-time positions.

    Truth be told: I’ve actually come to peace with the idea that I’ll be an adjunct forever. No office, no title, no salary, no benefits, but that’s the game, isn’t it? I’m cheap, and admins like cheap in this day and age of budget cutbacks.

  4. To Elizabeth E. ~ A magazine on a Southwest flight said that working contract was the “new” employment and “oh so much better” because if one job falls through, the contract worker isn’t dependant on that one and “simply” picks up another. Interesting theory from someone who probably doesn’t drive 500 miles a week like I do to teach on three campuses to work a more-than-40 hour week (grading) for wages that barely cover expenses.

    One of the problems with such high numbers in adjuncts is that one of the colleges where I teach has absolutely no one, not one, zero full time faculty teaching the remedial English and Reading courses. Because they have no interest in these couses, the adjuncts that do teach them have no support or oversight, and most of them are not directly qualified to teach their subject. (I’m English but I taught three levels of Reading one semester; I recommend it because it was on eye-opener.) The problem with this mentality is that without a proper foundation, these students will struggle mightily all of the way through — or drop, which affects the school’s access to Pells/FASFA because of the high default rate.

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