Adjuncts and the Market

Have you ever calculated your hourly wage, based on time spent on campus, plus grading papers or preparing elsewhere? A recent post by blogger Busynessgirl,—CEO of a software company and adjunct instructor for a community college—gets into the economics of part-time teaching.

The writer is the sort of accomplished individual we proudly point  to among our adjunct ranks—a college instructor who does not need the money, teaching for the sheer psychic rewards. She is also a former full-time college professor. Please have a look at the article, as some of her complaints may ring true.

Adjunct salaries vary tremendously around Texas, and we have all heard tales of part-timers who travel from one college to another, essentially working out of the trunks of their cars, with little or no office space, and virtually no interaction with campus life. This situation is more likely to occur in large metropolitan areas, for practical reasons. (We’ll save the problems regarding adjunct health and retirement benefits for another time, as it deserves separate treatment.)

The writer speculates on whether at some point adjuncts will be called to work via an app, like summoning a car through Uber or Lyft. The idea seems fanciful, but undoubtedly the situation with adjuncts is a market-driven phenomenon. The teaching app model may be feasible with online instruction in certain specialized fields. In a way that’s what MOOCs were supposed to be about, but so far MOOCs have not lived up to their promise, especially at the community college level.

In areas where adjuncts are unionized, some schools have agreed to collective bargaining for part-time instruction, but this scenario seems a bridge too far here in Texas. There are abundant routes around such obstacles, especially with online instruction. Any picket lines (remember that term?) would likely be porous and short-lived. Working-class solidarity never really caught on in Texas, and it’s fading in most locations with most industries. There are exceptions, such as airline pilots and the NFL.

The blog is going on vacation for a few days. See you on the flip side.