Greater adjunct role puts benefits in focus

Greater+adjunct+role+puts+benefits+in+focus

Emily Adair | Staff Reporter
Posted May 6, 2014; 2:03 p.m.
Published Legacy May 6, 2014

LU was recognized in July for the fourth consecutive year by the Chronicle of Higher Education as a Great College to Work For. According to some of the school’s adjuncts, however, there’s more to be done in terms of salary and work environment.

What is an adjunct?

Adjuncts are part-time instructors who do not qualify for benefits.

“Adjuncts are a very important part of our work force, and feeling a part of the campus community is very important in determining the educational product for the students,” said Deb Ayres, vice president for Human Resources.

Adjunct Coordinator Brittany Brown works with the deans and the department chairs in determining who can be hired, what their contracts are and whether they are paid properly. Brown said LU has at least 1,000 adjuncts employed this semester. That number includes the main campus and other locations for the various terms, such as MBA, LCIE and regular undergraduate terms.

Ayres said adjuncts can teach a single term, or they can teach consecutively term after term. They are therefore hired on an as-needed basis. Like full-time instructors, the Higher Learning Commission requires that all adjuncts have at least a Master’s degree to teach undergraduates and a terminal degree to teach graduates. Ayres said most of the adjuncts have retired from their industries and are looking to give back, though many do it as their primary job.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employees who work 30 hours a week must receive health benefits from their employees. At two courses per semester, LU’s adjuncts do not qualify for benefits.

Salaries

Adjuncts and full-time instructors see very different salary structures. Whereas adjuncts are paid per course, full-time instructors are paid for 9-, 10- or 12-month periods with services such as academic advising considered. Some part-time instructors felt that having to attend meetings would be a “deal-breaker,” while others wish they had the opportunity to advise and have a bigger impact on students’ lives.

infographic

The amounts for part- and full-time instructors vary based on credentials, department and whether the course is taught during the day or evening. Ayres said LU’s adjuncts earn between $2,500 and $3,500 per course. Information provided by a data collecting site, the Adjunct Project, shows the median payment per course at LU is $2,500. The site shows the median for all 4-year, not-for-profit schools in the nation is $3,000.
At $2,500 per course, many part-time instructors know they cannot make a living on their salaries.

“I’m not the primary breadwinner, so I have the luxury of relying on my partner,” said Adjunct One. “If I were relying on this alone, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Adjunct Two, who is an independent wage-earner, said she has two other jobs to make up for the limited amount she can earn as an adjunct. “It’s a pain. I work seven days a week for eight months out of the year, and for the remaining four, I work six days a week.”

Job security

Because so many adjuncts work on single-semester contracts, there is no true job security. Adjunct Three said part-time instructors who get a contract each semester are constantly concerned there won’t be a contract renewal.
“We’re hired guns,” she said. “Do a good job, and that’s your job security.”
Adjunct Four suggested some adjuncts give more As than tenured instructors so as not to scare off students from enrolling in the future.
“If students don’t enroll, we don’t get paid,” she said.
Adjunct Five said she has never noticed anyone refuse to work as hard just because they are not being paid as much.

Work environment

Beyond the salaries, benefits and job security, several adjuncts also hope to see changes to the work environment. Some have pushed for more adjunct parking, with positive results, and others make-do with shared office-space. For many, the most important accommodation concern is the struggle to become part of the campus environment.

“It’s kind of hard to become a part of the community, especially that first semester when you don’t know where things are,” said Adjunct One. “But, I suppose that’s true for any new teacher.”
Many part-time instructors were glad to have other adjuncts to rely on for help. “I felt really welcome when I first came here, and I still do,” said Adjunct Two. “They value us, just not with their wallets.”