I have been teaching as an adjunct as a third career for the last 10 years. At first, it was to gain some experience while earning a Ph.D. But later, I expanded to make it a full time occupation. I taught locally at a community college and at a university and was doing fairly well at each. The community college has a union and although adjuncts are paid very poorly compared to full time faculty, that pay is better than at any other local institution.
I also picked up several online teaching jobs for out-of-town institutions and an intermittent stream of publisher reviews, course design projects and consulting work. In inflation adjusted dollars, I was making as much as I did as a lower level corporate executive some years ago. And I had some benefits. I was able to obtain health insurance at group rates (though at my own expense) and to participate in several retirement plans (mostly at my own expense). At the community college, we have great offices with storage space, a microwave, refrigerator, relatively new computers and audio visual equipment.
But I was working 80 or more hours per week, and as is common in such situations, I began to burn out. I persisted though until things started to change at the institutions themselves. One for-profit institution had a sudden enrollment drop and the number of courses I was able to teach was cut in half. Then, they announced additional faculty responsisbilities and a 27% pay cut. It did not matter much since at that point, I was no longer being assigned to classes and full time faculty were being laid off. At one of the other online schools, the number of course assignments decreased as did class sizes. Pay there is somewhat dependent on class size, so my income dropped. At another, class size declined drastically and at this institution, pay is on a per-student basis.
The local university has had only one general pay increase for adjuncts in 10 years. But the cost of gasoline has tripled and other commuting costs have doubled. So, I switched to hybrid courses which required half the commuting time and distance. But now, even those are uneconomical for me. They offered online courses but the class sizes are far too large. At the community college, I had only one class cancelled in 9 years, but now, two have been cancelled this academic year alone.
This year, I expect to earn a bit more than half of what I did last year. But I do not mind, because I do not think I could have kept up the pace of the last three years. I am approaching retirement age and could begin collecting social security if necessary while still holding on to some teaching assignments. On the other hand, I wonder what other surprises are coming.
Tags: Adjunct Professors