Magazine article University Business

PAYING UP: Institutions Increase Adjunct Faculty Pay While Making Them Feel Valued on Campus

Magazine article University Business

PAYING UP: Institutions Increase Adjunct Faculty Pay While Making Them Feel Valued on Campus

Article excerpt

When adjunct faculty assembled in November 2017 at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, it wasn't for curricula conversation. Instead, after voting to form a union earlier in the year, they were rallying for better pay. The instructors called for more advancement opportunities and greater recognition of their contributions to the institution.

Adjuncts made headlines the same month at the University of South Florida, protesting low income and what they saw as action by the university to fight the efforts to unionize.

Similar events have been held over the past year at Virginia Commonwealth University, UMass Lowell, St. Louis Community College and Siena College in New York, among others.

Low pay, while not the only complaint, is the common denominator--and an issue getting much attention from the media.

"Pay rates are staggeringly low," says Adrianna Kezar, a professor of higher education at the University of Southern California. Her research shows that adjuncts, on average, earn just under $3,000 per course. A full load of six or eight courses brings total compensation to just $18,000 to $24,000 yearly--"fast-food-worker wages," Kezar adds.

Academic leaders have long relied on adjuncts as an essential part of the higher ed workforce. Their short-term, inexpensive contracts, offering no obligation of renewal, provide institutions with much-needed options in managing budgets.

But a new wave of activism is challenging the status quo.

Wages have been low for so long because the issue was largely invisible, Kezar says. "Now it is more visible due to media and unionization efforts."

As more attention is focused on adjunct concerns, colleges and universities are taking action--with results that include better earnings, more integration with fulltime faculty and greater job stability.

Negotiating with organized adjuncts

The past two years have seen a substantial increase in collective bargaining between adjuncts and institutions that employ them. In 2016, 22 new nontenure-track bargaining units were certified in the private sector of higher ed, according to an article in the journal Perspectives at Work. That's a nearly 30 percent increase over the prior four years. An additional three such units were created to serve part-time faculty in public institutions.

Union efforts have led to higher adjunct salaries at Washington University in St. Louis, which inked a four-year contract in 2016 with the Service Employees International Union Local (AFL-CIO) after 12 months of negotiations. Increases vary depending on roles and previous levels of compensation, with some faculty earning up to an additional $100 more per three-credit course for each year of the contract.

Similarly, The California State University system has reached agreement on an extension of its contract with the California Faculty Association. Faculty--adjuncts included--will receive a 3.5 percent general salary increase on November 1, 2018, plus a 2.5 percent increase on July 1, 2019. An extension of a previous contract, the agreement was reached in November 2017 through negotiations that began in July.

In addition, the system has a pay range elevation process for long-serving adjunct faculty, says Toni Molle, director of public affairs--with some increases of 5 percent or more.

Offering more to narrow wage gaps

Non-union campuses are also responding to adjunct concerns. At the College of Charleston in South Carolina, administrative leaders and faculty have focused on wage growth and improvement of working conditions for adjuncts, says Brian McGee, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. Even though the college has consistently paid the highest adjunct salaries in the region, according to McGee, its pay scale has been increased by amounts of up to 2.75 percent for fiscal year 2018.

At Colorado State University, the College of Liberal Arts recently increased its minimum salary for nontenure-track faculty (who teach a full load but are viewed as adjuncts) to $40,000. …

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