Imagine meeting someone who says she works at a university. Some years ago, it would have been fairly safe to assume that she was a professor, and a member of the middle class with enviable job security. Not anymore. Two reports make clear that the nature of the college work force has changed substantially, possibly to the detriment of educational quality.
“The Just-In-Time Professor,” released last month by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, describes a growing population of more than one million adjunct and other nontenure-track instructors. “In 1970, adjuncts made up 20 percent of all higher education faculty,” the report says. “Today, they represent half.”
As a rule, adjuncts have few or no benefits. They are generally paid per course, and paid poorly. (The Coalition on the Academic Workforce estimates that the median pay for a standard three-credit course is $2,700.) Because adjuncts often teach several classes in order to cobble together a living, they have little time for the research necessary to advance their careers.