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Adjuncts underpaid; Students underserved

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Ngoc Vo
Perspectives Editor

With the increases in tuition, general university fees and parking decal price, I cannot help wondering whether my education is what I am paying more for.

“Students aren’t getting what they pay for or, if they are, it is because adjuncts themselves are subsidizing their education,” Maria Maisto, president of adjunct activist group New Faculty Majority, told The Atlantic.

The American Association of University Professors reports that adjuncts constitute 76.4 percent of U.S. faculty in 2011, and a study by the U.S. House of Representatives in January shows that the majority of these adjuncts live below the poverty line.

Adjunct position, according to the report, refers to non-tenured instructional staff. Most adjuncts in Troy University are part-time faculty members.

While the pursuit of better housing, a recreational center that matches those of bigger universities and athletic facilities that show the spirit of our so-called Trojan Warriors may be worthwhile, the first priority of a university should be the quality of higher education.

After talking to Troy Human Resources Specialist Donna Riley, I still could not obtain the university statistics on adjunct faculty. However, I was able to gather some information from various departments.

Lillis Sullivan, secretary for the Math Department, said her department will have 17 adjuncts as opposed to 11 full-time professors in the fall.

Meanwhile, the Department of Art and Design, which normally has four adjuncts, will have only one this semester, according to department chair Pamela Allen.

“Every position available for full-time professors is filled,” Allen said. “There has to be a budget (for personnel).”

Allen said Chancellor Jack Hawkins decides the number of full-time professors for a department, based on student enrollment. The rest of the faculty is hired as needed.

Although most of these adjuncts teach more than one class, they cannot have more than eight credit hours per semester. They are paid by the credits taught.

Full-time professors teach approximately 12 credits per semester, with salary varying depending on their contracts. “Full-time positions do cost more,” Allen said.

Adjuncts make poverty-level wages from the university and they live below the poverty line unless they have other sources of income. “It’s hard to make a living to be just an adjunct,” said Robert Templin, a mathematics adjunct from Troy. “I’m not condemning the pay. It’s just the reality of it.”

Templin is a full-time minister at Collegedale Church of Christ. He said teaching is an additional source of income and a way to stay connected with college students.

An adjunct who wished to remain anonymous said the university is paying $750 per credit. The source has taught almost every semester at Troy for 19 years, with $300 per quarter hour starting pay rate.

According to the source, adjuncts do not usually get raises, unlike full-time employees who are able to qualify for, for example, cost-of-living raise at the university’s discretion.

Adjuncts also do not have job security with hire-as-needed contracts.

Moreover, the U.S. House of Representatives’ study reveals that 75 percent of adjuncts said either their employers did not offer benefits to part-time faculty or they were otherwise ineligible for their employers’ benefits packages.

In addition to being under financial stress, adjuncts are also less available to students.

“The biggest difficulty (of teaching as an adjunct) is not having an office or office hours,” Templin said. “It’s a challenge sometimes to meet with students while you have a full-time job. It can be difficult to coordinate schedules.”

There are perks to being taught by adjuncts, especially the insights they provide from their work in the field. However, their limited accessibility to students and their financial strain lessen the quality of education.

Higher education has become a service industry where the business maximizes its profit by underpaying employees and under-providing consumers.

Students aren’t receiving the education they’re paying for. The fault is not in the adjuncts, but in the system that underpays adjuncts.