How Do You Survive on Adjunct Professor Pay? (Hint: Public Benefits)

College Adjunct Instructor System Leaves Many Financially Strapped from Rocky Mountain PBS on Vimeo.

Adjuncts instructors earning poverty-level wages are preparing for poverty-level retirement.

A workshop Friday will cover topics such as access to subsidized housing for seniors, health care and calculating retirement benefits through the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA). The event will also help adjuncts access public assistance before retirement, such as utilities subsidies and dental care.

Last school year, the Colorado Community College System employed 4,667 part-time instructors, known as adjuncts, at its 13 colleges, representing 80 percent of all instructors in the system. They are paid per class without benefits, sick leave or job security.

A Rocky Mountain PBS I-News report found last year the system spent $20,828 a year on average for an adjunct instructor teaching the same load as a full-time instructor, who earned $53,693 in salaries on average.

Caprice Lawless, a Front Range Community College adjunct instructor featured in the I-News report, estimates she will receive around $900 a month in combined benefits from Social Security and PERA. That is below the federal poverty limit of about $980 a month for a family of one, or $11,770 a year.

“This is why I want to show adjuncts how to use all the social programs they will soon need to mobilize in order to stay alive,” Lawless said.

A 2014 state task force on adjunct issues recommended a 28 percent pay increase for part-time instructors by the 2016-2017 academic year. The State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education did not approve the raise, citing a difficult “political environment.”

“While I would like to pay our adjunct instructors more, we are not funded in a manner that allows us to do so,” Colorado Community College System president Nancy McCallin said. “The two primary sources of our funding – state funding and tuition – restrict us from significantly increasing adjunct pay.”

The event is organized by the American Association of University Professors, Front Range Community College Chapter. Event details here.

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