Vital Statistics

  • 75.5% of college faculty are now off the tenure track, meaning they have NO access to tenure.
  • This represents 1.3 million out of 1.8 million faculty members.
  • Of these, 700,000 or just over 50% are so-called part-time, most often known as “adjunct.”

Source: Dept of Education (2009)

  • Basic demographic info is available through Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and used to be collected through the National Study of PostSecondary Faculty, which is no longer funded and is gone.
  • According to AFT, “Underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are even more likely to be relegated to contingent positions; only 10.4 percent of all faculty positions are held by underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and of these, 7.6 percent — or 73 percent of the total minority faculty population — are contingent positions.”

Resources on Adjunct Working Conditions

  • NFM Foundation, the 501c3 nonprofit arm of New Faculty Majority.   We just completed a survey of back-to-school hiring practices and their effects on educational quality and professional integrity. We wrote a report on it for the Center for the Future of Higher Education, the think tank of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, a grassroots movement to ensure affordable, high quality higher education. We also work in other coalitions, like CAW. See our survey results.
  • Coalition on Academic Workforce (CAW), a group of 26 higher ed associations, disciplinary associations, and faculty organizations committed to working on the issues associated with deteriorating faculty working conditions and their effect on the success of college and university students in the United States. CAW just released the results of a survey of compensation (including benefits) and some working conditions of faculty off the tenure track in Fall 2010. Enormous response: 20,000 valid responses, of which half were part-time faculty.
  • The Adjunct Project a crowdsourced data collection project founded by one of our board members, Josh Boldt, an adjunct English instructor in Georgia, inspired after he attended our January summit and realized that the Modern Language Association, the disciplinary organization for professors of language and literature, recommends minimum compensation for 2011–12 of $6,800 for a standard 3-credit-hour semester course or $4,530 for a standard 3-credit-hour quarter or trimester course. These recommendations are based on a full-time load of 3 courses per semester (6 per year) or 3 courses per quarter or trimester (9 per year); annual full-time equivalent thus falls in a range of $40,770 to $40,800. (As far as we can tell from the data we have collected thus far, only 7% of departments in the modern languages are meeting or exceeding this recommendation)
  • The Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success  addresses the fundamental shift in the American academic workforce from tenurable to contingent faculty and focuses on the effects of that shift on student learning.
  • American Association of University Professors defends academic freedom and tenure, advocates collegial governance, and develops policies ensuring due process.
  • MLA Faculty Workforce Academic Workforce Data Center resources from the Modern Language Association, the national professional organization for teachers and scholars of languages and literature
  • Unions:
  • Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers
  • American Federation of Teachers Higher Education
  • National Education Association Higher Education
  • SEIU Adjunct Action

Key Findings of CAW Survey:

  • The median pay per course, standardized to a three-credit course, was $2,700 in fall 2010 ($24,000 FTE) and ranged in the aggregate from a low of $2,235 at two-year colleges to a high of $3,400 at four-year doctoral or research universities. While compensation levels varied most consistently by type of institution, part-time faculty respondents report low compensation rates per course across all institutional categories.
  • Part-time faculty respondents saw little, if any, wage premium based on their credentials. Their compensation lags behind professionals in other fields with similar credentials, and they experienced little in the way of a career ladder (higher wages after several years of work).
  • Professional support for part-time faculty members’ work outside the classroom and inclusion in academic decision making was minimal.
  • Part-time teaching is not necessarily temporary employment, and those teaching part-time do not necessarily prefer a part-time to a full-time position. Over 80% of respondents reported teaching part-time for more than three years, and over half for more than six years. Further­more, over three-quarters of respondents said they have sought, are now seeking, or will be seeking a full-time tenure-track position, and nearly three-quarters said they would definitely or probably accept a full-time tenure-track position at the institution at which they were cur­rently teaching if such a position were offered.

The gap between what a part-time faculty member earns and the median earnings of full-time, year-round workers of equivalent educational attainment is staggering and becomes more dramatic as the level of credential rises.

Some would assert that while eight courses per academic year might be considered a full load for full-time tenure-track faculty members, such a teaching load without any research or service requirements does not truly represent the work of a full-time faculty member. Others would as­sert that, regardless of outside work, an annual course load of eight courses does not reflect full-time employment. Even if we annualize salaries using an extreme model of a teaching load of five courses in each of three terms during a year, however, we find that the annualized earnings of a part-time faculty member are still dramatically below that of professionals with similar cre­dentials (table 20).

Median Pay per Course in Terms of Union Status

The presence of a union on campus also appears to have a positive impact on wages for faculty members employed part-time. The median pay per course at institutions where part-time faculty respondents were not represented by a union was $2,475, as compared with $3,100 at institutions with union representation (table 25). This union wage premium is also reflected across institu­tional types with the exception of the baccalaureate colleges, where median wages were slightly higher for courses where part-time faculty respondents were not represented by a union.8

Median Pay per Course in Terms of Discipline

Responses to the survey show median pay per course for most disciplines hovering around the median pay for all courses ($2,700), although pay in some disciplines varies considerably from the overall median (table 26). On the high end, engineering has a median pay of $4,000 per course; on the low end, a few disciplines, including mathematics and developmental education, have a me­dian per-course pay closer to $2,000. Once the data are aggregated into broad disciplinary clus­ters, the median pay is consistently around $2,700 (table 27).9

Median Pay per Course in Terms of Gender and Race

Survey responses indicated only a slight variation in median pay by gender: women reported a median per-course pay of $2,700, while men reported earning slightly more, at a median per-course pay of $2,780 (table 30).

There is even less variation in pay between men and women when we account for institutional type. The median pay per course reported by female and by male respondents is basically identi­cal in two-year institutions, master’s institutions, doctoral and research institutions, and special focus institutions. Of those respondents for whom the Carnegie institutional type could be deter­mined, only those teaching in baccalaureate institutions reveal any disparity in per-course pay by gender—$2,700 for men, as compared with $2,800 for women (table 30).

Broken down by race or ethnicity, the data suggest that part-time faculty respondents who identified themselves as black (not of Hispanic origin) earn significantly less than other racial and ethnic groups at a median per-course pay of $2,083 (table 31). By comparison, median pay ranged from $2,500 per course for Hispanic or Latino or multiracial respondents to $2,925 for Asian or Pacific Islander respondents.

Pay rates for part-time faculty respondents who identified themselves as black (not of Hispanic origin) appear to be generally lower even when the type of institution is included in the analy­sis. Yet the number of respondents in this category is small. Our analysis indicates that black non-Hispanic respondents, relative to other groups of survey respondents, were somewhat over­represented at two-year colleges and (probably more important) underrepresented at doctoral universities. They were also more likely to be employed in the southeastern United States, where pay rates are generally lower. Further analysis of the difference in pay rates by race may yield a better understanding of the situation, although, given the small number of African American re­spondents to the CAW survey, it would be important to collect more data, focusing specifically on this question.

Access to Health and Retirement Benefits

Both types of benefits appear to be more prevalent at public institutions: 23.4% of part-time fac­ulty respondents in public institutions indicated that they had access to health benefits, and 46.9% indicated they had access to retirement benefits, as compared with 16.0% and 20.6% with access to health and retirement benefits, respectively, in private not-for-profit institutions (table 34, table 35).

This difference may be due to the far greater presence of unions in the public sector, since part-time faculty respondents who identified having union representation also reported having greater access to both health and retirement benefits (table 36, table 37). Of the part-time faculty respondents who reported having no union on campus, only 13.8% indicated they had access to health benefits through their academic employer, and 27.5% reported access to retirement benefits through their academic employer. By comparison, 34.3% of the respondents covered by at least one union indicated they had access to health benefits through their academic employer, and 60.1% indicated having access to retirement benefits through their academic employer.

Resources and Support

Available resources and support differ modestly by institutional type. Interestingly, respon­dents indicate that most forms of support are offered more commonly at two-year institutions than at four-year institutions (table 38). This difference may be due to the heavy reliance on part-time faculty in two-year institutions, resulting in more attention to these issues, or it could be due to the higher rate of unionization in this sector, since that variable also correlates with an increased availability of resources and support (table 39).

Effects of Union Representation

Respondents who reported the presence of a union on at least one of the campuses where they teach were consistently more likely to receive resources and support, particularly on matters of compensation (table 39).

Respondents with a union present on at least one campus where they taught indicated the following levels of support:

◆17.9% indicated they are paid for class cancellations, as opposed to only 9.9% of respondents without a union present.

◆ 9.7% indicated being paid for attending departmental meetings, as opposed to only 5.4% of respondents without a union present.

◆ 14.5% indicated being paid for office hours, as opposed to only 3.8% of respondents without a union present.

◆ 33.9% indicated receiving regular salary increases, as opposed to only 12.1% of respondents without a union present.

◆ 19.4% indicated having job security, as opposed to only 3.9% of respondents without a union present.

Support for professional-development activities was also reported more frequently by respon­dents teaching on at least one campus where a union was present. Yet the overall low percent­age of institutions providing such support represents another indicator that institutions are not investing in maintaining and improving the quality of instruction. Respondents teaching on at least one campus where a union was present reported greater access to various kinds of adminis­trative support as well, but the difference between unionized and nonunionized settings was not as great on these items as on other forms of workplace support.

The data on professional support gathered in this survey imply an institutional assumption that part-time faculty members will for the most part appear on campus only to deliver a discrete course and not to participate with students or colleagues in any other structurally supported way.

Key findings of NFM Back-to-School Survey

(Note: best case scenarios because mostly unionized):

  • 3/4 of the 500 respondents teach PT
  • 30% in best case scenario had three weeks or fewer to prepare — 34% no phone — 21% no office
  • Almost 65% in worst case scenario had three weeks or fewer to prepare

Finances: From The Delta Cost Project


The shift away from public funding of institutions continues, with most of the new money in higher education coming from tuition and fees, private gifts, and grants and contracts. Much of the new revenue is restricted by the donor, and is not available to pay for core educational programs. At public institutions, state appropriations per student declined from 2002 to 2005 and rebounded slightly in 2006, but did not rebound to earlier levels.


From 2002 to 2006, total spending on education and related services declined for all types of institutions except research universities. Additionally, the share of educational spending dedicated to classroom instruction declined at all types of institutions from 2002 to 2006. By contrast, spending on academic support, student services, administration, and maintenance increased as a share of total educational costs over the same period.


The share of spending going to pay for instruction has consistently declined when revenues decline, relative to growth in spending in academic and student support and administration. This erosion persists even when revenues rebound, meaning that over time there has been a gradual shift of resources away from instruction and towards general administrative and academic infrastructure.

Needed Quality Assessment Indicators: National Survey of Student Engagement, Collegiate Learning Assessment

Grad and Retention Rates are far too problematic.

Lake Area Technical Institute, South Dakota — 73.5% Graduation Rate — 87% FT Faculty — No Tenure System — 86.5% FT 13.5% PT = POSSIBLE example of a college where no union is necessary because administration and faculty are doing voluntarily what unions make mandatory

Aspen Finalist — CHE Best College to Work For —

Lake Area Tech employees rated the institution highly enough to win honors in the following categories: Collaborative Governance; Professional/Career Development Programs; Teaching Environment; Facilities, Workspace & Security; Job Satisfaction; Work/Life Balance;  Confidence in Senior Leadership; Supervisor/Department Chair Relationship; and Respect and Appreciation.

“At Lake Area Tech, we encourage employee feedback.” said Lake Area Tech President Deb Shephard. “Our ultimate goal is to provide a positive culture for employees and students alike. This honor validates those efforts to meet employee needs and to offer them a great place to work.”

AP schools <$2K: