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Survey: The State of Adjunct Professors

In our new survey, 62 percent of adjuncts say they make less than $20,000 a year from teaching, and 88 percent say working with students is their favorite part.

This survey is part of our March 2015 special report on adjunct professors. Read related stories here.


Survey: 62 percent of adjuncts make less than $20,000 a year from teaching.

The Professor Charity Case: PrecariCorps wants to draw attention to the plight of adjunct professors.

How Colleges Misspend Your Tuition Money: You know tuition is on the rise, but you keep hearing that professors aren’t paid fairly. Where’s the money going?

Adjunct Professors and the Myth of Prestige: Notes from 20 years of adjunct politics.

At Pacific Standard, since we write often about research studies conducted at colleges and universities all over the world, we're particularly interested in the field of higher education. We've written many times about how the adjunct professor system is doing a disservice to professors, students, and the institutions themselves. (We describe "adjuncts" in a loose way, including contingent, part-time faculty—basically any positions without job stability.) But none have ever received such a huge response as our February story, "Are Adjunct Professors the New Fast Food Workers?" Shortly after publication, responses came flooding into our Facebook page, ranging from horror stories ("LSU has professors living on the floor of offices in the fourth floor of two faculty buildings") to indignant responses ("Are these people chained to the classrooms with leg irons? If they don't like the money they are paid they can leave").

Due to the overwhelming response, we hosted a survey in early March to collect information about current and former adjunct professors. This is not a scientific survey (as many of our respondents, of course, pointed out) but it provides at least a partial picture of what adjunct professors face in the employment market.

Of the 467 responses, what rings out most clearly is the sense of betrayal, sadness, and frustration. Many wrote to us about their impressive student evaluations while noting that they are almost never tied to pay or contract renewals. They noted that without a union they would be far worse off—or that they wanted to organize, but were too scared of reprisal.

We also saw the other side of adjuncting: Many respondents wrote that they live happy, fruitful lives. These people treat adjuncting as a side job and feel fulfilled by their work, both inside and outside of the classroom. While most people agreed that adjuncting couldn't possibly be a full-time job, they appreciated the flexibility of teaching a few classes in addition to their other work. The large majority of respondents said what keeps them in the classroom is the students.