Hijabi Hot Takes: Adjunct professors deserve better


Nadine Jallal, Opinion Writer

University faculties often consist of a variety of full-time and part-time, or adjunct, professors. Universities often hire adjunct faculty on an as-needed basis, usually depending on course availability and an institution’s desire to lower costs and meet their budgets. Hiring adjunct professors may be beneficial for universities, but the ethics of hiring adjunct professors introduces a series of issues with the practice.

According to a survey by the American Federation of Teachers, nearly 25% of adjunct professors have an annual salary below the poverty line. 38% of adjunct faculty also rely on government assistance. Furthermore, only 20% of adjunct faculty report being financially comfortable enough to cover month-to-month expenses. At App State, adjunct professor salaries are as low as $20,000 and can be higher depending on the number of courses being taught.

The qualifications for adjunct professors are a master’s degree or higher, with teaching experience often preferred. With the cost of a bachelor’s degree being about $80,000 according to App State’s cost of attendance and a master’s being about $40,000, it is unfair to expect people with such costly degrees to settle for a job that won’t pay them what their education is worth. Not only will they not get paid enough, but they will also likely not be presented with benefits such as healthcare. According to the AFT, less than half of adjunct professors have access to employer-provided healthcare. Arguably, any job is better than no job, but when a job requires as many qualifications as an adjunct position does, better salaries and benefits should be available.

The quality of education in universities relying on adjunct professors is arguably lower than those with higher numbers of full-time faculty. Adjunct professors provide a lot of knowledge and expertise in their areas of study, but expecting someone who is underpaid to give as much time and effort as a full-time professor is unrealistic and unfair. The same issue plagues the K-12 education system as teachers have been underpaid for a long time. Teachers have become burnt out from their heavy workloads that are met with an unsatisfactory salary and are leaving the profession, causing a national teacher shortage. The treatment of adjunct professors is no different. Both professions deserve better salaries and work conditions in order to provide the best educational experience for students. 

When looking at how much money goes into football programs at universities, it becomes apparent the profit from sports is prioritized over quality education for students and the livelihood of faculty. For example, according to the UNC Salary Information Database, head football coaches in multiple universities in North Carolina make above $400,000 a year. Football is a big part of the American college experience, but academia should remain the forefront of an academic institution’s purpose and mission. The staggering difference in salaries between coaches and professors suggests academia is not many universities’ priority. As universities spend millions of dollars on their football programs, they have adjunct faculty living paycheck to paycheck. 

Earlier this year, App State announced a 2.5% salary increase for faculty across the board. While many professors were happy with the increase, some spoke up about it simply not being enough. In a Charlotte Observer Opinion article, professor Jeffrey Bortz argued professors sometimes make less than a full-time pizza delivery driver. With professor salaries accessible to the public via the UNC Salary Information Database, it is not hard to see how Bortz came to that conclusion. 

Education is such an integral part of many people’s lives. Americans are required to go to school for 13 years of their lives. Those who seek higher education should expect quality education from professors who are receiving adequate compensation for their dedication to academia. Many ethical issues are caused by universities’ desire to make education more profitable. Using adjunct professors and getting away with paying them lower salaries with little to no benefits is just one of those issues. Adjunct professors deserve better, both for themselves and for their students.