Chapter News

Capitalism and the Adjunct Crisis

Hollie Oakes-Miller
September 1, 2018

Part of the “American Dream” paradigm I grew under claimed that if you graduated college, the road to success was guaranteed. So, after working for a number of years in retail, I decided to take the college path thinking that it would lead to a much more financially secure future for my young son and me. To that aim I graduated from Oregon State University with a BS in Geology, and then I went on to earn a MS in Geology from Portland State University. While at PSU, I taught my first classes as a means to partially support my education, and by doing so I found that one of my passions is teaching.

Upon graduation I was hired by Linn-Benton Community College and soon learned that there was only one full-time instructor position for the geosciences there. I was later hired by both Chemeketa and Portland Community Colleges, where I found similar situations.

Research shows that 50-80% of faculty, at any given college or university across the country, are employed on a part-time contingent or adjunct basis, and make a third the income of their full-time peers, for doing the same work. This trend to reliance on part-time faculty has increased between 300-400% since the 1970’s.

All instructor/professor positions require a Master's degree at a minimum, but the average annual salary for an adjunct faculty is between $20-25K, while the average for full-time instructors is over $84K, and tenured faculty can be over $100K.

Since our jobs require advanced degrees, adjuncts are often also carrying a high student loan debt burden. For example, I make about $30K per year, while paying about $10K a year toward student loan debt. The majority of these jobs also do not include benefits such as healthcare, sick leave, etc. University of California–Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education found that 25% of college adjuncts are on some type of public support.

Exploitative capitalistic models in use at colleges and universities across the country have failed our education systems, our faculty, our students, and the public.