How much are our part-time faculty worth? According to our City Colleges contracts, a typical compensation for a single 3-credit course is about $1600. For an instructor that teaches four classes per semester, this comes out to about $
9,600 $12,800 per year, not including summer semesters. Adding a few more classes at other institutions and during the summer still brings the annual income deep below the poverty line. And as we know, these contracts do not include health insurance.
Other area community colleges pay more. When I adjuncted at Oakton community college, I was being paid around $1450 for each Harold Washington class, and around $2400 for each Oakton class.
This May Day, adjuncts around the country are demanding that a minimum fair payment per three-credit semester course must be set at $5,000. As the linked article states, “They are paid poverty wages, earning and average of $2,700 per three-credit semester course.”
$2,700 is the average, it is an impoverished wage, and it is far more than what our adjuncts are paid. Granted, our administrators are likely taking the stance that a community college instructor should not be paid at the same level as a 4-year college or university. That is at the very least what they are expressing when the wages are set as they are. But that $2,700 is still too low, and it is far above our instructors’ salaries. Furthermore, we must also consider that the $2,700 average is pulled from colleges and universities from communities with a much lower cost of living than is available in the city or near suburbs of Chicago. Fair salaries ought to reflect those costs of living.
Our administrators have stated repeatedly that they want to provide a quality education, to prepare our students for quality jobs and transferring to 4-year institutions. But how do we expect to do that when the bulk of our educators are being paid such low wages? How do we expect our faculty to provide a quality education to 170+ students per semester when they are also juggling supporting jobs and stressed out over burdening student loans and basic bills?
President Laackman has stated that he believes in a supply and demand economics when it comes to setting wages for our adjuncts. To paraphrase something he stated during a chairs meeting last fall, ‘if we don’t have a problem finding qualified adjuncts, then we have no need to increase an adjunct’s compensation.’ There is some sense in a supply and demand economics when it comes to the purchasing of goods and services. But does an economic stance transfer to the fair treatment of our faculty, or providing a quality education? I believe many of us would be interested in some statement from our administrators that address this apparent injustice.