In 2012, four-year tuition at the average public university cost more than $15,000 – not counting books, meals or housing. At the average private institution, that figure was even higher, clocking in at over $32,000. Even two-year and vocational programs ran nearly $9,000 per certificate.
With the cost of higher education skyrocketing, it’s easy to assume that professors – the men and women who educate our students – are doing quite well for themselves. In some cases, that’s true: tenured faculty members’ salaries at leading universities can top $160,000 a year. But the average adjunct professor makes just $2,700 per course, with no health care insurance or other benefits.
Here’s the kicker: 76 percent of university faculty in the United States are adjunct professors. Most have to work at multiple universities and still don’t make enough to stay above the poverty line. And considering the amount of time involved in preparing, teaching and grading each class, many adjuncts make less than minimum wage.
With statistics like these, it’s no surprise that adjunct professors nationwide are forming unions through Adjunct Action, a project of the Service Employees International Union. This past weekend, faculty from more than 20 Bay State campuses kicked off their own organizing drive with an ‘Adjunct Faculty Symposium’ in Boston.
More than 100 professors from across Eastern Massachusetts gathered at the JFK Presidential Library Saturday for the daylong conference – discussing everything from classroom challenges to coalition building. Participants also met in small breakout groups to develop campus-specific organizing strategies and plan next steps, joined by scores of student supporters who were ready to stand in solidarity with their professors.
By the end of the symposium, adjunct professors were well prepared to launch organizing drives on campuses throughout greater Boston. And soon, they’ll be standing arm-in-arm with 15,000 other faculty members who have already unionized through Adjunct Action at SEIU.
For more information on the fight to raise wages and improve working conditions for adjunct faculty, check out this great interview from WBUR’s All Things Considered – or visit Adjunct Action online at www.adjunctaction.org.