Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

"...working as adjuncts at less than the minimum wage..."

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education presents some cogent arguments against encouraging one's students to attend grad school, especially in the humanities. But then, the author says this: "...working as adjuncts at less than the minimum wage..." You see comments like this a lot when people write about how badly adjuncts are paid. But, of course, it's nonsense.

In 2010, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Suppose you're teaching one course for a stipend of $2500 (which sounds pretty typical to me). That's 344 hours at the minimum wage, or, over a 16-week (countng finals) semester, 21.5 hours per week. Ri-i-i-i--i-i-ght. Anyone spending that much time on a single course is acting foolishly, and I seriously doubt that there is anyone working in higher ed who is that foolish. I was an adjunct (at IUPUI back in the 1970s), and I know how much time I spent per course...about 10 hours a week, or 160 hours for a course. At my assumed stipend and semester length, that's $15.625 per hour, or slightly more than twice the minimum wage.

That's not to say that adjuncts are well paid. At $2500 per course, one would have to teach 8 courses per semester (presumably at four different institutions, given the typical constraints on adjunct faculty teaching loads) to make $40,000 during the academic year. With, typically, no benefits. (Remember--that's 32 weeks worth of work, not 50.) Adjuncts are severely underpaid and given much less respect by their institutions and by full-time (and particularly tenured) faculty than they deserve.

But they don't make less than the minimum wage.


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