Wait… My Professor Only Gets Paid How Much?


Caroline McCulloch/Guest Columnist

Despite decades of skyrocketing tuition costs, a large segment of university instruction relies on precarious employment and meager wages. The most exploited employees are adjunct professors. 

For those unfamiliar with the hierarchy of faculty in higher education, adjunct professors are instructors who are generally hired on semester-long contracts to teach specific courses. They are paid by course and generally count as part-time, temporary employees and thus usually do not qualify for employment benefits. Some have completed their PhDs, some are graduate students trying to supplement their income, and others are field practitioners or career educators. Many only make a few thousand dollars per semester-long course. FIU is no exception to this widespread trend.

FIU pays adjunct faculty, at least within the social sciences, $3,000 per course that they teach. Based on the 9-15 hours/week that is estimated for teaching a single 15-week course, this means that they are only paid $13.33-$22.22/hour despite having a master’s degree (or equivalent) or a PhD and the high tuition rates that are being charged to undergraduates and graduate students.

Working 10 classes per year (which works out to between 36 to 60 hours per week), this comes out to an annual income of just $30,000 without benefits, while trying to balance Miami’s high cost of living. This would require a full time teaching load of 4 classes each in the fall and spring and 2 during the summer (perhaps divided between more than one school) and leave them in the lower income tier in South Florida. Additionally, if they are still students, they do not qualify for many federal benefits for low-wage-earners. 

Additionally, as happened to Dr. Ligouri, many FIU graduate students run out of funding before completing their programs and turn to adjuncting for income and career experience. However, graduate students face the additional cost of paying university tuition and fees. The university continues to charge these students for dissertation credits. Tuition and fees total $4,690.81 (for in-state-students) and $9,605.26 (for out-of-state and international students) per year. Yet, graduate students are often conducting self-guided research at this point in addition to teaching more than a class per semester, just to pay a significant portion back to the university. 

How does the compensation that these adjunct professors receive compare to what undergraduate students are paying for the class? Undergraduate in-state students pay $205.57 per credit for a total of $616.71 per 3-credit course. Out-of-state students pay $618.87 per credit for a total of $1,856.61 per 3-credit course. A standard 35-student course with about 10% out-of-state students will bring in $19,734.72 from 32 in-state students and $5,569.83 from 3 out-of-state students. The total tuition proceeds equal $25,304.55. If the adjunct professor teaching the course earns $3,000, that means only 11.9% of the tuition goes toward the instructor’s salary.

Adjuncts who seek tenure-track positions as full-time professors currently or in the future must balance their time teaching with expectations for research, writing, publishing, networking, costly conferences, mentoring and service. These expectations are the same for both graduate students and graduates, all of whom make up the adjunct workforce. Even students must also balance these expectations with families, health issues, second jobs, loan payments and other parts of their lives on their meager salaries. Many adjuncts work like this for years before and after earning PhDs; some work for decades like this. The pay is not commensurate with education, training, or even demand, considering enrollment has increased as tenure track positions have disappeared.

FIU’s adjunct and graduate students deserve better than this. Raising adjunct rates and reducing costs associated with graduate students who are serving as adjuncts is critical to improving the wellbeing of our campus community. 

If you think that the situation facing FIU’s graduate students is untenable, please consider signing this petition calling on the FIU administration to examine and implement policies that would support our student body.

If you are a current or former FIU graduate student and you would like to share information about your experience as a graduate student, the hardships that you face(d), or recommendations for improving university policies that impact the graduate student body, please consider submitting an article to Panther Now with Gabriela Enamorado (gabriela.enamorado@fiusm.com)


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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