The problems facing academia today — a growing adjunct labor force, shrinking opportunities for tenure and secure employment, lack of benefits and below-poverty wages — are hardly breaking news. But it’s alarming to see the situation presented so clearly as in the infographic below. Take a moment to consider the facts. It’s a story playing out in higher education across this country, and it shows no signs of improving.
While I love my adjunct teaching jobs — I have two of them, and I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years — I can’t deny that academia is moving toward a dangerously unstable model, if it hasn’t already arrived at one. In August, an 83-year-old adjunct died in abject poverty after serving Duquense University in Pennsylvania for 25 years. And it wasn’t because she was irresponsible with her money.
Nevertheless, this study suggests that students actually learn more from adjunct professors than they do from those who have tenure. I will not say this is true — after all, I was taught almost exclusively by tenured professors, and I learned a lot from them. But who’s to say if those same professors were entering the job market today, that they wouldn’t be adjuncts themselves? Assuming, that is, that they didn’t give up after a few years and go to law school instead.