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The plight of adjunct professors

The recent death of an 83-year old college professor that came on the heels of toiling in a career in which she was subject to very poor working conditions brings to light the plight of today’s working adjunct professors.

While many may think of cushy jobs as the norm for college professors, what folks don’t know is that higher education has dramatically changed how it staffs its colleges and universities during the past 40+ years.

According to data from the American Federation of Teachers, approximately 75 percent of all college faculty members held tenured or tenure-track positions in 1960. Today that number has fallen to less than 30 percent.

The result is that college campuses are primarily staffed with adjunct faculty who are often very highly qualified yet are afforded extremely low wages, no job security and no health care benefits. Many adjuncts must cobble together a career that comprises one-off teaching gigs at multiple institutions of higher education, never certain of their fate from one semester to the next.

The effects of this shift are seen in this sad story about Margaret Mary Vojtko, who died alone and penniless from a heart attack, just a short time after losing her adjunct position at Dusquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Even in the best of times, her income never cleared $25,000 per year, and she had no health insurance.

At the time of her death, she was undergoing radiation therapy for the cancer that had returned. Her home was falling apart because she could not afford to maintain it.

Read Vojtko’s story here.

One Comment


  1. JR

    September 20, 2013 at 9:14 am

    The story of Mary Margaret is a sad one.

    Also sad is that, poor as she was, she was getting more than twice the pay per course that NC community college instructors make (~ $1500 for a 3-credit course, and that’s at the top of the pay range).

    The school I sometimes work at recently capped our hours at 12/semester to keep us from qualifying for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act–WalMart tactics come to higher ed. So at the very moment we’re being required to carry insurance, we’re having our income cut so that we can’t pay for it.

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