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Adjunct faculty demand $15,000 per course, expert says it could backfire

Professor uses her students for her own personal gain

Adjunct instructors nationwide are demanding a pay rate that could put them above the earnings of full-time tenured professors.

The effort is part of a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) project, Faculty Forward, which wants $15,000 in “total compensation” per course. That figure “returns the emphasis in higher education to instruction and student learning,” the “about” page says.

Faculty Forward is part of the broader “Fight for $15” movement, which aims to increase the minimum wage for service industry workers such as fast-food employees.

It’s an offshoot of the SEIU’s Adjunct Action, which has led successful unionization campaigns at colleges around the country, including Catholic schools. Union reps were accused of intimidating adjuncts before the vote at Washington University in St. Louis, as reported by The College Fix.

Adjuncts will join fast-food workers at April 15 rallies across Chicago for higher wages before one large rally at the University of Illinois-Chicago, according to Progress Illinois, a news website sponsored by the SEIU Illinois Council.


Matt Hoffman, a sociology instructor at Loyola University-Chicago, told the website that $15,000 in combined salary and benefits would put him closer to full-time professor pay.

Hoffman, however, is listed as a part-time instructor on the Loyola sociology department website.

Hoffman deferred Fix questions to an SEIU spokesperson. The union did not return requests for comment on how it came to the $15,000 figure or how higher adjunct pay would affect tuition.

It’s not clear whether the $15,000 demand would apply to all adjuncts regardless of how many classes they teach.


More than a full-time tenured professor would make

Though Faculty Forward claims it wants to make school more affordable for students, an expert on higher education budgets questions how an adjunct pay spike will accomplish that.

Tuition at private schools would likely rise, and a pay bump at public schools would require more state funding to keep tuition steady, Jay Schalin of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy told The Fix by email.

Universities might rely more on contract lecturers or require tenured professors to carry a heavier course load, which would decrease the demand for more-expensive adjuncts, Schalin said.

If adjuncts teach an average of four courses per semester, they would make $120,000 a year – higher than the $100,000 average for professors in the University of North Carolina system, said Schalin, whose group is based in North Carolina.

The adjunct unionization bandwagon shows no signs of slowing.

Adjuncts at several Boston-area schools have voted to unionize in the past several months, according to Adjunct Action.

At least one instructor is using her students to press for higher adjunct wages.

Adjunct Action tweeted last week that Columbia University instructor Susan Lob and her “community organizing class” would be at the April 15 rally.

College Fix reporter Matt Lamb is a student at Loyola University-Chicago.

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IMAGES: Progress Illinois/YouTube

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