No Money, No (Real) Life, No Kidding


by Jodi A. Campbell

I am 35 years old and I live with my parents.

Yes, I am an adjunct.

A few weeks ago, someone here wrote about the sacrifices she was making to cope with her classes being cut. For me, reading the post felt like a smack in the face. This may not have been the author’s intention, but it felt like she downplayed the serious economic instability that many of us face as adjuncts. There was an air of, “Oh, just make a few little tweaks to your style of living and all will be well!” What the author only briefly mentioned was that she has a partner on whom she can rely to help pay the cable bill and buy the groceries. I am fortunate that my parents are helping me. Without them…no. There is no “without them” because I can not live on what I make as an adjunct right now and five years of grad school more than wiped out my savings.

While cooking homemade meals, using up what’s in your pantry, and downgrading your cable package are all admirable, my story is slightly different. I moved in with my parents last summer because I could no longer afford to live on my own while finishing my dissertation. I actually lucked into finding an adjunct position at a small school near their house. I was told from the very beginning that they would need me to teach 4-5 classes in both the fall and winter because a professor was on sick leave and possibly retiring. Silly me, I believed them.

Three days before Christmas, which was less than three weeks before the start of the new semester, I found out my classes had been cut and I was only going to be teaching one class. Just like that, my already meager salary dropped by 75%. I was barely surviving on what I earned teaching four classes. How could I survive with just one class?

Here’s a glimpse of my life right now:

I carpool with my father, who happens to work in the same city where I teach, because I can not afford gas to drive 90 minutes roundtrip, three times a week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I don’t have class, I sit at home and write or work on lesson plans for the upcoming week or search for a job, academic or non-academic, full time or part time. I really don’t care. Right now, I will take anything, but no one wants to hire me because I’m either overqualified because of my education or underqualified because my work experience is spotty due to spending so much time in school.

At night, I sit at home, with my parents and my adorable dog, who really is the only bright spot in my life right now. On weekends, you guessed it, I sit at home and continue the writing, planning, or job search. I also do as much of the cooking and cleaning as possible to assuage my guilt that my parents have to feed me and give me a place to sleep.

I have no money to go anywhere or do anything. By the time I pay my bills (two credit cards and my cell phone bill, which is on the lowest data plan possible with nothing extra), I have roughly $53 to spend for the entire month. That won’t fill my gas tank once. This is compounded by the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere, so there isn’t anything to do, either, and, believe me, I’m not overstating this. I’m surrounded by farmland and the occasional strip mall. Going to the grocery store is the highlight of my week, but one that is filled with fear that I might spend too much money and overdraw my account.

I live in a perpetual cycle of fear and self-criticism. I constantly doubt myself because I can’t get a job, even as a receptionist at the local gym or a waitress at a pizza place. I worry that I am either not good enough a scholar or have made all the wrong choices because, otherwise, I wouldn’t be struggling to find a job, any job. I worry that I will never be able to finish writing my dissertation because all I can think about is how I can’t pay my bills. I worry that once I do finish my dissertation, I will have spent five years of my life with nothing to show for it, other than a dissertation no one will read.

That’s my adjunct experience.

Someone on Twitter asked if I have any advice for single adjuncts facing cuts in class loads and it took me an entire week to realize I don’t. I really don’t. Everyone says to get a part-time job or find online work or “think outside the box” as to what you can do. I’ve tried all of that. I honestly have.

What happens when your options run out? I don’t know. It’s easy for outsiders to say that people should move on, but how do you say that to someone who has worked so hard for so many years to do something that they love?

I haven’t been an adjunct for very long, nor do I pretend to have a solution to the situation some adjuncts face. I just thought it was important to show another side of the precariousness of living as an adjunct.

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  1. Adjunct teaching is usually a dead end job. If you get $500 per credit hour taught you will be earning about $6 an hour, providing you don’t teach and labs (then you’ll be earnining less). You might be able to gain experience that would lead to a full time job, but more likely that full time job will go to someone moving in from another full time job.

  2. Until I started reading this blog and other articles her on Adjunct Nation, I had no idea so many adjuncts did this kind of work as their only salary. All the adjuncts at the community college I teach at have full time positions and we teach in the evening for a variety of reasons. I teach because simply because I enjoy sharing knowledge with others and have done so for 18 years. I am sitting back now and thinking about this as I have been considering writing a book on my experiences as an adjunct. – Jim

    • A short note to my post above. I apologize for the couple typos as I flip back and forth from screen to screen at work. Also, my comment about full time positions was not referring to teaching positions but other jobs.

    • If your looking for non-academic jobs, or “menial” jobs do not even mention your graduate education. Just list your work experience. That’s what I do. I’ve given up altogether on the academia and everything else. I have worked numerous jobs tenured historians recommend students to should consider instead of looking for a university position. Everyone just reminded me of what a fool I was for listening to my undergrad prof who encouraged me to go to grad school. I have 3 masters (medieval history, American history, and an MIS), I am published, taught for 6 years at a prestigious uni in the UK. Then I had to return to the US. Since returning I have not even been able to eke out a living in the historical field. I have not found a job that, despite the monetary rewards, was satisfying at all. I am not simply going to work to exist. I’m done. Packing it in.

    • I originally went into adjunct teaching because of the flexibility in hours and it allowed me to keep a foot in the field in which I received a Master’s degree. My three kids were little and my husband, I am lucky to say, was the full-time breadwinner. After staying home full-time for 10 years, it seemed like a good way to make some extra money and get back to work. My first job was at a private, prestigious college in their professional studies program. Yearly tuition for students in the regular college program is $60,000. I was paid $2000 for one class, no benefits, which I taught at night. I never had any interaction with another faculty or administrator. I felt like a Lone Ranger, leaving campus late at night having never spoken with anyone but my students. I never received any feedback from the department on my work, and frankly, as long as I showed up to teach, I don’t think they much cared what kind of a job I did. I found it to be very isolating and got very depressed about it. My students were mostly professionals, working full-time day jobs. The college offers their professional classes at a very reasonable cost and much reduced rate. Word got out that my class was good and day students started petitioning to add the class. Even though day students pay a significant amount more to take the class, I was not paid anymore to teach it. I have taught for this college off and on for 10 years.

      My second and concurrent job was with a state University where I was recruited by a colleague to cover his paternity leave. I taught three sections of an intro class – the class no one else wanted to teach. At this job I was given benefits, as three courses per semester was considered a full-time load. (There was also an active adjunct bargaining union). My students evaluations were great, and the department asked me to stay through the following semester. I taught the same three sections. The pay scale was decent for an adjunct – I started at $4300 per section, and 5 years later, I was making $6000 per section. I made about $36,000 per year. Luckily, I didn’t have to support a family on that salary alone. I was never invited to department meetings, but I was asked to teach increasingly diffficult courses, after demonstrating my knowledge in certain areas. The Chair of my department was helpful in arranging my schedule so that I could be home to pick up my kids, who were now school-age. Although I had no office or print/copy facilities, I was ok because I was naive enough to believe that I could keep advancing within the department and eventually become a valued instructor.

      As adjunct, I was eligible to apply for an internal grant as seed money to start a public service program. I was awarded $ 5,000 and I started an education outreach program, which directly benefitted my department in several ways. Not one of the tenured-faculty congratulated me on receiving this prestigious grant. No one acknowledged the public service work that I was doing. In fact, I had one colleague tell me that it was a waste of time. Not only did it give the department good connections with the local community but it also allowed me to buy a lot of materials for the department, that all faculty benefited from and used regularly.

      I felt completely deflated by the end of that year, but I trudged along and applied for the next grant that would allow me to take my program further. Finally, I understood why no one had congratulated my efforts – I had taken that grant money away from the tenured faculty research. I was inundated with nasty emails from tenured faculty, when I was awarded the second grant for $10,000. They were shocked that the University would support an adjunct program, which was valued in the local community – over their purely academic research. I had stepped on the wrong toes. The Chair asked for the grant to be revoked and given to a tenured faculty. The University agreed and I quit. I am still very angry about all of this because I felt I was doing really good work, both teaching and public service.

      I suppose my situation financially was better than most at the state university and I was given opportunities to advance based on my skills. However, when it came to advancing over a certain threshold, I was put right in my place. I understand why the tenure system was established, but I think it has become outdated, especially when adjuncts outnumber tenured faculty.

      I have left university teaching behind and still do occasional consulting in my field, but I now work as a teacher in the public school system. Benefits, decent pay, and nice people make it a good fit for me. I enjoy having coworkers that are pulling for me, not dragging me down. Equally important – I feel like a valued employee. I hope that higher education will change their pay scale and treatment of adjuncts soon. Something has to change, as adjuncts make up the majority of teaching staff now. I think establishing adjunct unions is the best way to step forward.

  3. It sounds like there are too many PhDs trying to live off teaching, I am sure if you work in the private sector you will do well.

    • It depends on if their PhD is worthless in the real world or not. There was a person who got a grad degree in medieval history. Really? People expect to get a job with that?
      The problem is that there are too many PhD holders and PhD students chasing worthless degrees. They flood the market.

  4. I hope your PHD is in demand when you finish. Unfortunately, pay is driven by demand and competition in the market place. Hang in there, you are very fortunate to have supportive parents. You will make it.

  5. I am reaching here, but how how difficult is it to start a college? Perhaps professors should be teaching more for themselves. Form a college, pay triple the rates to professors, and offer students classes for about $600. My guess is, this would become so huge, that when the colleges started seeing their empty classes, the pay would rise. I think we are in a new world now, and we can no longer depend on the big institutions of society, be they colleges or businesses, for our livelihood. Only when they see us as competition will we be able to earn fair livings once again.
    I truly am outraged to see such intelligent, caring people struggling like this and feeling so hopeless. You all deserve better than this, we all do. My bet is, that all you History majors realize that whenever a society of the past reached the point we are at in the U.S. right now, a revolution began. Here in New England, there is a lot of talk of that everywhere you go. Our government is basically fascists, it exists to do the bidding of the 1% against the welfare of the rest of us. How much longer are we going to stand for this? If educated people like yourselves are struggling, imagine the high school educated kid, or worse yet, the drop out. Is this the country my grandfather gave his life to defend?

  6. Reading all this causes me to wonder why does college tuition keep going up so much every year and where is the money going?

  7. If you don’t mind my asking, what is your dissertation in and what is your field of study? It strikes me that if you’re going to publish your situation in a public blog, you might as well tell people what it is you studied; you never know, someone might offer you an interview or a referral. Also, you write really well: no grammar mistakes, not too wordy, nicely organized. Not every Phd writes that well. (You’d Think they would, but, no.) Maybe you could turn it into a job. If you can edit as well as you write, maybe you could get a job with a publishing company. Do you have a linked-in account? Lots of people do, and you can get one for free. Get the word out about what you can do. And good luck!

  8. I’ve been reading these posts instead of working on lesson plans 🙂 I deeply sympathize with the wretched working conditions of my fellow adjuncts. To me, it’s an age-old workers’ rights problem whose solution lies in organizing, because hardly anyone is going to give adjuncts the pay and working conditions they deserve out of the goodness of their corporate hearts. The problem with that is that many of us are familiar with the down side of unions and anyway, don’t feel up to the fight.

    • @Malapat,

      Thanks for stopping by. While lesson plans are crucial, so is taking a break and getting in some great reading! 🙂

  9. Powerful story Jodi. Since I started my tenure track job back in 02, I have always been sympathetic to adjuncts. I even have a degree in the arts (graphic design) and still managed to get the job…and I’m thankful for it.

    I think some of the “roll your sleeve” comments are a bit pretentious and smug. Personally, I’m glad you wrote this as we need the public, future students (and future profs, admins, politicians, etc) to know about this.

    My question/ advise Jodi? First- what is your specialty? And did you look far outside of your state? I noticed from my experience and in the case of our local adjuncts, those who are willing to relocate have a greater chance of employment.

    I’m also a new father… I wonder if my son will have to live with me in his 30s. I love him to death, and from the way you write about your parents, I can tell they feel the same about you. I know you want your own space/ life … but at least you have love 😉

  10. The feeling of degradation, in my opinion, is the worst. I could handle struggling to get by (perhaps not as much as I’m struggling right now) if I didn’t feel as though I have spent so much of my life working to be an historian and wanting to teach and share my research only to get treated like I am worthless and paid less than I would if I went on unemployment.

    • Hello. I have been there and still feel there from time to time. What helped me was editing college textbooks. Most of those jobs are in need during the summer when textbooks publishers are racing to get the next revised editions done and out. It can really help. Yes, being an adjunct is a tough field, especially if it is your only job. Hang in there!

  11. I wrote about my frustrations earlier this year…now I write because I feel that I have lost all hope in this battle ever being resolved in a positive light for adjuncts all over the country. First it was “you have to have a PhD to simply teach a “Intro to what ever course” Now, we are all being limited to teaching 1-3 courses per semester depending on the school you work for. There is NOT a shred of compassion on the part of any school administrator..and they don ‘t have to feel or show any compassion ..after all their cush jobs are safe and secure. I am not sure how my husband and I are going to eat this fall , winter, spring, summer! My school is doing this to avoid
    adhering to the Affordable Care Act and they are very loud and proud about the stance they are taking. When President Obama got this act passed was one of the first people I think to write him and ask him 1. How are you and your administration going to promote ad educate the general public on all of this so we all understand what is about to happen for us all? and 2. What are you going to do to my employer when they find a way not to adhere to this law and either limit my ability to work or just plain out fire me?”. Sadly, the president never answered my letters and what I speculated about years ago is now a reality. I am angry that my college is deciding to take the cowards way out on this issue and I am double angry at President Obama for NOT working just as hard to bring out all of the positives the ACA would bring to all Americans!!
    Despite the fact that this is not an ORIGINAL PLAN…The President will receive all of the accolades afforded to a sitting President that has made resounding historical news!! I wish he had worked harder on the “what if game” What if the employers try to get around this by doing this or that scenarios should have been the topic of every staff meeting one the act was passed. Surely Obama did not think that the Republicans or any major Corporation or business would just happily comply with the act. Already parts that were to be implemented have been delayed for a year and I do not see an end to the “endless delays” It’s all a big kettle of CRAP as far as I am concerned
    Currently, I am struggling to stay afloat but like all good swimmers I to grew weary.I can only float along but for so long. Does anyone out there have a life line to spare?

    • I missed the cut for PhD work the few times I applied, so I am working a full-time janitorial job while teaching part-time (both onsite and online) for a local private/religious college that has helped me get steady, but limited, work. I’ve been teaching since 2008 and my superior at the college intimated that there may be a possibility of carving out a full-time position for me within the next couple years. I don’t know the details yet, but it will involve working on a PhD to insure my credentials. But I’d rather teach on the side of a boring full-time job (and approaching 30,000/year total) than insisting on only adjunct teaching and either making half that or cobbling together an excessive teaching load requiring 80 hours a week. Thinking out of the box, for some of us, may mean mixing something we don’t particular like (that ensures the bills are paid) with teaching.

      Best of wishes!

  12. Hi! I gained my Ph.D. and had been teaching for over 8 years at the college level. The problem is the POLITICS! It’s not fair.

    I think to STICK to what we “love!” I think that unless we are “lucky,” then Maybe we have to make our own way(s) and “thinking-outside-of -the-box,” as it was put. I’d not give my education back.

  13. Thank you – all of you – for educating me. Reading your stories will keep me from doing anything rash, like quitting my full-time job because I’m so extremely bored with the repetition of it, and the lack of any possibility for creativity. I’m grateful to have my job, but I’ve been thinking of retiring early and teaching part-time as an adjunct at a community college. I have an M.A. in music performance, and I’ve been working toward an MS in math so I can teach that, too.

    I’m really sorry you all have had to go thru so much abuse. I’ve been there too – the poverty, the no health insurance, the food bank – it was a Catholic church in my case – first while getting my degrees, and then waiting for orchestral auditions for my instrument to come up. I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life working menial jobs, sometimes hideous ones, to keep the money coming in, and I did have to move back in with my parents again for a while (not fun).

    I remember a lot of those years with nostalgia, but I forget the 40-hour-a-week grind of temporary work and other jobs I would never have accepted save for the need to live indoors. Sometimes my brain tells me it would be good to go back there and do the “starving artist in the garret” thing again, but I’m not in my 20’s or 30’s any more and I need a steady income and the health insurance. There were good times, like playing with three other musicians on the streets in the Village, and going to the Lion’s Head pub afterwards to split the take. I suffered for my art back then, and wore that suffering like a badge, and I’m still frequently resentful that I now have to be an office drone for 40 hours a week.

    Thank you again for the reality check. The work environment is NOT what it was when I lived in New York. There WAS temp work then, and my student loans were nowhere near the amount that students currently amass.

    Guess I’ll keep my job for now instead of thinking that an adjunct teaching job shouldn’t be too difficult since I have a master’s degree. And I wonder – am I maybe strong enough to wrestle with pipes under a sink? ($85,000.00 is a fortune compared to what I made then, and it’s nearly twice as much as I make now. )

    Good luck to all.

  14. My situation is very similar, give and take a little. I am
    blessed to work at 2 colleges (part time), but my commute
    is 100 minutes 1 way, not round trip.
    I am 30 and live at home with me grumpy grands and great aunt.
    I’m lucky to no longer have pet fees because I baby just passed
    away, which makes existence easier for him and me.
    And let’s not talk about underpaid.
    In the end, this reality is a time that tests my own inner
    strength. Set aside 10 years of intellectual delving, and now
    I find myself reaching further, beyond my intellect
    to self reflect.
    I’ve found that creative person who is behind the degrees and
    realize I’m more than just accolades and that I can reach a
    solution even when I’m subjected to poverty and oppression.
    “Every problem has a solution” will be my mantra from now on.

  15. i totally agree Jodi and it is a fact. Everything happens in reality with money only and world cannot live with a big heart. only those who really hardwork get the real life which is without money and i do feel for you 🙁

  16. I really feel for you. Adjunct pay is low (especially for online teaching where a 24/7 presence is required) is required.
    I always viewed adjunct teaching as a great part-time job for English majors who were working on
    book projects or another job. It was. Past tense. Now, most colleges barely assign one
    course per semester so you can’t even count on teaching as part-time income. The online
    colleges pay less than part-time pay, yet require an almost full-time presence, so that
    it’s difficult to take on other work to pay the bills.

    I walked away. It’s a shame because I love to teach and enjoy engaging in and encouraging
    discourse in the classroom. However, the electric company doesn’t care about that.
    Pay rates won’t go up as long as there is a willing supply of workers.

  17. This is a copy of letter a I wrote to Richard Wolff.
    I have been teaching math at both a community college and a small univeristy as an adjunct faculty for five years now. Between the two schools I usually teach between 47 and 52 credits worth of classes per calendar year and am still barely able to scratch out a living even in a state with as low living expenses as Michigan. I have read that some colleges are already putting rules in place to limit the teaching load of adjunct faculty in order to avoid paying for the health insurance that would be required by the new law. Does this not represent the begining of the end for traditionally structured schools? The main resource they need is students and less and less of them can afford it. The money they receive from both the public and private sector has dwindled for years. Finally the last bastion of cheap labor can either increase their costs through health insurance premiums or could create chaos with high turnover and instability with the faculty who at most institutions represent the majority. I will post his response if anyone is interested.

  18. I am in a v similar position. Though I don’t live with my parents, I am barely making my mortgage.
    I teach 15 courses – that’s 45 credits a year & only make about 29k…that’s with $100k in student loans.
    No benefits. I am now in my 40s. I am not married. This is after my 2nd MA. I have 2 MAs because that is the terminal degree for my field. I was just denied a minor promotion to Adjunct II after 4 yrs. in my current dept. And yes I am often bullied, lied to & strung along. And yes I have tried repeatedly to get other work. If I’m not applying for full-time teaching, I’m applying for basic office admin. When I’m not doing that I’m applying for shows, festivals, grants and professional honors. When I’m not doing that I’m trying to do my work. When I’m not doing that I’m teaching & grading. Forget a personal life.

    • I’m so sorry. That just sounds awful and a lot like my life, without the mortgage, thankfully. I hope it gets better for you somehow!

  19. Here is a small bit of advice to that darling girl who is so discouraged about her adjunct life while living at home and trying to finish her dissertation. I sub in the local school to make some extra money. You might think about getting your teaching certificate and teaching in a local school while working on your dissertation. If you sub regularly, it often leads to a teaching job. Just a thought for what to do while finishing your dissertation and adjuncting.

  20. The feeling of degradation, in my opinion, is the worst. I could handle struggling to get by (perhaps not as much as I’m struggling right now) if I didn’t feel as though I have spent so much of my life working to be an historian and wanting to teach and share my research only to get treated like I am worthless and paid less than I would if I went on unemployment.

    Supervisors often don’t understand and a lot of older academics, safely tenured, are out of touch with the adjunct situation, which has been made that much worse by rising student debt. I recently read somewhere (sorry, I can’t find it again) that an older academic told a PhD student that student loan payments were no worse than buying a decent luxury car. I found that insufferable. I don’t have a Ferrari in my garage.

  21. I won’t drag you down with my story; it’s little different than most, except that I quit. I now run an educational non-profit organization, and am still struggling to survive. But the emotional battering of the job as a contingent faculty member, always making applications, always getting false promises, was something I could no longer stomach.

    Back in the ’90s, when it was getting really rough, and I already had my Ph.D., I went back to my advisor, who always bragged “my students get jobs.” So, I explained the situation, and he advised that I live in a room in someone’s run-down apartment for “only about 5 years.” In my thirties. I told him that other people had homes to live in at my age, lives! Real, adult, independent lives. He advised poverty as an appropriate alternative. But what really got me was that when I told him that people my age were buying their own homes, he replied “you should get therapy!”

    And yet I continued for almost another decade. But I went home, to live with my folks. Now that my mother passed away, me and my dad live together. And I struggle, but I don’t put myself through the misery of academic contract indentured servitude, and the personal degradation that goes with it.

    All the best,
    P.S. — “Like” Pepper Tree on Facebook, if you please. It’s all I got going, after a life pursuing “the dream”: /PepperTreeCenter Thanks!

  22. My friend who is a Phd holder herself is in the same boat as you. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and accounting and it has been a struggle since graduating in 2005 to keep my head above water. The sad fact is we all got suckered into believing that a college education was going to be a path to a happy career. What a joke right! Now, we find out that sorry but we can pay a person in China or India half the salary you make or we can dump the work of three people onto one person.

    You’re lucky to have a loving and supportive family. My parents threw me out on the street a month after graduating and told me I’m on my own. I better learn to live in a cardboard box before I ever come back to them for help ever again. At some points, I have been that close; fortunately, I had some good luck and more supportive family members to help me out. Be grateful for what you do have and try not to dwell too much on the bad stuff.

  23. Good luck to you, Jodi. And kudos on writing about this particular type of adjunct experience. It’s not easy to admit, I know.

  24. Ms. Campbell, Kudos on your Phd, I hope all goes well. Except,
    I am a fulltime instructor and I have courses cancelled all
    the time. After 26 years of teaching, I just got a phone
    data plan; I got along just fine without one. You are working
    on a Phd., great, but you don’t need that either. I have had
    to live with my parents for a while as well, it is a great
    motivation to find a job, any job, including selling shoes at
    J.C. Penny’s. I have had several students sign up for my
    AAS classes needing to make a necessary change in their lives,
    including a former plumber. After taking three
    classes he has a job starting at $85K a year and is doing
    very well.

    The point is, you maybe have to look at what you are getting
    your education in. Just because you get a Phd, doesn’t mean
    somone has to give you a job. Adjunct or fulltime, you have
    to be NEEDED to get a decent teaching job and just because
    you have one, doesn’t mean you get everything you want in life
    that comes from somewhere else.

    Prof. Steve

    • “Just because you get a Phd, doesn’t mean someone has to give you a job. Adjunct or fulltime, you have to be NEEDED to get a decent teaching job and just because you have one, doesn’t mean you get everything you want in life that comes from somewhere else.” Amen, Prof. Steve! It took me a long time to realize this and to conduct a job search from this perspective. Did I end up with the job I thought I would? No. Did I end up with a job I like? Absolutely. It was my choice to get a Ph.D., and while I should have known it wouldn’t lead to the kind of job I thought it would, I eventually understood that I was in for a slog and rolled up my sleeves.

    • When your classes get cancelled, you don’t lose your tenure. She has zero hope of tenure. You “just got a data plan” which tells me you don’t need a phone to look for a job, because you are employed (please note that she DOES NOT have an internet bill, and the internet is REQUIRED for job searches today, so the data plan is in fact necessary given that she is not near a library or any other location, she’s in the boonies).

      Don’t denigrate the difficulties of others just because the last time you had to look for work it was the Reagan administration. I pity your students, who are getting $85,000/yr jobs despite you, not because of you. Getting a (part-time only) job at JC Penney does require a bachelor’s now, but if you have a PhD, don’t bother to apply. It is true that no one *has* to give you a job. But the world as it is means that no one gets a job at all, unless they have unbelievably specific skill sets. You’re just one of the fortunate very few with their heads in the sand who doesn’t know it yet. It is a completely different world now, Dick.

  25. I, too, have been teaching at one college for 13 years (I’m 60). In one respect, it’s difficult for me to believe that we have the same issues. On the other hand, it is so believable. I can barely keep the lights on, and I’ve declared bankruptcy also. The latest thing is now I’m not getting all the information I require to conduct my courses. Oh, and it costs me $65 to travel 80 miles from home to get less than $3,500 for this three credit course that I designed for the school. Your advice rings so true.

  26. If you read my story, from a 61 y.o. divorced female- you’ll run screaming from your adjunct job.

    I’ve been instructing 13 years with the same community college organization. I have 3 school loans pending for the 3 degree’s I earned.

    My adjunct experience: have seen 5 department admin staff changes, been passed over for 2 full-time faculty opportunities, became certified to instruct 3 different online learning platforms, have taught on 2 campuses to keep 3-4 courses, will take all the cast-offs: teach on a remote campus with no computers, take the crappy days/hours, teach independent study, have my courses swapped last minute for a new class prep…the list goes on. It’s too depressing to recall.

    I was informed just last week one of my 3 fall courses was given to a full-timer and I can have a new prep in it’s place. They want me to teach finance. I’m a marketing major. Well ok- this is gonna be good because I had to file bankruptcy last year just to stay in my house. A financial loser teaching finance- what an oxymoron.

    Teaching is an honorable profession. Clearly we don’t do it for the money. I just hope you never have to visit the food bank…it’s a humbling experience.

    My advice to a young adjunct- pursue your teaching bliss for a short time. Get in and get out. Forget about the old ways of working hard to move ahead. It’s just not gonna happen. Oh…and marry well.

    • Amen. Thinking about throwing in the financial towel and seeing if that helps. Too much education and a similar pattern. Always good enough for the leftovers but never the real FT spot.

  27. A lot of adjunct professors are in the same boat.

    I’m older than most [52] and I struggled with a disability for years before I finished my dissertation in 2005. Since then, I have adjuncted at four different universities while writing, conducting research, while searching for a stable TT position. I’ve literally lived in poverty for years – without health care for my life threatening disability – in order to find a job – any job. I can’t find even a menial position because I am over-qualified. In the meantime, I see less qualified people secure positions that many see as life-time sinecure that will not require them to do any meaningful work after they gain tenure. I have had self-important tenured faculty dismiss me as unworthy because I am an adjunct, suggesting lesser forms of life – like myself – belong at Walmart. Collective action is the answer, but the corporatization of academe has led to the rise of anti-union attitudes that will act – in brutal ways – to prevent any type of collective. Personally, I have had enough

    • Ok- I’ll stop whining now ’cause I still have my health. Among the difficult challenge of adjuncting is the lack of benefits. I am truly sorry for your situation. And I understand how our dedication to teaching has diminished the ability to obtain decent work in the business sector. I started ‘dumbing’ down my resume 3 years ago. The harsh reality emerges when highly educated, over qualified applicants can only acquire part-time work- with again no benefits. Each day, I’m reminded of this quote:
      “Become a positive thinker. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities…they’re always there.” Norman Vincent Peale
      So in other words for me, keep looking.

  28. I apologize if you were offended by my article. To be honest, I wrote it as a sample for my application to blog for AN, and I didn’t know it was going to be posted as is! My only intention was to show that there were alternatives to all the conveniences that society has told us we need. And that now that my one online class is my only income–yes, I have a husband who has a full-time job, but it bothers me that we are completely dependent on that right now–I have had to look at budgeting in a whole new way. I just wanted to share some of the things I found in case it might help someone else.

    • @Kelly you have NOTHING to apologize for. Your article was written well and extremely thought-provoking. To be honest I am disappointed that the people who are “offended” can’t get past their own self-centered reactions and have an intelligent debate. The author of this article lives with her parents because she wants to continue to teach part-time. While we can attribute this sad situation to the state of higher education in America, we can’t forget that having a graduate degree is supposed to be a leg up in the job market. Maybe part of the problem is that adjuncts stuck teaching part-time need help looking outside of the college job market for work.

      • Excuse me, but I don’t live with parents because I want to teach part time. I live with my parents because it has been extremely difficult finding even a menial job outside of academia. I’ve been told I’m overqualified because of my education, which also causes employers to think I won’t stick around if a better job comes along. Despite my previous career before the PhD, I’m also now told I don’t have enough experience because I’ve been out of that field for more than five years.

        If you’d like to have an intelligent debate, perhaps try not insulting people and calling us self-centered. Our stories are just that: our stories and they are no more self-centered than Kelly’s.

        • So maybe John Davis has touched on the issue that we need to talk about- adjuncts learning to find jobs outside of those offered by colleges and universities where the pay is low and the working conditions less than ideal. It’s not whether the author lives with her parents, it how to use a graduate degree to find a decent job. That’s a class I never saw offered by my university, but if you want to be cynical colleges would never want to offer graduate degree students guidance on finding work outside of higher ed. If the number of people competing for adjunct jobs dropped the power dynamic would eventually reverse itself and colleges would be forced to pay more for part-time faculty!

          • Gosh!! I am tired of hearing There just are no jobs STILL. I have been searching since 2008 before my awful full time job was taken away. My adjunct position was a true part-time job to help cover the cost of sending my son to college. Now it is my only job and I to am facing a big course chop starting in the summer semester 2013. I have already been told by my Program Chair that “There will not be very many course offerings for the summer semester 2013” What ever course will be available will go to the full time staff…not me. I can draw unemployment but that is way less than what I make teaching and I WANT TO WORK. I have been working since I was 15 years old. I am 55 and never imagined having higher education and EXPERIENCE would NOT YIELD ME BETTER WORK. I thought about going and working on a doctorate but that does not seem to help anyone today…heck!I know PhD’s who are still unemployed, on food stamps and working at Walmart. Jodi, I know and feel exactly like on the adjunct/part time salary is scary and I have a husband to lean on …he is a minister and since the crash of 2008 people are NOT coming to church or giving on any regular basis..this means if the church can not find the money to pay ..well we have to move to the next church that can pay..which those are far and few between. I am told things will only get worse due to most colleges not wanting to implement the new health care cutting staff is one way around that issue. My school offers health care benefits but I do not make enough money to actually afford anything other than a vision care plan. I feel pretty hopeless right now as I have done everything I could from work force development classes on how to write a resume to how to present yourself in an interview, networking, you name it I have done it. Any one got anything new and fresh to try …that is all I can do at this point..try..and hope

        • @Jodi I didn’t mean to be insulting but rather to point out that perhaps the discusson wasn’t on a track that could lead anywhere except to a place where people get angry with each other.

    • Kelly, I understand where you are coming from and how it feels when you think you aren’t contributing as much as you want. Your post caused a bit of a reaction on twitter and I wanted to show another side to the adjunct experience. I certainly wasn’t trying to make you feel bad or worse about your situation.

  29. Organize. Unionize. Strike. That’s our only hope. It’s pitiful that we are the majority of faculty and we can’t pay our fucking bills.

    If we all strike, they can’t fire us because there are so few administrators who are actually academics anymore. They can’t run the universities and colleges without us. Strike for equal pay, strike for instructor lines with fair multi-year contracts. Strike for more tenure track positions. Strike for better salaries for all of us and less administration.


    • Lee, Adjuncts are a long way from striking. We need to support our advocacy organizations like NFM and CPFA and do the networking needed to build a nationwide organization. We HAVE no unions; the ones we belong to take our money to support the interests of full-time faculty.

  30. You just outlined my life for the most part.

    Just add three kids – and fill in the blanks.

    There is no more outside of the box. Options are small. And I’m geographically limited as to where I can work because of a horrible divorce, further limiting job opportunities.

    That being said, that is life and somehow, the ONLY option is having trust that something will eventually work out.

    Hang in there.

  31. From a follower on Twitter: “@AdjunctNation I’d consider moving home to finish writing … but my father is allergic to my cats. So that’s not an option.”

  32. I share your frustration with the blithe “cut your own hair and don’t go to Starbucks” tone of the article you refer to. Anyone who is managing alone on adjunct pay is one canceled course away from disaster.

  33. From a follower on Facebook: Wow, one of my adjunct professors in the early 90s at the University of Maryland University College who taught in the Pentagon took the job because of the mileage paid according to him.—Anthony Dauer

  34. From a follower on Twitter: @AdjunctNation Reminds me of the adjunct who once told a dean she had to sell her blood plasma for the gas money to drive to campus. 🙁 —‏@MichaelKeathley

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