Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Cogs of Academia

Hello everyone,

As some of you may know, my "day" job(s) consist of being what's called an Adjunct Faculty member at a few different post-secondary institutions. I love being in front of a class and sharing knowledge and information with people. When students have what I call "light-bulb moments" and finally make the connection and understand the material, it's awesome!

Now, adjunct faculty are called a variety of different things by different institutions. Most commonly, they can be thought of as "part-time" faculty. I say "part-time" with quotation marks, because usually the time we spend is much more than would be considered part-time by anyone else. In fact, the only thing part-time about what we do is how much we are paid.

There's a lot of good info out there if you're willing to look for it (one blog I just discovered that's entirely dedicated to this topic is The Homeless Adjunct). I'll be focusing in on my experiences at 3 different post-secondary institutions. edit (Apr 8, 2013): I included links to sources for all of the data I mention here at the end of the original blog for convenience and the new sources I used for the update at the end of the update.

Recently, with the advent of Obamacare (that is, the Affordable Care Act or ACA. I say "Obamacare" which some say disparagingly, but it sounds pretty nice if you remove the negative connotation. Obama cares), many institutions, both in the academic world and elsewhere, have begun restricting people's hours to be under the magickal "30 hour" limit that the federal government is saying marks full-time employment. This has happened to me.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," you might be saying. "Doesn't that defeat the purpose of the ACA's definition of full-time in the first place?"

Why, yes, yes it does. In fact, that's primarily why it's being done. A lot of conservative types are crying at the top of their lungs, "See! That's why the ACA's bad news!"

And yet, the idea behind it is one I think people should be able to get behind. "If you work a full-time amount of hours, but are called part-time, you have a right to the same benefits full-time people get."

Still, you might be saying to yourself, "Shouldn't the liberals have realized that the a-hole people in charge of companies would just try to circumvent this definition by cutting hours?"

Well, actually, yes. They did. That's why there is a provision in the ACA that says if an employer cuts a full-time person's hours down to below full-time, they still count as being full-time for 6 months. It's been a few hours since I've read it, but I believe this would even apply to someone that is fired or let go.

So why doesn't this apply to what's been done to me?

Because they've done it early, you see. Once the ACA goes into full effect, employers will not be able to do this thing where they drop your hours like this without penalty, but since it hasn't gone into full effect, employers are taking full advantage of dropping hours out the wazoo. They're getting it while the getting is hot. Or at least, before it's made illegal.

Recently Darden (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, etc) has taken a lot of flack for this, and apparently the pushback has been such that they've taken steps to reverse or at least not continue screwing people over. (New people I mean, the people that've already been screwed have well, already been screwed after all).

My personal experience with this is limited to academia, and that's what I'll be talking about for the rest of the post.

In Ohio, Youngstown State University, Stark State College, Kent State University, Lakeland Community College and Baldwin Wallace University have all officially taken measures to limit adjunct faculty to no more than 29 hours per week on average.

Yet, the way they are doing this, ostensibly, is pulling some contrived "work hour equivalency" out of their asses that happens to be just high enough that it will only cause some minor grumbling from people in terms of losing classes and magically makes their 12-month weekly hours average out to ~29.

A couple of points.

The Work Hour Equivalency and the Average Week

YSU's work hour equivalency is that every credit hour is the same as 63 working hours.

I was regularly getting ~15 credit hours every semester (my lowest was 12), so this equated to 63 work hours per credit hour * 15 credit hours / 16 weeks ≈ 59 hours per week.

Well that's not good, that's full-time! So YSU retroactively capped it to 24 credit hours per year.

Yes, I said retroactively. That means I went from teaching 15 credit hours to teaching ≤ 9 credit hours this semester. But I'm "rewarded" by getting an increase to only a 3 hour decrease NEXT semester! Whoo!

Anyway, that comes down to an average of 12 credit hours per semester. Let's do the math again, 63 * 12 / 16 = 47.25 hours per week. Oh, I'm starting to see how that can be part-time. Normal people only work 50 some hours a week, right?

Oh they don't? Then how is that less than 30 hours? 

Looking up the Affordable Care Act, we can see that the company is allowed to average the work week over the course of 12 months for current employees. A normal working year is 50 weeks, right? So then if we work over the course of an entire year we would have 63 * 24 / 50 ≈ 30 hours per week.

Crap! That's still full-time. Wait, wait, wait. Who gets time off? 52 week year, duh! 63 * 24 / 52 ≈ 29 hours per week. Phew, I can see now why they say we're part-time. They had me worried!

Yes, that's right. Part-time faculty in the same situation as me at YSU teach enough over the course of the 32 week school year that it averages out to 30 hours a week for a 50 week work year. And that's just since the ACA! When I was making 28-30 credit hours per 32 weeks, I averaged over 36 hours per week for the entire year.

What about the compensation?

Yes, what about the compensation? Oh, you mean since I have my Master's Degree (and in fact, each of my positions at all three jobs require an MS for accreditation) and I work in academia, so I must be making some major moolah, right?

It's public info, so I'm not ashamed to share it. YSU pays adjunct faculty with an MS $800 per credit hour, which if we assume the 3-credit hour class "average", that's $2400 per 16-week class. Some icing: the national median was recently shown to be $900 per credit hour or $2700 per class. 

Some more icing: YSU is the highest paying post-secondary institution in the area. KSU is close behind with a tiered pay schedule with adjuncts maxing out ~$700/credit.

Last bit of icing: YSU adjuncts haven't had a raise in 22 years. It's been locked at $800 per credit hour since 1991. I was 6 in 1991. 

Even before all the ACA business, we couldn't even get summer classes, forcing us to go through some hard times from May to August every year. Why? Because of the faculty union (which adjuncts are not members of...by the way, it's illegal for adjuncts to form unions in Ohio) which won the right to be offered summer classes first, even though they get paid some sort of ridiculous overtime rate to teach summer classes.

(Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that the faculty union has been so successful at YSU, but I don't think it's exactly fair that they can just shit on the adjuncts to make up for the successes of the faculty. It kind of defeats the purpose of a union when a majority of the teachers at the school aren't a member (or allowed to be a member), but why on Earth would they go to bat for us anyway?)

Let's keep this going before we see how some other institutions in the area measure up.

YSU employs 573 part-time faculty members compared to 432 full-time. Part-time faculty members comprise $4.6 million of the budget, while full-time comprise 34.5 million dollars. Now, a lot of the adjuncts are part-time in more than just their pay and only teach a class or two, but if they max out, they can only make $800 * 24 = $19200 per year. Conversely, the average professor makes 34.5 million / 432 ≈ $79,861 per year.

You may be wondering what a full-time course load is for professors as opposed to adjuncts. It's 24 credits per year.

If you're curious about why 24 credits for adjuncts is part-time while 24 credits for professors is full-time, it's because of research and organizing and overseeing courses. That adds an extra 572 hours to their total per year (≈ 18 extra hours per week of the school year). (assuming we're paying them the $80K per year for working 40 hours a week on average over the course of the year).

Again, I'm really not saying professors don't deserve their salaries, but it's hard not to be bitter. I'm a better teacher than a lot of professors and educating students is not trivial and should matter.

A brief aside: there's actually quite a lot of discrimination in academia. When the mandates first came down, I heard the same thing I've always heard from all the professors, "When are you going to get your PhD?" Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to get a PhD? There's no university within 50 minutes of me with a PhD program in math, you're not supposed to have another job if you get an assistantship, and if you don't get an assistantship, then it's going to be absurdly expensive. I have a life that I can't just neglect for 2-4 years.

Back on topic. How many credit hours does 4.6 million dollars get you with adjuncts? 4.6 mil / 800 = 5750 credit hours.

Again, assuming the 3-credit class average, that's about 1916 classes. At the school published average class size of 25 students per class, that's ~47916 students (clearly, this number includes repeats edit: and two semesters).

Someone told me today that YSU only has 13000 students. If every single YSU student is taking a full-time schedule of 4 3-credit classes, then that would be edit: 104,000 students needed to be taught. Looks like the professors will have to cover the edit: 56,000 some students not covered by the adjuncts.

edit (Apr 8, 2013): for some reason I was only counting one semester instead of the whole year the first time around. I was very concerned by the original figure of only 4000 students not covered by adjuncts as it seemed implausible. The 56000 number seems much more accurate when you consider all 432 full-time instructors at YSU are supposed to be teaching 24 credits ≈ 8 classes ≈ 200 students every year, which is 86400. Why so many? you may be asking. Because professors usually get the smaller class sizes. I'm not saying all do, but it's much more likely that the low-level adjunct taught courses are 25+ and the upper-level professor taught courses are 5-25. If you assume adjuncts teach the average number of students, then the professors would average 56K / 432 ≈ 129 students every year, and in 8 classes that comes out to ≈ 16 students per class. 

These are clearly estimates, but they do give you an idea of what's going on. You might be saying that it's unlikely faculty teach so many students in a class. You're probably right. I know I usually get the 30-40 student classes. Adjunct faculty are most likely to teach classes that are "low-level" which nearly always have high enrollment and are a pain in the ass to teach (in the sense of grading especially).

One last bit about YSU, you may have wondered what the working wage comes out to. We get paid $800 per credit hour and each credit hour is 63 work hours, so that's $800 / 63 ≈ $12.70 per hour. That sounds great until you recall that it's required that you have a Master's Degree to make that much, there's no room for advancement, no hope of getting a raise based on performance or cost of living and the only benefits are discounted classes and paying into the state employees pension fund.

Now let's shift focus. Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division pays out $1600 per 3 credit class equivalent, which equates to $8.47 per hour.

National College pays out $600-800 per 3 credit class equivalent, which equates to $3.17 - $4.23 per hour.

At all of these jobs:
No hopes of benefits.
No hopes of raises.
No hope period.
 The slight whiff of a carrot of maybe getting full-time if they ever open up another full-time position again is about the only chance that may someday become available.

OK, this has been more than long enough for everyone to get the idea. I've been beyond bothered by all of this for the last 6 months, but really, I should have been questioning how hard I was working all along for the amount of money I was making even before the issues with the ACA came to light.

(One math equation I didn't do for you is the total work hours per week. It's too absurd).

A lot of information contained here. If you're curious where it came from:
The calculations came from me :)

The Dec 6 issues of the Jambar, specifically the article titled, "Part-timers' Plight" contained the data on numbers of faculty and the budget.

" 'Part-time' Faculty Raise Concerns" included the I-thought-at-the-time-I-first-heard-it apocryphal "no raise since 1991" information.

Some nice info on the ACA, specifically how to define the average weekly hours.

For the Ohio post-secondary institutions that have adopted 29 hour/week limits.

The Huffington Post for a copy of the memo all YSU faculty got last year.

And you can find tons of info on how much different institutions pay their adjuncts (including YSU, Art Institute Online and National College) at

If you don't like crowdsourced info, here's a more official study with the nationwide average salary per class I quoted above:
Thanks for reading!

Update: Cost to Student, Revenue to School (4/7/13)

One set of facts I left off the initial post was how much schools charge students to cover the cost of instruction

I know what you might be thinking before we even begin, the school has a lot of other expenses besides instructors! Well, yes they do, but the class wouldn't exist without the instructors to teach it. Both AI and National just give the cost as a per-credit hour number, but YSU actually calls the cost per credit hour I'll be referencing the "instructional fee", which would, at least nominally, imply the fee goes to pay for instructors. As we'll see, there's a lot left over after the instructors get their "cut".

According to YSU's online documents, the instructional fee for a student is $258.78 per credit hour. Now, there are a lot of other fees that are tacked on to cover other things (such as a technology fee, general fees, individual college fees, and any special charge that they can think of), but I am most concerned with the cost of instruction, since the entire post has been about instructors. Recalling that a YSU adjunct makes $800 per credit hour, this means that it only takes 3.09 students in a class for the school to break-even with regards to paying an adjunct instructor with a Master's Degree. Again, according to YSU's statistics, the average class has 25 students, so we can safely extrapolate how much revenue and profit with regards to instruction that adjuncts generate.

Adjuncts at YSU generate $6469.50 per credit hour of revenue (258.78 * 25). For a 3-credit course, that would be $19,408.50. It's $17008.50 profit with regards to salary of instructors per "average class".

Bearing in mind that adjuncts at YSU cover 5750 credits and assuming modal 3-credit courses, that means that YSU adjuncts generate 6469.5 * 5750 ≈ 37 million dollars for YSU in revenue. Recall, YSU budgets 4.6 million to pay for adjuncts, so that's $32,599,625 is profit with regards to salary of the teachers.

That would cover about 94.5% of the amount budgeted for every professor at YSU.

For National, the cost per credit hour is somewhat higher at $317 per hour. Note too, that these are quarter hours, so they're actually even higher. The ratio of converting quarter hours to semester hours is 3 to 2, so this would be like $475.50 per credit hour at YSU. Whereas YSU adjuncts make $800 per credit hour, National adjuncts make between $600 - $800 per 4 quarter-credit class and class sizes are "an average of about 15 students". With regards to instructor pay, one student would be able to cover the instructor's pay.

Thus, we can find out that National makes $317 * 4 * 15 = $19020 per class. Surprisingly, that's about the same revenue, but the profit with regards to instructor salary is much higher than YSU at $18220. Bear in mind also that the classes are 6 weeks shorter, so that's less time for all things that cost money (rent, utilities, maintenance, etc).

I don't have any data on total number of classes taught by adjuncts for National so Art Institute next.

Art Institute of Pittsburgh charges $487 per credit hour and again, these are quarter hours so that would be $487 * 1.5 = $730.50 per credit hour at YSU. AI is slightly different from the other two in that they pay a flat rate of $1600 regardless of the "credits" of the class, so let's do the standard 4 credit course. For a 4-credit course, 1 student would be enough to pay for the cost of the instructor.

I had a hard time finding average class sizes at AI. I found an unofficial source state that class size is "targeted at 15", while I know that there is a maximum of 20 students per class. I suppose 15 is a good number to pick. Aside: if a class runs with 1 or 2 students, the instructor is paid $500 per student.

15 * 4 * $487 = $29220 per class! Wow! Also, bear in mind that this is online. I know there are costs associated with online education just like brick-and-mortar education, but this is still surprising. Subtracting the cost of an adjunct to teach the class, that's $27620 of profit per class. Also, these are 5.5 week classes. Even a 3 credit course would still be over $20,000 of profit with respect to salary of the instructors.

So in summary,
At YSU, adjuncts make ~$12.70 per working hour and generate ~$17K profit over the course of 16 weeks.
At National, adjuncts make ~$4.23 per working hour and generate ~$18K profit over the course of 11 weeks.
And at AIPOD, adjuncts make ~$8.47 per working hour and generate ~27K profit over the course of 5.5 weeks.

References for data in update:

Tuition rates and class sizes at National.

Tuition and Fees at every AI, and the specific one for AI of Pittsburgh (in charge of AIOnline)

Only info I could find on "targeted" class size at AI:

Tuition and Fees at YSU