In April of 2011, the New Hampshire House of Representatives introduced a budget that implemented massive cuts across almost every section of government, in a state where the New Hampshire University System already received some of the smallest subsidies nationwide.

The budget cuts spurred a contraction of full-time adjuncts at Keene State College as the college strived to cut $250,000 out of the adjunct budget.

More than two years later, the college is still reeling from the budget cuts. There are fewer classes, many existing classes are larger and less popular classes are frequently cut due to low enrollment.

The colleges’ methods of cost control have resulted in a slew of less desirable, lower paying jobs; being able to fill them mostly because of a poor nationwide job pool for the college-educated.

Over the past few semesters, I’ve enrolled for multiple classes without knowing who the professor was, because the college had not hired them yet.

Can students expect the same level of instruction from, say, a fresh adjunct that they could expect from a faculty member that had been there for five years or more (adjunct or not)?

It’s hard to pick classes with confidence when the school either doesn’t know or cannot be bothered to tell you who is teaching them.

The turnover rate is not unfounded. If you get hired, you can expect three things: poverty wages, no job security and no benefits.

The KSC strategy to prevent the college from having to pay full-time wages or salaries closely mirror similar strategies employed in the corporate world.

By scheduling the bulk of adjuncts for part-time hours and hiring more part time adjuncts to fill in the gaps, the college can get the same quality of teacher at a fraction of the cost.

However, that is not how it works at Wal-Mart, and that is not how it works here.

The problem with this strategy is simple mathematics. The adjuncts I interviewed for this article made under $1,000 a credit, but let’s round up for simplification. If an adjunct is assigned two four-credit courses, they can expect to pull in a whopping $16,000 for two semesters worth of work. But surely, they can make it up over the summer? Not quite.

During the summer, adjuncts are paid based on the number of students they’re teaching, which usually adds up to considerably less than their fall or spring semester wages.

Even if they pull in another $8,000, that brings their pay rate to a measly $24,000 a year.

The result is an employee who does not make enough at the college to live off of, so they are forced to work additional jobs outside of the college, leaving them less time to devote to student interactions or course design.

The inherent lack of job security inhibits their long term plans, their ability to reinvest in the community and on campus, and their ability to successfully teach their students.

Why invest 60 or 70 hours in putting together a new course with better reading material, when you might be out of a job next semester?

If you’re holding multiple jobs at multiple colleges, can you really be expected to devote as much time to your lessons as a better-compensated tenure-track professor?

Separate unions, job titles and office privileges separate the adjunct staff from the often sympathetic tenure-track staff, whose own union has to compete against the adjuncts for the slim share of additional revenue each year.

Ostensibly, an adjunct professor should be versed enough in their field that they roughly approximate the teaching ability of those on the tenure-track, but we pay them at rates more commensurate with those of a fast food manager.

I’ve noticed the ability of adjuncts to teach varies, but no more than tenured professors.

I have had energetic, inspired adjuncts whose interest in their field inspired the same from their students.

Alternately, I have had detached, rambling professors that don’t seem to feel comfortable in class until the last week, and who make off-color, sexist jokes in the hallway in front of their embarrassed colleagues.

The college has a solution to this problem: over the next four years, the college plans on increasing full-time faculty to a full 67% of the total credits offered by 2017.

While this means better paying full-time positions for some adjuncts (as well as new tenure-track positions), this still leaves a third of our classes being taught by severely underpaid part-time faculty.

This year, the college budgeted out a whopping $788,459.65 for the president’s office alone (included a handsome $100,000 invested in the “executive search”), enough money to hire eight or nine full-time faculty with benefits.

The governor has pledged not to institute any new taxes to alleviate the state’s budget woes, which makes the prospect of restored state funding look pretty bleak. In the face of such prolonged budget issues, the traditional university model needs to be re-evaluated in favor of a system that prioritizes learning, student engagement and economy.

We need a college that prioritizes academics above all else; eschewing overpaid administrators in favor of fairer, more even wages for the entire teaching staff, adjunct and tenure-track alike.


Gibson Chase can be contacted at

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