December 2020 Advocate: Survey of district part-timers
Survey of district part-timers finds most PTers do not have other stable work, rely on SMCCD work to pay for housing and healthcare and are likely to leave district if their pay doesn’t improve soon
By Marianne Kaletzky, AFT 1493 Executive Secretary
A survey recently conducted by AFT 1493 reveals that most SMCCD adjuncts depend on their faculty employment to pay for basic needs, especially housing and healthcare. While these results probably won’t shock SMCCD adjuncts, they challenge a longstanding image of the adjunct professor as a professional with a full-time job outside education—for instance, in law or accounting—who teaches a class every so often on the side. By contrast, the AFT survey found that most adjuncts have no regular job outside their faculty work. Nor do the majority of adjuncts have health benefits from a non-SMCCD job—even their partner’s.
AFT conducted two surveys online in October of 2020. The first survey asked current part-timers about the conditions and contexts of their faculty work and garnered 181 responses. (To put that number in context, 526 part-timers are working for SMCCD this semester.) The second survey solicited responses from full-time SMCCD faculty who were once part-time, either in this district or any other, and received 98 responses.
Here are some of the takeaways:
Most part-timers do not have any stable job—even a part-time job—outside their faculty employment
Only 15.5% of part-timers surveyed conform to the model of an adjunct professor as someone with a full-time job outside education, who does adjunct work for enrichment or extra cash. In addition to the 15.5% of part-timers who had a full-time non-faculty job, 12.7% work at least half-time at a stable job outside education, and 8.8% work less than half-time at such a job. A sizeable majority of adjuncts—63%—have no stable employment beyond their faculty work.
Most part-time instructors teach zero to one classes outside SMCCD
More recent media coverage of adjuncts often focuses on the image of the “freeway flyer” constantly commuting between a number of different educational institutions to make ends meet. This model might seem likely to apply to most SMCCD adjuncts, since they do not have regular employment outside education and California Education Code prohibits them from working more than 67% time in any single district.
Yet of the 149 instructional faculty who completed the survey, 71 (47.65%) said they are currently teaching zero courses outside SMCCD. An additional 19 (12.75%) are teaching just one course outside SMCCD. And of all adjunct faculty, including librarians, counselors, and other adjuncts, most (54.5%) have only been employed by a single non-SMCCD educational institution in the past three years. It’s possible many adjuncts want more work, even if it means commuting between distant campuses or mastering different learning management systems, but simply cannot find it. Alternatively, adjuncts may struggle to reconcile scheduling conflicts between classes in different districts—especially if their schedules also include family responsibilities.
Adjuncts depend on their SMCCD work to pay for housing and healthcare
Regardless of the reason, the scarcity of non-SMCCD faculty work together with the lack of regular employment outside education means that most adjuncts depend on their SMCCD paycheck to pay for their families’ basic living expenses. This conclusion is borne out by the fact that 75% of SMCCD adjuncts spend at least a quarter of their wages from faculty work to pay for housing, with 30% spending at least half their earnings on housing.
Adjuncts also depend on compensation from SMCCD—both their earnings and the part-timer healthcare stipend—to pay for healthcare. Just over half of adjuncts (51.1%) do not have health benefits from any non-SMCCD job, whether theirs or their partner’s.
Adjunct positions are long-term work: the median part-timer who becomes full-time spends 5-7 years as a part-timer first
Administrators and others often speak of part-time positions as stepping stones to full-time community college work. But many part-timers never become full-time—and even those who do spend the better part of a decade as part-timers first. We surveyed full-timers who were once part-time and found that the median respondent spent 5-7 years as a part-timer before getting a full-time position. The fact that part-time work can help adjuncts land full-time positions is no excuse for compensating them poorly, especially since so many faculty spend so long as adjuncts.
Getting a full-time job brings significant life and career changes for adjuncts
Many full-timers who were once part-time say they have significantly more work, especially committee work, now that they are full-time—an issue AFT has attempted to remedy by negotiating a new pilot program. But they also list a number of positive changes, among them better mental and physical health due to having job security, a stable income, and benefits; increased collaboration with colleagues and a sense of being supported and valued; and the ability to devote more time to pedagogy, relationships with students, and professional development, rather than constantly having to search for jobs and adapt to new demands.
Most SMCCD part-timers are likely to leave the district if their pay does not change significantly within the next 5 years.
Although SMCCD is a wealthy district and San Mateo County is ranked as the most expensive place to live in California, SMCCD places in the bottom half of Bay Area community college districts for part-timer pay. So it’s no surprise that 60.8% of current part-timers say they are either very likely or somewhat likely to seek employment at other districts rather than SMCCD if their pay does not change significantly within the next 5 years.
Survey data affirms the need for 85% parity & “mirror schedule” to compensate part-timers fairly
Taken together, the survey data reveal that adjuncts rely significantly on their faculty wages to provide for their families’ basic needs: without a stable job outside education or a full-time faculty position in the near future, SMCCD part-timers are faced with the choice of staying in a district with below-average wages or seeking work elsewhere. If SMCCD wants to support its students by ensuring they have a stable set of quality instructors to rely on, the district must commit to compensating part-timers fairly.
As it is, the part-time salary scale has only a single column—meaning part-timers don’t get credit for their education—and 11 steps rather than the 25 that full-timers have—which limits part-timers opportunities to get increased pay for more experience. AFT is demanding a “mirrored schedule” with columns to pay adjuncts for their education and more steps to give them credit for their experience. We’re also asking that part-time instructors make 85% of what full-timers with the same education and experience earn for teaching the same load. Part-time parity makes sense for adjuncts, their full-time colleagues, and their students. It’s time for SMCCD to give part-timers the compensation they need and deserve.