“The Just-In-Time Professor,” released last month by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, describes a growing population of more than one million adjunct and other nontenure-track instructors. “In 1970, adjuncts made up 20 percent of all higher education faculty,” the report says. “Today, they represent half.”
As a rule, adjuncts have few or no benefits. They are generally paid per course, and paid poorly. (The Coalition on the Academic Workforce estimates that the median pay for a standard three-credit course is $2,700.) Because adjuncts often teach several classes in order to cobble together a living, they have little time for the research necessary to advance their careers.
This increasing dependence on inexpensive adjuncts may be bad for students, as well. According to the report, students who took more courses taught by adjuncts “experienced lower graduation rates, lower grade point averages, and fewer transfers from two-year to four-year colleges, compared to other students.”