Low salaries in higher education

December 11th, 2014



Most students expect their bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University to be met with a well paying job after graduation. But, what if someone had a doctorate and was only getting paid the same as a McDonald’s cashier?


Many instructors at JCU are considered part time. They do not have health insurance, job security or the many other benefits that full-time faculty receive. According to the 2014-15 JCU Fact Book, there are more part-time faculty members than ever, with 193 full-time and 208 part-time faculty who teach at the University.


A part-time professor with a master’s degree and four to six years of experience at JCU only earns about $17,000 a year if he or she teach two courses each semester, the maximum, including the summer. If that professor had a doctorate, he or she would earn about $21,000 per year. These figures are salaries before taxes and do not include benefits like health care.


According to NPR, the average pay for part-time faculty nationwide is between $20,000 to $25,000 annually. If you divide the average annual salary by the average number of hours worked, that pay is less than minimum wage.


Neil Slobin, a part-time instructor in the philosophy department, has been teaching at JCU for over 30 years. Slobin says being part time can be difficult financially. “I teach 11 or 12 different courses [at multiple universities] in a year and make just under $30,000 before taxes,” he said, “And without benefits,”. I cannot pay my bills now. It’s almost a poverty wage.”


It’s not just the pay that is unsatisfactory for some. Amanda English, CPA, is a part-time instructor in the accounting department.


“I still want another child, and I don’t have maternity leave. Who would take over? Would I get the class back?” English questioned.


If the University needs someone to fill in for her during a maternity leave, there is no assurance the class would still be there when she was ready to return.



However, being part time is not all bad news. For some professors like English, she needs the flexibility of teaching part time so she can care for her young children. “I choose to be part time right now. I used to be full time, and I had a great salary and benefits and a 401(k). I’d like to go back to full time when my kids are older.”


For now, she relies on her husband’s salary and benefits. English also states that she chooses to work here versus other universities. Her department and the dean of the Boler School of Business are extremely supportive of her and the work she has done to help create her niche in Accounting Information Systems.


Other professors are also comfortable teaching part time. Reiko Simmons teaches part time in the chemistry department. “I applied for a full-time position 4 years ago and I did not get it, and I’m not unhappy because I ended up doing this. It’s comfortable for me.” She continued, “It’s not part time. I’m here every day.”


A lot of part-time instructors work just as many hours as some full-time faculty. English said, “My day starts with getting up at 6 a.m., getting kids ready, and getting here by 8 a.m. I teach for three and a half hours straight in an upper level class. The majority of my time is not in the classroom; I spend a lot of time prepping for class projects. At the end of class, I stay for four more hours to be available for my students and grade.”


Since English used to be full time, she can compare the time commitment of full time and part time.


“On a per-class basis, I work just as hard [as full-time], if not more than I used to as a full-time professor,” said English.


Currently, she teaches an upper-level course involving a lot of prep work and work behind the scenes.


“For now, the flexibility is worth the cut in pay and benefits,” she said.


Some part-time instructors work more than most full-time professors, teaching at multiple universities to make a sufficient income.


“I teach at multiple schools, here and at Lakeland [Community College],” Slobin said. “I teach one course here and two there. I was supposed to get two courses here, but I got bumped out. Frequently, I teach five courses at once. I used to teach seven classes at once. I would work from 8 in the morning to 7:45 at night. I had to put my head down and sleep for 10 or 15 minutes in between classes just so I had enough energy to teach.”


Slobin attests that it is also physically difficult to have this type of schedule. “I am in front of a class for about 12 hours a week now. It’s tremendously energy depleting. I’m 65 now. It’s hard. I drive 60 miles a day, shoving food down my mouth, and prepping for many different courses at once.”


Becoming full time can also be quite difficult as fewer full-time positions are opening up.


“There is a 50 percent chance I might not get my full-time job back,” English said.


There is no system in place for converting part-time into full-time faculty. Associate Academic Vice President James Krukones said, “Transitioning to full time can happen only when a full-time position becomes available and a part-time faculty member is successful in applying for that position.  Part-time hiring and full-time faculty hiring are entirely separate from each other.  Full-time faculty have to possess a doctorate or be close to completing one.


“In addition, full-time faculty are obligated to do research and perform a variety of services on behalf of their department and the University,” he concluded.


Job openings for full-time faculty have been relatively scarce for some years now, and the outlook is not likely to improve in the future.


There are several reasons why universities like JCU are unable to hire more full-time faculty. According to Krukones, one of them is budgetary.


“Like many schools of our size and character, we are tuition-dependent,” said Krukones. “And our single greatest cost is personnel.


“Part-timers fill specific curricular needs not necessarily met by our full-time faculty,” he continued. “If we didn’t have access to part-time faculty, we would not be able to offer as wide a variety of courses as we do.”


In many ways, professors believe that the University treats its part-timers better than other nearby universities. Simmons taught at Cleveland State University before getting a part-time position at JCU. She said, “I started working part time at CSU. It was quite taxing during the winter. I had to pay $900 a year to park. You were never guaranteed a spot. The number of students I had then was ridiculous. I started training grad students to teach the labs.”


Slobin said, “John Carroll treats me quite well. I get an office and access to a photocopy machine. At Lakeland, we have to share computers. I also get paid about $250 more per credit here than at Lakeland.”


During Campus Equity Week, a JCU English professor, Yvonne Bruce, tabled in the student center for her organization – the Ohio Part-time Faculty Association.


“My organization, OPTFA, wants to improve higher education by making it more accountable, transparent, and ethically consistent with the values it aims to inculcate,” Bruce said. “Colleges and universities should spend less building top-heavy administrative edifices and providing creature comforts and more on nurturing productive student-faculty relationships.”


English and Slobin agreed that there should be a redistribution of funds within the system.


There is currently no award for part-time faculty at JCU. There is a Distinguished Faculty Award, but it is only available for full-time faculty.


Editor’s note: Students who want to show their support for their part-time faculty can go to to sign a petition for John Carroll University to make a Distinguished Faculty Award for part-time professors.