One of the main reasons I chose to earn an MFA was my desire to teach at the college level. Since 2005, I have taught college and graduate students at a number of area institutions including Towson University, MICA, Goucher, Loyola, Anne Arundel Community College, and Johns Hopkins. I love teaching for a number of reasons: an inspiring environment, receptive students, engaging class discussions, smart professional colleagues, and the way my intellectual curiosity is satisfied by hours and hours of research. This is a good gig. Have I mentioned that? But it’s far from perfect.
While full-time, tenure-track positions pay anywhere from sixty to over a hundred thousand dollars a year for teaching an average of six classes a year, for approximately 30 weeks a year (that’s roughly 8 months, folks), adjunct professors make about a fourth that amount to teach the same classes. In order to be considered for a full-time position, candidates must have at least three years of college teaching experience, hence all MFA grads who wish to teach at the college level must work for adjunct pay for several years.
Besides a stark contrast in pay scale, part-time professors also receive very little, if any, health benefits from hiring institutions and zero job security. Many adjuncts teach four to six classes a semester, and most teach at two or more schools because institutions rarely give an individual adjunct more than two classes a semester. Despite working conditions which are difficult, compared with tenure-track professors, the adjuncts I work with love their jobs and are committed to their students, with the eventual goal of a full-time professorship in mind.
In the Baltimore area, local MFA graduates teach as adjuncts at a number of different institutions, including art colleges, public universities, community colleges, and, most often, all of the above. All of the Baltimore-area colleges hire adjunct professors to teach students and, although the national average (according to the New York Times) of adjunct professors to full-time is around 76%, an all-time high, most of Baltimore’s institutions hire adjuncts to teach 40 – 60% of classes.
If you have taught at a variety of different institutions, you will notice a real disparity in pay for similar services rendered. Some colleges list adjunct pay information publicly, while others provide the information only to those hired. If you have ever been curious what different local institutions pay their adjuncts, look no further. It is Bmoreart’s goal for art adjunct professors to earn a living commensurate with their valuable skills and services, and for institutions to pay their employees a living wage. The following information was provided by a 2011 report by the Segal Company, a private employee-owned actuarial and consulting firm, and also from the human resources websites of individual colleges.
First of all, for those of us who enjoy teaching at MICA, here are a few comparisons with other BFA-granting institutions and art schools. MICA pays novice adjunct professors $3,300 a class, and the pay scale tops out at $4,500 per class for those with many years of teaching under their belts. In comparison, RISD’s part-time pay ranges from $4,449 – $8,155 (the highest rate is accrued over 18+ years) per class, SAIC pays a base of $4,000 per class and caps out at $7,000 for an ‘adjunct full professor.’ Additionally, SFAI pays $5,500 per class for a fifteen week semester and Pratt pays $1,184 – $1,889 per contact hour, compared with MICA’s $1,1000 – $1,500 for the same contact hour. Cost of living no doubt play a part in these pay scales, and, surprisingly, the cost of tuition seems to have little correlation with part-time faculty salaries. Disparities between salaries amongst top tier arts institutions may indicate other institutional factors and values.
Amongst most Baltimore-area colleges, payment for adjunct professors is fairly consistent. Goucher pays $4,400 per course, Towson University pays $4,000 for ‘adjunct 1’ level teachers and $4,400 for ‘adjunct 2.’ University of Maryland College Park pays from $3,500 – $4,280 per class, but provides benefits for adjuncts who teach two classes both fall and spring semesters. Johns Hopkins University pays $3,600 – $4,700 per class and George Washington University pays $3,915 for a base adjunct salary with no official salary cap. UMBC’s pay ranges from $3800 – $5055 per class, the University of Baltimore’s rates were the same as UMBC, Stevenson University from $2690 – $3195, and information from Loyola and Hood College were not available. (If anyone has this data – please send it my way!)
As far as community colleges go, tuition is significantly lower, so it is no surprise that pay rates for adjunct professors tend to be lower with an increase in contact hours. For this reason, community colleges seem to be the best foot into the door for college teaching. Likewise, full-time jobs at community colleges pay less than other institutions. According to Segal in 2011, Anne Arundel CC pays a flat rate of $2,367 per class, Baltimore City CC pays $1,744 – $2,191 per class, Carroll CC pays $2,013 – $2,262 per class, CCBC pays $1,950 – $2,250, Harford CC pays $2,371.50 per class, Howard CC pays $1,950 – $2,250, and Prince George’s CC pays $1,995 – $2, 175. Overall, the average rate of payment from Baltimore area community colleges is $2,055 – $2,266.
While some of these numbers may be downright dismal, my goal in presenting this information is not to depress or accuse anyone. Knowledge is power. If you are currently teaching as an adjunct professor and struggling to make ends meet, go to your next meeting with human resources with statistic-based reasons for an increase in your pay. You have to wonder, if basic concerns like food and shelter are taken care of, won’t the 40 – 60% of college professors who are Baltimore-area adjuncts be able to educate students more successfully? Obviously, institutions of higher learning have limited funds, but is there any higher priority than effective teaching?
Author Cara Ober is an artist, educator, curator, and the editor of Bmoreart.