July 31, 2014 | By mquinn |
Part-time faculty are a large and growing part of the workforce in higher education.
- In 2011, approximately 1.5 million faculty members worked in postsecondary education in the United States.[i] Of those, over 768,000 are part-time faculty.[ii]
- The reality is that institutions of higher education now overwhelmingly rely upon adjunct academic labor. Adjunct professors are instructors that are hired on a course-by-course basis or a semester-to-semester basis, have no job security, are paid minimal compensation, are usually provided no benefits, and are outside the tenure system.
Adjunct faculty often have trouble making ends meet, paying student debt.
- The average pay per course reported by adjunct faculty is approximately $3,000.[iii]An adjunct who teaches eight courses per year will make just $24,000 annually.
- In order to “make it” in academia, most adjunct faculty must obtain advanced degrees. A 2012 survey by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce found that over 94% of the part-time faculty respondents had an advanced degree.[iv]
- For most, pursuing an advanced degree means taking out student loans. Almost three-quarters of graduate degree recipients have an average of $61,120 in student loans.[v]
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Overview
- The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF), established as a part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (Pub. L. No. 110-84, 121 Stat. 784 and codified as amended in scattered sections of 20 U.S.C.), is designed to encourage graduates to pursue a career in public service.
- PSLF offers loan forgiveness after ten years (120 payments) of full-time work in government or the non-profit sector.
- PSLF covers government entities, public institutions and not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The non-profit organizations include most private, not-for-profit elementary and secondary schools, private, not-for-profit colleges and universities, and thousands of other organizations, agencies, and charities.
Current Eligibility Requirements
- In order to be eligible for the program, one must work “full-time,” which the statute defines as 30 hours per week over the course of a year.[vi]
- If you work part-time, you can qualify for PSLF by combining the hours you work at multiple jobs for an overall average of 30 hours per week. If you do not meet that 30-hour requirement you will not get credit for PSLF for that year.
How does PSLF Fail Part-Time Faculty?
- Some part-time faculty will meet the 30-hour benchmark by combining the hours they work at multiple jobs.
- However, since school administrators decide how many courses a part-time instructor can teach, many part-time faculty have little control over their own course load. Part-time instructors do not get to choose whether they can meet the 30-hour eligibility requirement.
- Just one semester with a low course load can prevent an instructor from obtaining credit for PSLF for that year. For instance, if an instructor teaches five 3-credit courses during the fall semester and just two 3-credit courses during the spring semester, he or she may fail to be eligible for PSLF and will not get credit for that year.
Overview of the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act
- The Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act will honor the public service of adjunct faculty by allowing adjunct faculty to access PSLF even if they have a low course load that does not meet the 30 hour eligibility requirement.
- Adjunct faculty who teach at least one course in a given year will qualify for PSLF.
- Adjunct faculty who have a separate, full-time, private sector job will not have access to this program. This means that the program will only be open to those adjunct faculty who really need the benefits of PSLF—those who make a living from teaching.
The Impact of the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act
- Part-time faculty with student loans will be the only people impacted by this bill. There is no public data on the number of adjunct faculty with student loans. However, we do know, as referenced above, that:
o Adjunct faculty tend to have low wages and poor benefits, they have advanced degrees which means they probably have student loans, and they have a variable course load that is largely out of their control. Most importantly, they are vital public servants who need PSLF, yet are blocked from stable access to this important program as it’s currently structured.
[i] John W. Curtis, “The Employment Status of Instructional Staff Members in Higher Education, Fall 2011,” American Association of University Professors, April 2014, P5. http://www.aaup.org/sites/default/files/files/AAUP-InstrStaff2011-April2014.pdf.
[iii]Audrey Williams June and Jonah Newman, “Adjunct project reveals wide range in pay,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 4, 2013, accessed October 3, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/Adjunct-Project-Shows-Wide/136439/.
[iv]“A Portrait of Part-Time Faculty Members,” Table 9, Coalition on the Academic Workforce, June 2012, accessed October 3, 2013, http://www.academicworkforce.org/CAW_portrait_2012.pdf.
[v] “Average Undergraduate Debt, Graduate Debt, and Total Debt for Graduate Degree Recipients, 2007-08,” Figure 2009_8B, The College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/student-aid/figures-tables/average-undergraduate-debt-graduate-debt-and-total-debt-graduate-degree-recipients-2007-08.
[vi] Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, 34 C.F.R. § 685.219 (2010).