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July 31, 2014

Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act Factsheet

July 31, 2014 | By |

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.  

[ii] Ibid.

[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,

[iv]“A Portrait of Part-Time Faculty Members,” Table 9, Coalition on the Academic Workforce, June 2012, accessed October 3, 2013,

[v] “Average Undergraduate Debt, Graduate Debt, and Total Debt for Graduate Degree Recipients, 2007-08,” Figure 2009_8B, The College Board,

[vi] Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, 34 C.F.R. § 685.219 (2010).



July 8, 2014

St. Thomas Adjuncts on their Unionization Effort

July 8, 2014 | By |

Check out a video by MN2020 on unionization drive by St. Thomas adjuncts. Click here to read more.




May 30, 2014

SF Art Institute Adjuncts Vote by a Landslide to Form a Union with SEIU

May 30, 2014 | By |

Two weeks after Mills College, SFAI’s “visiting faculty,” as the school calls them, are the latest group of adjunct professors to join SEIU through the nationwide Adjunct Action campaign. At San Francisco Art Institute, a well-known and respected private nonprofit arts college—where students pay almost $40,000 a year in tuition alone—roughly 78% of the faculty (about 200 teachers) are essentially part-time temp workers.

They have no job security from semester to semester. They are paid by the course, often earning less than $30,000 a year with no benefits even teaching several classes, despite having advanced degrees, exemplary performance and evaluations and years of teaching experience. Classes may be added or cancelled at the last minute, leaving them in a financial lurch and creating constant instability. The school calls them “visiting faculty,” no matter how long they have been teaching there—prompting jokes such as “visiting for life,” or “I have been visiting for 17 years.” 

“We want an end to a climate of fear that resonates even where we gather online. We want the security to do the work on which SFAI depends whether it admits it or not. We want the standing to communicate our knowledge of the needs and problems of the institution to which we are devoted without fear of reprisal. SFAI will benefit from an organized and empowered cohort of adjunct teachers,” says Dale Carrico, a professor of critical thinking at SFAI. 

Visiting faculty have now taken a stand. They have voted by 78% (124 to 35) to form a union through SEIU Local 1021—despite an aggressive anti-union campaign by their administration, under the leadership of President Charles Desmarais, who simultaneously sang the praises of his father, a Teamsters shop steward, while warning his faculty that a union in a small art college would disrupt their “close-knit artistic community.” Visiting faculty have decisively repudiated that argument. 

Adjunct faculty at Mills College in Oakland also voted by a 78% margin to form a union with SEIU Local 1021 on May 14. The following day, adjuncts at Northeastern University in Boston voted to form a union with SEIU. They join over 20,000 adjuncts nationwide who have now unionized with SEIU through the Adjunct Action campaign. 

Just a few decades ago, adjuncts constituted a minority of faculty, and were most often professionals who did not consider teaching their career. However, now over 50% of faculty nationwide are contingent, and about 75% in the Bay Area, even as tuition skyrockets and student debt becomes more and more unmanageable. As universities are increasingly run like corporations, trying to bring in more money with ever lower labor costs, the teachers educating students increasingly feel the need to take a stand to improve not only their own quality of life, but also the quality of the education their students are paying for so dearly.

 For more information, visit



May 15, 2014

Elizabeth Warren Congratulates Northeastern Adjuncts on Victory

May 15, 2014 | By |

Senator Elizabeth Warren offered her congratulations to the adjunct faculty at Northeastern Univerity who voted today to form a union with SEIU. Below is her statement:

“Adjunct professors have exceptional qualifications and expertise that qualify them to teach the most demanding college courses, but too often they earn very little and must cobble together multiple part-time jobs to make a living that will keep them afloat.  Such arrangements are hard on the adjunct professors and hard on the students who depend on them.

Congratulations to the adjunct professors of Northeastern University who have decided to seek collective bargaining and organize a union.  I hope this will be the beginning of a new era that permits adjunct professors to improve their working conditions and expand their opportunities to be even more effective teachers.”  




May 15, 2014

Northeastern Adjunct Faculty Vote to Form A Union with SEIU

May 15, 2014 | By |

Yes. Yes to a union. Yes to a collective voice for adjunct faculty. Yes to a better education for students. Yes to forming the biggest adjunct union in Boston.

That’s what happened today in a small room filled with a lot of excitement at the National Labor Relations Board in Boston, as adjunct faculty from Northeastern University (NU) and representatives from the National Labor Relations board gathered to count the votes for Northeastern adjuncts’ union election. And the adjuncts won, a huge victory in the ongoing adjunct organizing campaigns in Boston and across the country .  

After applause and hugs, Ted Murphy, an adjunct faculty member for 8 years at Northeastern, had one word to describe his feelings about the victory: “Ecstatic.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” Murphy added.northeastern photo

The adjuncts at Northeastern are now part of a group of more than 21,000 adjunct and contingent faculty who have organized under the banner of Adjunct Action/SEIU. Today’s vote count for Northeastern University, one of the largest private universities in the U.S., is the fourth time in a month adjuncts across the nation have voted to join SEIU and to improve conditions and draw attention to higher education’s increasing reliance on contingent faculty.

Yesterday, adjuncts at Mills College in Oakland, California voted to form a union with SEIU/Adjunct Action. In late April, adjuncts at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD, and Howard University in Washington, D.C. voted to form a union and join SEIU Local 500.

It was a focused democracy in action as ballots were counted at the NLRB after a strong campaign by the adjunct faculty at NU, who worked tirelessly over the past several months to fight for some basic, but important changes: job security, more equitable pay, professional development opportunities, and the chance to give their students the best education they can.

The ballots are checked, the numbered ballots read off the names list. Ballots 451, 477, 146. “Is the ballot in the blue envelope?” “We’re still 45 minutes from the ballots being counted.” Quiet chatter, focused counting. Democracy in action. A group gathered around the table as the green ballots were counted in batches of 50. Yes. Yes. More yes votes.

Cal Ramsdell, an adjunct faculty member in School of Business who has taught for 15 years, watched closely as the count progressed.applause photo

“I got involved because Northeastern University’s mission is student-centered education, and adjuncts are a major part of this mission,” said Ramsdell, who served on the organizing committee. “Adjuncts are a major part of the day in day out of the university; we’re working with students, and are devoted to our work, but at the same time make a lower salary and have higher course load than full-time faculty.”

And so it went. Months of passionate conversations, meetings, emails, and advocacy distilled into piles of simple paper ballots. And in the end, the yeas had it.

Ramsdell hugged her fellow adjunct faculty when victory was announced, tears in her eyes. “At first I was afraid, and then there was just one day when I decided this was a good fight,” she said. “Sometimes there are times in life when it’s just a good fight to fight. And I put my name out there, and that was the turning point.”

Bill Shimer, an adjunct in the School of Business said the campaign started as a series of individual stories and experiences that once strung together formed a powerful narrative and a force of change.

Talking to fellow adjuncts throughout the campaign Shimer said he began to realize “that my story is their story. My concerns were their concerns, and there was a sense of a solidarity building. We grew from a nucleus into an entire community.”

Troy Neves a sophomore at NU and the campus worker justice co-chair of the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA) came to the vote count to show his support for the adjunct faculty. The PSA and other students showed strong support for NU adjuncts throughout the campaign. “It’s been amazing to see this from the beginning of the year,” Neves said. “It has been truly inspiring, and I’m really excited to continue to working with our adjuncts.”

Many of the adjuncts emphasized how the union would benefit their students and the larger educational community at Northeastern. “The better adjunct faculty are treated, the better we can serve the students,” said Abby Machson-Carter, a contingent faculty who teaches writing at NU.

“I work at a couple of different schools, and this effort is going to raise standards for adjuncts all over the city. Instructors like me are going to work with dignity and feel like we’re part of the university and that our voice matters,” Machson-Carter added.

Part-time faculty at dozens of schools are working to unite with their colleagues in SEIU, and many are scheduled to vote soon or have filed for union elections, including adjuncts at the University of the District of Columbia (DC), the San Francisco Art Institute in the Bay Area, Laguna College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, Seattle University in Washington State, Marist College in New York State and Hamline University and Macalester College in Minnesota. The Northeastern adjunct faculty join their colleagues at Tufts University and Lesley University in forming a group of 2,000 adjuncts in Boston who are unionized with SEIU/Adjunct Action.

Ramsdell emphasized the sense of community the experience of forming a union has created, for the entire university. “A stable Northeastern adjunct faculty can only strengthen Northeastern, and benefit the entire community,” she said “It’s a win-win all around.”

Northeastern adjuncts can take a survey in advance of the bargaining process here



May 9, 2014

New Oped in Boston Globe by Northeastern Adjunct Professor

May 9, 2014 | By |

A op-ed published in today’s Boston Globe entitled “Parents: The adjunct system is wasting your kids’ tuition” shines a light on the current “adjunctified” system of higher ed, just as Northeastern adjuncts are voting on forming a union.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We all have a vested interest and a personal stake in this. As a parent, your voice is critical to the future of higher education. Urge your school administrators to listen to the important issues adjunct faculty are raising. Educate your family and friends about the importance of making adjunct faculty working conditions part of the college decision process. Ask about the issue at college fairs and on campus visits. Insist your tuition dollars be spent in the classroom and demand the administration respect our freedom to choose to form a union.

Read the full story here. 

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