I think philosophy students are often advised not to consider graduate school unless they are offered some sort of financial support. If so, perhaps those now in adjunct positions in our profession are not very often in the sort of situation described below. But some are; it would be good for us to make more public just what’s going on.
John Smith (a pseudonym, as are all below) is an adjunct professor at a Southern University and owes $125,000 total for his three degrees: BA, MA, and PHD in anthropology.
“I’ve been able to get them on a reduced payment from the $1700 per month that I was supposed to pay to $151 a month based on my low income,” he told me. “I am being paid an adjunct wage of $3000 per class. ‘There just isn’t any money to pay you more than this.’ I am told. At four classes per semester that comes to $24,000 per year. At this rate, I am saddled with debt that I will never pay off. I can’t qualify for a home, or additional credit card. Haven’t tried to get a new vehicle, but I’ve driven my truck for 14 years.”
“I knew academia would be tough, but who would have guessed that I would be making less than my 20 year-old nephew with a GED who services the interior of commercial aircraft and makes $32,000 per year? I’m completely beside myself. I’ve taken another job as a research assistant to make ends meet, but it inhibits my ability to research and write my own work. Of course, with no publications and no time to write, I’m not a very good candidate for other positions elsewhere. It’s a catch 22 that has me very, very distressed. Quite honestly, I feel totally exploited, which is ironic since I teach about the exploitative nature of globalization and the neoliberal model. I feel like an idiot for thinking that I could get a living wage as an anthropologist.”
Part of the problem is the 7% interest rate students are charged for loans. Another part of the problem is that people end up with unsecured loans that vastly outstrip what would go on in any other sensible loan situation. I couldn’t just go to a bank and walk out with a hundred thousand dollars, but a young relative of mine with no back-up resources got that sum over his school career to see him through grad design school in NYC.
Facing an extremely tough employment situation with a sky high debt at high interest rates and a terrible employment situation is a possibility that now has personal implications. And I have had adjunct stints, though in more comfortable circumstances. But it took a recent article in Counterpunch for me to realize how bad things can be within our profession.
Please add any details or observations that can help fill out the picture.