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Adjunct instructors can’t support excessive administration

It’s becoming quite clear that reliance on adjunct instructors will be more expensive going forward. Earlier this month, adjunct faculty at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY took steps to unionize. Higher education institutions (not just community colleges) rely heavily on part-time instructors to deliver classes.

In most cases, adjunct instructors need to meet the same qualifications that full-time faculty do. They often do much of the same instructional work as full-time faculty. That includes class preparation, grading, and student assistance. They just don’t get paid very much. It’s precisely what makes them an attractive option for higher education institutions looking to keep instructional costs to a minimum.

California governor Gavin Newsom recently adjusted the state’s budget for 2023 to include $200M for health care benefits for adjunct faculty at the state’s 72 community colleges. The state currently has a budget surplus of nearly $70B, so using two-tenths of a percent of that to fund health care costs is not likely to encounter much resistance from legislators. And while the state funds it, the community colleges are unlikely to complain, either.

What’s rightly questionable is the outrageous salaries and benefits paid to full time community college administrators without any serious thought while the exact same districts fight tooth-and-nail to avoid paying part-time teachers better wages or providing them with health care benefits.

Right-size the WCC administration

Let’s face it. The heavy reliance on part-time instructors is what funds the overgrowth in community college administration. More temporary, part-time adjuncts on staff means there’s more money available for full-time permanent administrators. Washtenaw Community College can have as many Vice Presidents as the Board blindly approves as long as there’s money in the budget for it. And as long as there are adjuncts, there will be plenty of money for Vice Presidents.

The precipitous drop in enrollment is changing the calculus, however. Fewer students means fewer adjuncts, which means….

Ha ha! Just kidding!

It means that other really expensive things, like the campus daycare center and the Culinary Arts program are going to have to go. As it turns out, the administration has just run the numbers on those luxuries and discovered they’ve lost at least a million dollars each.

I’m curious to see who comes out on top when the fight card features the Administration v. The Health and Fitness Center.

At some point, the Board of Trustees is simply going to have to do its job and start demanding accountability from this administration. Fiscal accountability goes beyond a balanced budget. It also requires responsible stewardship of the taxpayers’ dollars. Indiscriminate hiring of administrators at the expense of the rest of the institution isn’t responsible. The Board must enforce limits on the size and cost of the WCC administration.

Photo Credit: Andy Tyler , via Flickr