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Tracking adjunct pay when universities won't provide information

Posted on February 1st, 2013, by Leave a comment

In an effort to collect more information, The Chronicle of Higher Education recently expanded a project on tracking adjunct pay across the nation. The Adjunct Project relies on adjuncts to submit information about their salary to create a robust, easy-to-search database by state and university. Considering

the record of colleges and universities releasing information, the project provides access to a goldmine; the site gives analysts a peek at the market rate for adjuncts and factors affecting salaries.

One reason that could explain the dearth of information on adjuncts (and the hesitation of institutions to make the data easily accessible):

 ”The prospect that people will flood to California and to other higher-paying adjunct environments, if they can, is quite likely,” says Ms. Hanzimanolis, who is now teaching at three institutions: De Anza, City College of San Francisco, and Cañada.”

Making it more difficult to find salary information means that low-paying institutions don’t need to compete against high-paying institutions for adjuncts, thus keeping pay low. However, with budget cuts and staff reductions during the last few years, competition among adjuncts willing to relocate might not work ideally. Until an oversupply of adjuncts disappears (or adjuncts refuse to work for little pay), salaries won’t increase until the higher-paying institutions start to hire the above-average and average adjuncts. Or, if adjuncts leverage their position for a better job at their respective institutions, little might change.

Another bright side of this project: It could spur colleges and universities to self-report the data to protect institutional integrity. Inaccurate data could result from a lack of due diligence, deliberate errors from slighted adjuncts, or a lack of context could make the institution look worse. While not questioning the project’s integrity, large databases are prone to error. Though universities aren’t  always  trustworthy for data, either.

If the project eventually builds a thorough database, it could be used to compare adjunct salaries on the state level, unionized vs. non-unionized faculty, competition among universities in close proximity, etc. It’s depressing that such basic information has barriers to prevent quick and easy access; institutions of

higher education wax poetically about the call to disseminate knowledge and educate the public, but tend to obscure that part of their mission when faced with scrutiny.