Let me tell you about some of my adjunct faculty colleagues. They are some of the best college teachers that I know -inspiring, knowledgeable, and insanely dedicated to their students. They are also some of the most underpaid, unappreciated, and trod upon by administrators. Earning $20,000 a year, maybe, if they’re lucky, with no job security, no health benefits and no hope of a secure retirement, I know adjuncts on food stamps.
There’s no doubt that we need to invest more in faculty. These are the folks who are teaching this nation’s future astronauts, artists, and entrepreneurs. Major investment by states and the federal government in public higher education is necessary.
But my Senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, has a bill that could make a difference in the lives of my contingent faculty colleagues. This is a bill that would allow us to access the public service loan forgiveness program -just like our full-time faculty colleagues.
My colleague Eric Wilson is a Chicago adjunct who works two jobs, and owes about $130,000 in student loans. And Eric worked through college, stocking grocery-store freezer shelves, up to 12 hours a day! But earning an advanced degree, which is necessary for a job in higher education, is expensive. Unless you’re born rich, you must work and you must borrow. He’s not the only one.
This bill won’t solve all of our problems. But it is a step in the right direction. It’s only fair that contingent faculty members have the same access to public service loan forgiveness that our colleagues–who do the same work–already have.
Higher Education Council Chair, IEA-NEA
Adjunct faculty member, Roosevelt University