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Report: Adjunct Faculty Living in Poverty

As the movement to transform higher education grows in Florida, a new report reveals the extent of faculty poverty.  (Pixabay)
As the movement to transform higher education grows in Florida, a new report reveals the extent of faculty poverty. (Pixabay)
November 29, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – From skipping meals and having their utilities cut off to even delaying medical treatment, a survey of nearly 800 faculty members across Florida shows poverty is common among adjunct faculty at universities and colleges.

The survey by the Service Employees International Union shows more than 43 percent of respondents experience indicators of poverty, including taking out payday loans, facing eviction or utility cutoffs.

Mike Ruso, an adjunct instructor at the University of South Florida, says when schools continuously fail to pay instructors a living wage, everyone suffers.

"The adjunct professors suffer, students suffer, and higher education as a whole suffers,” he stresses. “The only one who is benefiting is the administrator who is trying to cut cost."

A full-time adjunct instructor teaching four classes per semester makes about $24,000 per year, without benefits.

Adjuncts at the University of South Florida are calling on the school's administration to allow them to form a union.

Ruso uses the desk of a former adjunct instructor named Robert Ryan who taught full-time at the university for 20 years without employer-sponsored health insurance.

After finally gaining access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, Ryan discovered he had cancer and later died.

Ruso says Ryan's story is why he's calling for an overhaul at all of Florida's public universities and colleges.

"The business model that all of them have adopted is one that depends upon cheap and disposable labor and we are standing up and saying that we will not be used and taken advantage of anymore," Ruso states.

SEIU's report, "Life on the Edge of the Blackboard," surveyed 773 Florida faculty, the majority of whom work as part-time professors, or adjuncts.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL