President Obama’s plan to offer free community-college tuition to millions of students has little to say about one important matter: who would teach them.
That omission has prompted some adjunct-faculty advocates to express concern that the plan would simply increase the burden placed on college instructors who work part time for relatively low pay. They warn that if the proposal is passed into law without provisions improving those teachers’ pay, job security, and working conditions, it could undermine one of the plan’s goals: improving the quality of instruction at community colleges.
As sketched out by the White House so far, the plan calls for the federal government to pick up the tab for about three-quarters of qualifying students’ tuition costs, with participating states kicking in the rest. It does not call for any overall increase in how much money community colleges receive per student, however. As a result, it could leave in place the same financial pressures that have driven the nation’s roughly 1,100 community colleges to rely more and more on part-time instructors, who now account for about 70 percent of all faculty members at all such institutions.
“Our biggest concern about this is, Is it going to be funded on the backs of adjuncts? Is it going to lead to more exploitation?” said Maria Maisto, president of New Faculty Majority, an advocacy group for contingent faculty members. She called the plan’s lack of any discussion of adjuncts’ working conditions “a glaring omission, especially since it is so well known that the adjunct crisis has reached the proportions that it has.” <Read more.>