modified from original image at

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I teach digital storytelling (ds106) online as an adjunct for the University of Mary Washington. I earn just enough doing this to pay for my health insurance. I am not doing this for the money, it’s for the love, and to learn how to teach online. I have my savings and some other things I hope to put into motion to fill the gap.

The rate UMW pays is on par with other places, according to the Adjunct Project. I cannot complain abut UMW, I love that place.

I knew of people when I was at Maricopa, and elsewhere now, that cobbled together a meager living teaching 5, 6, 7, more courses, at multiple institutions.

From my own perspective, I cannot fathom how they managed to do that. And lived to tell.

So while I would love to make more money teaching, I am not writing to protest or demand more pay. Although, if offered, I would accept.

Momma raise no fool. Well, maybe she raised a partly foolish but well intentioned one.

The Annual AUP Salary Survey puts the average profesor salary across the board (from isntructors to all star profs) at around $80,000. Let’s say just for grins, that average professor teaches 4 classes (and that is likely high, although we see stories of ones griping if they have to teach more than one).

My math is simple and crude, but that professors makes $20,000 per class then. Yes crude, they do more than teach. Most have Big Fancy Degrees and conduct Key Research.

But there it is, a 10 fold order of magnitude of pay for full time teachers versus pert-time. Yes, overall, many full time teachers might be more qualified (?) (huh?) than many adjuncts.

10 times as qualified?


I am just putting the numbers out there.

Many schools are working hard to maintain a certain proportion fo full time salaried positions. I cannot imagine why.

I foresee none of this changing.

But as more educational institutions are bottom lining their operations, as they are being pushed more and more to act more like corporate entities than providers of a social good, this ratio of what are expenses to the organization, must look pretty damn attractive.

Education can now join a long line of other industries that profit from exploiting low cost labor. Such a grand tradition.

I have no answers.

I just am in it for the teaching.

Until my savings are gone.

So it might be a good time to be an adjunct in terms of finding work. If you don’t mind eating ramen and playing the health care craps gamble.

I am a serf, and I know it. And for now, it’s ok.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. sessionals are hired to teach a course. faculty are there to teach courses, conduct research, publish research, review journal articles (yeah. don’t get me started on the journal article racket, where they charge the university for articles that they’ve already contributed paid faculty time to review/edit/write the articles in the journal…), sit on committees and working groups that provide governance to the university, design curriculum and programs, do community outreach, recruit other instructors and students, supervise grad students, manage research teams, etc…

    apples to oranges.

    what you’re doing is extremely valuable, but you’re not being asked to do the other bajillion things that a full-time prof is asked to do.

    could you be paid more as a sessional? maybe. but the whole offer-the-course-for-free side of the open course kind of counteracts that, as well. where would the (extra) money come from? marketing budget? etc…

    (I’m not a prof. never will be.)

    1. I acknowledge all of that and expect nothing to change, D’Arcy.

      My point is that as unis try to act more like corporates where do you think they might start looking to save the bottom line?

      1. the trend is to let full time faculty decrease through attrition while hiring more short-term sessionals. great for the short term, but we lose a bunch of the other stuff that profs (used to) to…

  2. Just catching up in the blogosphere after succeeding in getting my course — one course — started. I’m a serf, too. Have been one for 13 years since I finished my PhD. Interestingly, every time the budget is tightened, I wait anxiously to see if there will be the funds to hire me to teach my course again or if a tenured professor will teach it. So, I think things work a bit differently here than the pattern D’Arcy described.

    I just want to add that networking online has made a huge difference in not only staying current in my teaching (or at least giving it a good try) but having colleagues to connect with. Serfdom, especially when you teach online, can be a lonely endeavor.

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