Many adjunct professors at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers will see less money for teaching after the two-year institution's board cut their funding to balance the budget.
Despite dealing with a budget deficit and cutting the adjuncts, the college gave an overall 2 percent increase to full-time faculty and staff at the same time. The decision to cut adjunct pay was made before the college learned it would receive additional money from the state's new performance funding formula.
"Obviously you never feel good when you have to cut salary like this. These people contribute a lot to our institution and they're very important to our institution," said Denis Wright, provost and vice president of academic affairs at FSW. "Florida SouthWestern had the highest pay for adjuncts in the state -- No. 1 in 28 [state colleges]."
Under the previous pay structure, the part-time professors were paid based on their education level. So someone with a doctorate received $881.86 per load hour or $2,645.59 for a three-hour course. A part-time instructor with a master's degree received $799.09 per load hour, or $2,397.27.
However, adjuncts who have only earned a bachelor's degree will actually see a pay increase. Under the previous system, they received $715.25 per load hour, or $2,145.76 for three-hour course.
The new pay structure was approved in June by the college's trustee board. Along with the 1 percent raises, full-time faculty and staff will get a one-time, 1 percent bonus, for an overall 2 percent increase.
"The president had already agreed to [the full-time faculty increase]," Wright said. "He wanted to extend that same raise to full-time employees … and in the bargain this year that's what the [full-time faculty] union, president and board agreed to."
A representative of the faculty union, which does not represent adjuncts, was unavailable to comment, and one adjunct faculty member declined to comment for fear of retaliation.
Extending the increase to all full-time employees cost the college approximately $700,000, Wright said.
FSW had been facing a $3 million deficit and besides cutting adjunct pay, which saved about $300,000, the college also lost three open full-time faculty positions. The college also hasn't increased tuition for three years, which has hamstrung administrators' ability to maintain positions or pay.
About 350 of FSW's professors are adjuncts, and they teach about 45 percent of the college's credit hours, Wright said, adding that the college also employs 190 full-time professors.
Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, which is a national adjunct advocacy organization, said unionizing could be the solution to part-time faculty members' getting their voices heard on college campuses.
"It's indicative of the shortsightedness of administration when they're faced with budget cuts to cut faculty and cut any service that directly benefits students," Maisto said. "We've seen organizing efforts in Florida and other places where adjuncts haven't traditionally organized."
Maisto points to the South Florida Part-Time Faculty Association as an example.
"That usually is the solution, because unfortunately you can't depend on the goodwill and good decision making of administration," she said, adding that organizing also gives faculty members a chance to have a say about their working conditions.
As for the boost in performance funding that was recently announced, Wright said there's no guarantee that those dollars will be the same next year, so they will be spent on nonrecurring costs at the college. Last week the state's Board of Education approved the new performance funding system, which divides $40 million among the state colleges based on a number of measures like completion, retention and job placement.
FSW was one of seven colleges that will receive existing funding and a higher share of the new money. Wright said the college is expecting to receive an additional $600,000 in the new funding model, as well as about $600,000 of prior funding.
And even though the college has cut adjunct pay, Wright said FSW ranked as having the highest adjunct salary in the state in a survey of Florida colleges.
"Even though individuals aren't happy their pay they received a year ago was cut, we're still second in the state for average pay for adjuncts," he said. "It's not fair to the individual, no. Is it fair when you look at the entire state and where salary is for adjuncts? Absolutely."
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