Service Employees International Union released a report Friday detailing the financial struggles of adjunct faculty at institutions across Boston, as part of its ongoing effort to unionize adjuncts in that city. The campaign is part of a national SEIU effort, called Adjunct Action, to organize adjunct faculty at individual institutions and regionally.
According to the report,  called "High Cost of Adjunct Living: Boston," 67 percent of faculty members -- some 15,000 people -- in the Boston area were employed as adjuncts in 2011. Based on median pay per course in New England -- from $3,750 at private, master's-level institutions to $5,225, at private, doctoral-level institutions -- SEIU finds that an adjunct would have to teach 17 to 24 courses annually to enjoy median-priced housing and utilities in Boston, where the cost of living is 32 percent higher than the national average. Teaching 12 courses per year at those rates -- an unusually large course load -- an adjunct may earn $45,000, the report finds. Comparatively, full-time faculty earned from $113,000 to $154,000, on average, in 2011, depending on institution type.
The report is based on data from the U.S. Department of Education Digest of Education Statistics, among other sources, as well as SEIU interviews with adjuncts across Boston. Some tell of living off inexpensive food such as fried potatoes and onions for an entire semester and using credit cards to pay for basic costs, such as Internet and groceries. Many tell of feeling buried by student debt. According to SEIU calculations, an adjunct would have to teach one or two courses per semester to pay back average doctoral student loans alone. SEIU notes that adjuncts who are unionized enjoy on average 25 percent better pay nationally, as well as other benefits, such as increased job security, and, in some cases, access to health insurance.