The Professor Is On Food Stamps

College tuition keeps going up and also the amount of debt students and their families take on. College costs more not because of professors’ salaries: The Chronicle of Higher Education says that, according to the latest data from the 2011 Census, about 360,000 of the 22 million Americans with master’s degrees or higher in 2010 were receiving some kind of public assistance. While that is a small number in comparison to the total 44 million people nationally who received food stamps or some other form of public aid, hearing about Ph.D.’s subsisting on food stamps undermines the routinely-repeated claim that the more educated you are, the more $$$ you’ll make.

The Chronicle notes that those who do not attend graduate school are more likely to receive food stamps. But the percentage of those holding a graduate degree or higher who were receiving food stamps or some form of aid doubled between 2007 and 2010. For those holding a master’s degree, the figure for those receiving aid rose from 101,682 to 293,029. The increase was even more extreme for those with a Ph.D., with the number of those receiving assistance climbing from 9,776 to 33,655.

These figures might even be higher as graduate-degree holders may refrain from reporting that they are on public assistance.

The Chronicle describes three professor’s stories:

43-year-old Melissa Bruninga-Matteau has a Ph.D. in medieval history from the University of California at Irvine. She receives $900/month for teaching two humanities courses at Yavapai College, in Prescott, Arizona; a single mother, she receives food stamps and Medicaid.

Matthew Williams is the cofounder and vice president of the New Faculty Majority, an advocacy organization for non-tenured faculty. He earned $21,000 a year while teaching from 2007-2009 at the University of Akron and also relied on food stamps and Medicaid.

51-year-old Elliott Stegall is a graduate student finishing his dissertation in film studies at Florida State University. He and his wife have two young children; they receive food stamps, Medicaid, and aid from the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC). Stegall currently teaches two courses each semester in the English department at Northwest Florida State College, in Niceville, Florida, and has also painted houses, worked for a catering company and cleaned condominiums to make ends meet.

As Michael Bérubé, president of the Modern Language Association and an English professor at Penn State University, says, “Everyone thinks a Ph.D. pretty much guarantees you a living wage and, from what I can tell, most commentators think that college professors make $100,000 and more.”

Sure, there are professors who make that much (in case you’re wondering, not the person writing this post). But full-time, tenured and tenure-track professors now comprise only 30 percent of faculty at the U.S.’s colleges and universities. The majority of college faculty — that is, most of the individuals teaching the majority of undergraduate courses — are adjuncts, part-time faculty who are not tenure-track, who do not receive health benefits and who make an average of $600 to $10,000 per course and, therefore, salaries that are far shy of six figures. As many schools have limits on how many courses an adjunct can teach (typically the maximum is two — any more and an adjunct would have so full a teaching load as to qualify for benefits), it is not uncommon for adjuncts to teach a course at this college and another two at that university, and another at another school, to cobble together something of a salary and pay for the gas to drive to all those schools.

(A good friend of ours who received his Ph.D. some years ago has been teaching about eight courses a semester at different schools in a midwestern city for several years.)

So many students today cannot afford college — and, more and more, too many professors cannot afford to teach them.

 

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Photo by clementine gallot

38 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Huber F.
Huber F6 years ago

Thx.

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Duane B.
.6 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Grace Jama-Adan
GIA D6 years ago

P.S. Not only are administrators, department heads, and deans (including those of internal colleges of universities and library, etc.( earning a wide gulf of six figures unlike thelow to middle five figure wages and salaries of teaching and clerical staff, here is another deal. Sex and dirty work, like politics, take too many unqualified and underqualified faculty and staff far in academe at the expense of ethical and hard-working employees. A good read about maximizing formal education is the 1933 first imprint book entitled, The Miseducation of the Negro, by Dr. Carter G. Woodson (historan), which speaks to ALL people.

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Grace Jama-Adan
GIA D6 years ago

I have been there. I was paid $1000 per course in 1992 to teach two courses at an established evening college. The regular tenured professor decided the extra pay was too low. I had fifty students in each secton. I did not get the payroll until the semster was over. All adjunct instructors had to turn in midterm and final exams, roll books and grades to get paid. During the day, I aslo taght at public nd parochial schools, earning less than $200 a week there. My ex-husband was completing his professional credentials. I still qualifid for food stamps, had no health insurance and gladly got Medicaid and briefly WIC for my daughter. There was no extended family on either side to help. I was not ashamed to advise my student not to go into academe and expect the best pay. I got excellent student evaluations, but remember a lot of politics and mismanagement goes on in education preK to colleges. As a favor to a friend at a nearby research university, the evening college "dean" hired a recent PhD graduate who did not have a relevant subject degree, giving him my teaching materials to use and conscripted help from other instructors for several years. This nice woman in charge was an ex-public school teacher who hired a lot of adjuncts who taught during the day prek to 12! They had the reputation of assigning chapters to read, then giving tests to college students. No wonder the college made the MSN !0 worst graduation rate list!

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Lin Moy
Lin M6 years ago

Some people just don't realize some want to teach, it's a passion with them. It is sad that they can't get decent jobs and do others instead. You'd think as much as it cost to send a child to college someone would make good money but they don't. Anymore you take a job that hires you just to live.

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