man doing payment calculations, fair pay for contingent faculty

The Argument for Pay Parity Between Tenure-Track and Contingent Faculty

Exploring how higher education institutions can offer fair pay for contingent faculty.

Determining fair pay for contingent faculty is a contested issue in the higher education system.  On the one hand, administrators look to save money through minimally compensating members of a flexible instructional workforce.  On the other hand, union leaders believe that contingent faculty should receive pay commensurate with their tenure-track counterparts.

However, it’s important to remember that contingent faculty typically have fewer responsibilities than tenure-track faculty members do.  For instance, contingent faculty do not have the same departmental and institutional demands as the instructors who are on-track to receive tenure.  With this in mind, it is challenging to develop a metric for determining fair pay.

Back in 2012, the Coalition on the Academic Workforce survey and The Adjunct Project collected salary data for contingent faculty.  Based on these numbers, the average contingent instructor’s annual salary was approximately $27,500 at two-year colleges and $37,500 at four-year colleges.  In contrast, average assistant professor pay at two-year and four-year colleges was reported at $61,000 and $78,000 respectively.  According to these numbers, contingent faculty make only about half of what tenure-track faculty make.

One way to bridge this gap slightly is by introducing something called pro-rata pay.  There are currently some institutions that use this payment model.  According to this system, institutions state a percentage that they will pay contingent faculty for equal work done to a tenure-track professor.  For instance, if you apply a 75% pro-rata percentage, then the average contingent faculty member’s pay per course would jump from $3,400 to $5,800.

While some critics still favor a 100% pay equity model for contingent faculty, this isn’t likely from a financial standpoint.  By adopting a pro-rata payment system, contingent faculty can move from a 50% pay model to a 75% one.  This compromise is one that may have to satisfy both sides.

This is what you need to know about new strategies to offer fair pay for contingent faculty.  Looking for a consulting firm with experience working with salary, legal, and other human resources issues?  Then don’t hesitate to contact the professionals at McKnight Associates, Inc.  We are ready to offer you hands-on human resources consulting for colleges, universities, medical centers, and organizations of all sizes.