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The Blue & Gray Press | November 14, 2018

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Tuition rates discourage future of higher education

By SUZANNA TOSKEVasey-Craig11-avatar

Universities nationwide are increasing their tuition rates and number of part-time professors due to budget cuts and financial strains, discouraging professors and students from pursuing higher education.

Craig Vasey, the chair of University of Mary Washington’s philosophy department, is a member of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) and the Virginia representative for the American Association of University Professors.

The CFHE is an organization that works to alter the discussion about higher education in the country by addressing expensive tuition rates, student debt and increasing part-time faculty at universities across the nation.

According to Vasey, universities lean toward using part-time professors more frequently than full-time professors due to the cheaper financial costs.

On average, part-time professors earn $3,000 per course.  These professors can only teach three courses a semester, while full-time professors can teach four.  In the end, a university can get six courses out of one part-time professor per year for under $20,000 and the average full-time assistant professor’s salary is $55,000, the individual participates in other activities such as advising, committee work, editing school policy and researching in his or her field of study.

The part-time professor is hired only to teach.  Therefore, they cost less than half the expense of a full-time professor.

Part-time professors can also juggle jobs from three or more different schools in order to survive.  Along with a minimum salary of $40,000-a-year, these part-time professors receive no health benefits from their employers.

“They have no health benefits or insurance. They are running from campus to campus,” said Vasey.  “They have no job security and are typically considered a second tier of academics by tenured and tenure-track faculty. They burn out after 5-10 years.”

Eric Bonds, sociology and anthropology professor at UMW, shares Vasey’s views.

“When professors, due to low pay, have to scramble around to take jobs at a number of institutions just to make ends meet, this can have real costs in terms of the educational quality of university classes,” said Bonds.

Eventually, part-time professors become overwhelmed to the point where the relationship between professor and student becomes nonexistent.

“They are so overworked and underpaid that they have little relationship with their students or long-term stake in the institution,” said Vasey.

UMW still has the traditional 70/30 split of full-time and fully dedicated faculty with minimal adjunct use, according to Vasey.

Katherine Preseren, a music major in her third year of the education program, said she is happy that the CFHE is addressing the financial crises at universities.

“Education is a right, not a privilege,” said Preseren. “I think that any individual who is dedicated to gaining knowledge should have the opportunity to do so, no matter their financial circumstances.”

For this to succeed, however, parents and students will have to begin taking matters into their own hands.

“I think we need to spur a larger conversation about the public value of higher education and the need for greater public financial support,” said Bonds.

The community must begin to protest against state government spending cuts to higher education by writing letters to legislators, governors, secretaries of education, and editors, and by organizing at the PTA’s in middle schools and high schools, too, according to Vasey.

“What is at stake is not simply the working conditions of these adjunct faculty, but the future integrity and quality of higher education,” said Vasey.

In 2009, California State University increased its tuition rate by 20 percent, while University of California tuition rates increased 9.3 percent in May, and community college students paid 30 percent more that year, according to the New York Times.

Tuition rates in California and other states are still rising and colleges have cut back on courses due to the lack of full-time employment.

“While there are more students than ever, the number of academic advisers has dropped to 300, from 500 a few years ago, for more than 18,000 undergraduates,” according to the New York Times.