Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ribs, anyone?

The summer looked to have so much promise after proving to several Winter term students that the class was not the set of Survivor. By the time they were finished playing the game they came to realize that I had killed the pig long before they walked in the office with grade appeal forms.

All I needed to do was smile during a six week Spring course and then then enjoy that wonderful hot stretch of weather that we part-time faculty like to call unemployment.

And then it happened.

The Spring class was cancelled at the last minute. What the hell? Other classes were also cancelled because enrollment went down. But that's alright because I still can look forward to Fall classes. Or can I?

One fall course is already gone because of, you guessed it, low enrollment. It was replaced with another course which now has 3 students in it.  Yet another class I have is still below 50% and might disappear at the last moment.

So, where are the students? My area has been hit hard by bad government budgeting that resulted in a drastic cut to university funds. New student enrollment was slashed and entire programs disappeared. Students heard the news, looked at their options, and started heading elsewhere as even they could figure out this was not a one time deal and more cuts are coming next year.

So, here I am. My goal is to be ready to follow the students when the new job postings appear at whatever unis they're heading towards. Certainly, somebody out there needs a sarcastic bastard who eats too much pork.


  1. I'm sorry this is happening to you, and I hope you find a new and better situation soon. If it's any consolation, the daughter of some senior state government official is now majoring in the field he has tried so hard to abolish by defunding. Hang in there!

  2. Or, more likely, the kiddies haven't sign up yet. There was one school where I taught that I was habitually offered courses with the caveat that they may not fill. And then I'd end up turning away beggars during weak one (and even two).

    The U will under-schedule courses and then scramble at the last minute to open more sections. And then not be able to find anyone to teach those sections.

    Poor planning on the students' part, and the admin's part, and instructors get screwed the worst, especially those without contracts.

  3. There is a phrase that got me through the recession: "Diversify your Income Stream."

    You need to have 3-5 sources of income.

    Have your f2f university, by all means. That can be anything from $2000-20,000 per year, as adjuncts are paid so wildly. Supplement that with one or two online universities, so that from time to time you teach online. That will add anything from $8000-$20,000. Supplement THAT with part-time jobs either tutoring or substitute teaching or picking up summer school. That'll add another $5000 to your income.

    In a terrible year, you'll end up with $15,000. In a good year, you'll have $45,000. Or more.

    And when one university starts to slip, as this one is, you'll still have a decent wage to carry you through rent and to the grocery store.

    1. How do you get into online teaching? I've been so swamped with f2f adjuncting the past few years (okay, FIVE years) that I've often thought it would be in my best interest to try out one of those online universities for summer or just a break from interacting with people in person all the damn time. People make me tired. Sitting at a coffee shop typing makes me much less tired.

    2. If any of your f2f unis use Blackboard or something, you can make an online teaching CV that emphasizes that. Add to it blogging (even what we do here "contributing to a professional blog on teaching" could be something to pad your CV) and anything else so you look savvy.

      Then take a 20 minute period once a month, google "top ten online programs in [your field" and search their employment lines. In my experience, it akes about 5 tries over 6 months to get a reply back with more details; after you send in your transcripts or fill out their survey about your specific background, they usually get you into a training program and you can start earning about a month later.

      Get two online gigs at 10 hours a week each (basically an hour a day), and you don't overload your burden yet you add $20k to your income. It is 100% totally worth it, especially while you wait out for the perfect t/t opportunity / kids growing up / whatever your situation is.

  4. I'm sorry, Bastard. My sense is that there may actually be something of a retrenchment/restructuring in higher ed underway, with some institutions seeing declining enrollments. There are, of course, lots of interconnected causes, chief among them the recession, growing doubts about the value of a college education, and higher interest and lower approval rates for student loans. We're also seeing the effects of the end of the baby boom echo, especially in places where the dropoff was softened by first-generation college-goers of limited means. While I'm quite sure we're not going to see the utopia/dystopia envisioned by the promoters of the Bovine Approach (avoiding the M-double-O- C-word there), in which there are a couple of dozen big-name institutions left, and everything else is an online satellite watching their superprofessors on tape and doing online exercises graded by an army of adjuncts, I think we are going to see some colleges close (probably small teaching-oriented ones, including some HBCUs, which is sad, and some of the for-profits and other shady operators, which, at least in my opinion, is not).

    The really scary thing is that institutions that seem likely to survive (including my own) are still making big expansion plans based on the assumption that there's a pool of underserved but able-to-pay and cheap-to-teach students out there who can be used as cash cows to fund non-instructional plans. The one thing I suspect they're right about is that state subsidies are never going to reach the levels of former years. But their plans for coping with that fact, I fear, are delusional. Even the everybody-now-needs an M.A. (or perhaps a new M.A. every ten years) trend can do only so much to reverse the trend (though it will be easier to justify using adjuncts in explicitly-professional programs, and I suppose they can keep busy for a while selling terminal degrees to professionals so they can turn around and teach the courses).

    I guess what I'm saying is that I wouldn't count on the idea that the students have gone somewhere else. The story you tell seems to be happening in multiple places at once. It might just be that, for the foreseeable future, there actually will be fewer college students to be taught (and more and more Ph.D.s looking for work).