Video campaign reveals the uncomfortable truth about professors living on public assistance

Adjunct professorScreenshot/Professors in PovertyAdjunct professor Judy Olson

Amid an environment of ballooning tuition costs and pay raises for presidents at colleges and universities, one large segment of faculty members struggles to make ends meet.

A new video campaign by Brave New Films called “Professors in Poverty” shares the heartbreaking perspective of many adjunct (part-time) professors who say they can’t earn a living wage.

“I have the highest level of learning and I am literally on welfare,” Dr. Wanda J. Evans-Brewer says in the video.

Evans-Brewer has a bachelor’s in English literature, a master’s in urban education, and a doctor of philosophy in education. She still needs to collect food stamps in order to survive.

Half of all professors in the US are adjuncts, according to the American Association of University Professors. And they make substantially less than their full-time colleagues.

Adjunct professors earn a median of $US2,700 for a semester-long class and annually earn about $US20,000 to $US25,000, The Atlantic wrote in a detailed piece about part-time professors. 

The Professors in Poverty video contends the higher education model is pushing professors in to poverty.

On camera, adjunct professors say they grapple with staying in an industry that brings them joy, but makes their standard of living so poor.

“It’s a lie that getting an education is your road to financial security,” says Judy Olson, an adjunct professor.

That sentiment has been frequently restated, as adjunct professors become more vocal about their plight. 

Earlier this year, adjunct professor Matt Debenham wrote an essay explaining that he makes more money working at his local grocery store than at his job teaching at two colleges as an adjunct professor.

Evans-Brewer also doesn’t mince words in the video about how difficult it is for her to scrape by.

“I don’t want some student to say I want to be just like you, professor,” Evans-Brewer said. “Be like me? I’m broke.”

Watch the entire Brave New Films video below.


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