In the last 20 years or so, even as college tuition keeps rising, schools are not spending more money on professors.

What they are spending money on is a matter of debate but they’re increasingly relying on adjunct professors, teachers who are paid only by the classes they teach, and who don’t receive the generous benefits provided to full professors.

But how bad is the problem? Colleges often suggest that, yes, they use adjunct professors, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Adjuncts are working professionals, hired to teach a class or two because of their professional expertise. Or many of them are artists and writers, who enjoy the freedom to pursue their craft unencumbered by academic commitments.

This is not really true. It turns out, according to a piece at Slate, that a lot of America’s adjunct professors are actually on welfare.

According to an analysis of census data by the University of California-Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education, 25 percent of “part-time college faculty” and their families now receive some sort public assistance, such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, cash welfare, or the Earned Income Tax Credit. For what it’s worth, that’s not quite so bad as the situation faced by fast-food employees and home health care aids, roughly half of whom get government help. But, in case there were any doubt, an awful lot of Ph.D.s and master’s degree holders are basically working poor.

Here’s the chart:


A quarter of them. Really.

Colleges really have a pretty serious question to answer now: So where’s all the money going?

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer