Waiting for a snap in the pay gap

Emily Morris, Staff Reporter

Okay, but now what?

College is flooded with networking opportunities to prepare for the next chapter—whether that next step be graduate school, a job, or something else entirely. However, some of the most experienced people weaved in college life are being deprived of recognition.

Professors are consistently underpaid throughout many universities, despite their level of education. There are dwindling possibilities for promotion, and part-time positions seem like a dead end according to USA Today College.  

“I received my doctorate nine years ago,” said Joseph Fruscione, a former part-time professor at George Washington University, in an interview with USA Today College. “Folks with a lot of experience part-timing are seen as washed up or stale. I realized I was never going to move up.”

This epidemic is transcending through both private and public universities. In fact, the average annual income for a professor is $58,830, depending on tenure and speciality, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some educators are choosing to stick around through a competitive job market at universities because of a passion for their fields and students.  

“Once I discovered linguistics, I knew that I had to spend the rest of my life teaching people about it,” said Hunter Lockwood, a linguistics professor at Oakland University. “I needed to share this with everybody.”

Dedication does not always convey direct appreciation though. As students, many are aware of the skyrocketing levels in the cost of tuition each year—just this past year, OU’s tuition rose 3.7 percent. Clearly, these added funds aren’t entering the pockets of the professors, though, who are the bread and butter of the university.  

“The demands of teaching at a university extend far beyond our classroom duties, keeping us at our desks long after the traditional work day has ended,” said Jennifer Gower-Toms, a Oakland University literature professor. “Most professors that I know go into this profession knowing that the pay will not align with the work they will be expected to do.”

Even so, the college degree to which these educators contribute is not only becoming increasingly expensive, but “overvalued” today, according to The Nation. With these statistics, how could professor income remain stagnant? Professors are a necessity for the current learning environment within universities.

Michigan is becoming less invested in the fate of our secondary education system, which has led to the increase in tuition rates. This devastating cycle could be leading to poorer quality education, aside from the few educators that are truly passionate, according to The Center of American Progress. Many staff members throughout universities are forced to settle for part-time positions to nurse a lack of funding and an oversupply of professionals.    

Additionally, the number of non-academic professionals has almost doubled in the last 25 years. These employees, surprisingly, have not experienced the same boom in part-time positions and underpayment, according to The New England Center for Investigative Reporting. This dangerous power gap has allowed for educators to get left behind.  

Combining a lack of state involvement and miscommunication amongst faculty, professors are facing a challenging environment. There does not seem to be a clear solution in the near future to remedy our educators lack of appreciation, but as long as college is valued so highly, passionate educators will be needed, whether their pay resembles their work ethic or not.