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a vice president for the American Association of University Professors, a Louisville resident and an adjunct instructor at Front Range’s Westminster campus. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
a vice president for the American Association of University Professors, a Louisville resident and an adjunct instructor at Front Range’s Westminster campus. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Nearly 80% of instructors at Front Range Community College are paid a fraction of what their full-time colleagues make for teaching the same classes, often causing financial strain on those charged with helping young people learn, overcoming obstacles and becoming tomorrow’s leaders.

Adjunct faculty are temporary employees who work without a contract, without the same benefits and on a semester-by-semester basis, meaning there is no guarantee they will have a job in the future or that they’ll make the same amount of money. They also make up 78% of all Front Range faculty.

A Daily Camera analysis of pay at Front Range Community College found that, on average, adjunct instructors make 52% less than full-time faculty when comparing pay per credit hour of teaching.

Four current or former adjunct instructors told the Daily Camera that they did not make enough money working at Front Range Community College to make ends meet, and they turned to teaching at other community colleges or the University of Colorado Boulder or to renting out rooms in their homes to earn more money.

One former instructor stopped teaching after having a child because the money she earned from teaching would not be enough to cover the cost of child care while she was at work.

Front Range Community College, Boulder County Campus in Longmont on Friday.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Front Range President Andrew Dorsey said the college is hamstrung by state funding, which has decreased for more than a decade — though the state Legislature approved an increase last year on the condition that colleges and universities would not raise tuition for the 2019-20 school year.

Dorsey said he cannot predict whether adjunct employees will ever be paid at the same rate as full-time employees.

“There certainly are some constraints in Colorado that limit my ability to see how that would happen in the near future,” he said.


‘Truly on the poverty line’

The salary for a new full-time faculty at Front Range Community College starts at $52,676, including benefits, assuming that person has a master’s degree and one year of experience.

Full-time faculty typically teach four or five classes per semester, according to spokeswoman Jessica Peterson, with each class taking up three or four credit hours, or time spent in class each week.

If the average full-time faculty member teaches 15 credit hours in a semester and 30 in a year, that amounts to earning $1,756 per credit hour.

Pay for adjunct instructors varies more, depending on the type of class they teach. Pay for a new adjunct instructor teaching a lecture class is $850 per credit hour, which equals $25,500 per year for teaching 30 credit hours. That’s an average difference in pay between entry-level full-time and adjunct faculty of 52% — $906 less per credit hour, and $27,126 less per year.

Full-time faculty have more responsibilities, Dorsey said, including hiring and mentoring adjunct instructors, developing course materials and curriculum, working with other colleges to develop courses that will transfer to other institutions, serving on committees, leading student clubs and organizing events.

If adjunct faculty take on those jobs, they are paid additional money, according to Dorsey. Adjunct faculty are also paid for professional development, including at the beginning of the semester or voluntary training throughout the year.

But current and former instructors said their workload goes far beyond three or four hours in the classroom every week per course.

A former instructor at the Longmont campus, Sarah Landenwich, said she often worked 10 hours a week including class time to grade papers, plan for class and meet with students. On busy weeks, that workload increased to 15 hours a week.

Landenwich worked at Front Range until she had a child in 2018. Even though she was at the high end of the adjunct pay scale, Landenwich said it did not make financial sense to pay for child care in order to work at a job that paid so little.

“We had people working at the college who are truly on the poverty line, and it’s not a secret,” she said. “There’s a food bank at the school for the students but also for the faculty, because they know some of the faculty need it.”

Still, Landenwich said she hopes to work at community college again in the future.

“I love teaching and I am one of those people, like many of my colleagues, who not only love teaching but see every day the transformative power of doing it,” she said. “It’s a tangible good in the world and there’s not many things in life you can say that about, where you’re contributing daily to make the world better.”

Two adjunct instructors at the Longmont campus, Andrea Bogue and Anne Wrobetz, said while they love their jobs and are passionate about teaching, they wouldn’t be able to work at Front Range if they were depending on the job as their only income.

Bogue came to Front Range as a student after losing her job as a chef for a CU Boulder sorority and being sidelined from the job search by a bad car accident. She enrolled at Front Range and was taking random classes when an advisor encouraged her to pick a direction for her education.

Her first instinct was emergency medicine, but her advisor worried that previous trauma in her life would make that a difficult choice. Bogue turned the page in the course catalog and came across English as a Second Language.

She finished her degree at Naropa University and began teaching ESL classes at Front Range five years ago. Bogue doesn’t mind the low pay she receives, though she said that her $1,100 monthly health insurance premium was a burden before she qualified for Medicare.

“Connections with people is what I love about being an ESL instructor,” Bogue said. “It’s really about heart connections. That’s where I get my pay, that’s why I’m going to be the unusual instructor.”

Front Range Community College students Naman Ghiasy, left, Blanca Gonzalez, Chiraz Dor, and Leyla Arrece, work on a project in the library the Boulder County Campus in Longmont on Thursday.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Bogue said she knows other adjuncts who rely on the job to put food on the table probably don’t feel the same way.

“I make terrible money, but my life has been enriched,” she said. “In no other way could it have been this way. Kathy (Gamble), my boss, has made me a better person and all the students I’ve taught have made me much more dimensional and kind. I feel very grateful to Front Range.”

Wrobetz is in her third semester teaching at Front Range Community College and, between the college and her job as an adjunct instructor at CU Boulder, works more than 40 hours a week.

“I wouldn’t be able to do this as my full-time job if I was only teaching at Front Range,” Wrobetz said. “I’m able to make it work, but a lot of other people wouldn’t.”

CU Boulder pays its adjunct faculty members more per credit hour than adjuncts at Front Range — $1,500 per credit hour compared to $850 for adjunct faculty at Front Range.

Like Bogue, Wrobetz said she continues to work at Front Range because of the connections with students and the community college mission.

“I feel it’s important to me to serve community college students who come from a more diverse background and may not have the skills to be in a four-year university without some preparation,” Wrobetz said.

A need for additional funding

Dorsey has been president of Front Range Community College since 2009, and previously worked as an adjunct instructor, faculty member and administrator. He’s familiar with the low pay, he said.

“I understand the pay is not equivalent, and there’s a lot of reasons for that,” he said. “The biggest single issue confronting community colleges and adjunct pay is with the financial condition facing community colleges.”

Like most colleges and universities, student tuition and fees make up a majority of Front Range’s revenue stream, and funding from state Department of Higher Education — which is allocated by the state legislature — makes up an ever-decreasing slice of the pie.

“We do our best to communicate to legislators frequently the need for additional funding and the good uses to which we can put it, but I think there are many competing priorities,” Dorsey said.

The 2019 funding increase from the Legislature was essentially enough to pay for regular pay increases for all employees, Dorsey said.

Dorsey said he does not anticipate that the state will significantly increase higher education funding in the future, or that it will be enough to pay adjunct instructors at the same rate as full-time faculty.

“I always want to be optimistic about the future of community colleges and I think the future of community colleges is strong,” he said. “I don’t anticipate significant increases in state funding given the (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) cap and many competing policy demands.”

Dorsey also said that most adjunct instructors at Front Range don’t want to teach full-time, citing a 2018 survey where 70% of responding adjunct instructors said they were not interested in a full-time position.

“It’s important to note that a majority of our adjuncts are not trying to get to full time,” Dorsey said. “It’s very common for people to work as adjuncts because they want to give back to a career they’re proud of.”

But that sentiment doesn’t sit well with Caprice Lawless, a vice president for the American Association of University Professors, a Louisville resident and an adjunct instructor at Front Range’s Westminster campus.

Adjunct faculty should not be paid less because they are motivated by their passion for teaching or desire to help others, Lawless said.

“That’s a really sad narrative,” she said. “I just met an adjunct professor who teaches 20 credit hours a semester, and that’s commonplace. They do need a (full-time) job, because those people call me when they need food, they need subsidized housing or they need a mattress but can’t afford one.”

Lawless has taught at Front Range since 1999 and used to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, but now rents out rooms in her home to earn enough money to pay the bills.

As a union leader, Lawless advocates for increased funding for higher education and more job security for all faculty. She starts online funding campaigns to help adjunct faculty who don’t receive a paycheck for nearly two months because of winter break and lobbies system administrators to increase pay.

“We’ve been asking for a living wage for seven years now. We’re not asking for the moon,” she said. “We teach the disadvantaged students. We teach the future, and so we should be a high-priority investment for the community college system.”

Front Range has made significant strides forward in adjunct pay, Dorsey said, including a 2014 agreement to raise pay at the same rate as full-time faculty and other employees. The college has also built designated office space for adjunct instructors and created a tiered pay structure that increases pay based on experience and professional development.

“We are really fortunate to have amazing adjuncts who are excellent faculty members, and we’ll continue to figure out ways to make the best possible working experience for them within the financial constraints we have,” he said.

FRCC student, Heather Monteson, left, and DJ Richardson, work in the commons area at the school’s, Boulder County campus in Longmont on Thursday.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

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