Melissa Bruninga-Matteau is a single mother who relies on food stamps and Medicaid to survive. Her take-home pay is $900 a month, of which $750 goes to rent and $40 goes to gas. Where does she work? If you're thinking a fast food chain, think again. She's a PhD who teaches humanities courses at a state college in Arizona.
"I find it horrifying that someone who stands in front of college classes and teaches is on welfare," she told the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012. The only thing worse than being an underpaid professional is shouldering an even higher debt load than your average college graduate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the total tab for a typical doctoral program will range from $242,000-$300,000.
Part of Bruninga-Mattaeu's dilemma is driven by shrinking state budgets. But it isn't just the public sector that's squeezing academic pay. Elite private schools have saved money by increasing the number of adjunct professors, who because their jobs aren't permanent or full-time their teaching load is below the minimum required to qualify for health care coverage, retirement benefits or unemployment benefits. Incredibly, the majority of professors in the U.S. are benefit-deprived. According to the American Association of University Professors, 70 percent of college faculty work outside the tenure track. So they likely wind up working at multiple employers but still getting no benefits.
Jane White: Rich Colleges, Poor Professors