Sunday, September 30, 2007

Grandparents paid for me to go to college,
now they pay for me to TEACH college

A letter I sent to my assemblymember, and members of the Assembly Higher Education Committee:

My grandparents gave me money to go to college.

Now they have to give me money to TEACH college.

I thought if I got a master’s degree and taught college, I’d be able to support myself. But because I can only get part time faculty jobs that pay as little as a third as much as a full time teaching job per class, offer no health insurance most of the time, and have gaps in pay between semesters and no guarantee of work or enough classes to survive from semester to semester, I have to ask my 86 year old grandfather and his 89 year old wife to help me out.

My grandfather is proud to help me because I'm the most educated person in my family, and being a "professor" looks like part of that American Dream about each generation doing better than the one before.

Ironically, with two years of college, he was able to own a house and support a stay at home mom and three kids by my age while I consider myself lucky to make my rent, and that I have one school that provides health insurance for me alone (no family allowed).

I taught for eight years at four different districts before any of them offered me health insurance. Before that, I was paying $200 a month out of pocket for a long-term medication.

I took out $50,000 in student loans to get the degree that’s required to do my job. That’s ballooned to over $100,000 with interest because it’s been tough to pay with irregular work and having to pay for any medical expenses out of pocket for eight years. My student loan payments are more than my rent.

I also work more than a full time load when my multiple jobs are added together, and split the difference between what I can teach effectively and the number of classes I need to pay my bills.

I wish my story were unique, but I know many part time faculty members who only have health insurance through their spouses or have none when a major medical crisis like cancer comes up. Others still live with their parents in their forties and fifties because they love teaching in spite of how we are treated.

Community college districts do this with the legal fiction, allowed by state law, that we are "temporary" employees even though most of us will work in the same districts for decades. They only offer us part time jobs to avoid providing health insurance or fair pay even though when you add the multiple schools most of us are employed by, we work more than full time for these state-financed schools.

What kind of morals and what about the value of education are we teaching our students when college instructors are treated like suckers and Walmart employees?

Something is profoundly wrong when our education system is aping the worst practices of the private sector rather than leading by example. Administrators have failed to act responsibly in these matters and need more guidance from the legislature.

If the Assembly approves AB 1343 or AB 591, it would go a long way toward ending these abuses.


To support these bills, you can comment directly on them at these links:

AB 1343 comment form

AB 591 comment form

Cross-posted at FACE Talk


Craig @ AFT said...


Do you have a working email address?

Craig @ FACE Talk

Anonymous said...

Professor Dixon,
I am concerned about this issue and I agree with you completely..........However, I think legislators would take you more seriously if you didn't sound like such a mooch.
I am currently a working college student and I envy the fact that you had grandparents to contribute to your college education. No matter what your situation is now it sounds so pathetic that you ask your grandparents for money after graduating.
I just wanted to give you some feedback from someone who is on your side.

Anonymous said...

Well, it appears you are devoting a lot of time to whining about your situation. Instead, you should proactively attempt to MAKE MORE MONEY!

The situation is what it is. You are being paid what you are worth. If the demand was higher for your skills, you'd be paid more.

Quick snivelling and get a 9-5 job too.

Carol Jordan said...


Your grandparents are helping you, and my parents helped me. If it weren't for my inheritance, I would not have had the "luxury" of teaching part time at community colleges for the past 11 years. However, the money has run out, and now I scramble to get teaching assignments in a budget-constrained system and collect unemployment between quarters. "Proactively attempting" to make more money hasn't worked for me in this downward economy. What has "saved" me is mortgaging my house and living on credit card debt.

Anonymous said...

I think that what is happening to people like you is completely unfair. Is there anything normal everyday people can do to help?