Even within the ivory tower of academia, many feel a sharp class divide: While tenured professors have job security and, often, six-figure pay, adjunct professors can see their courses dropped at any time and may be paid a relative pittance. "To students, everyone is just 'professor,'" adjunct Marcia Newfield, who has taught for 26 years, tells NBC News. Adjuncts, she says, "are in a different class. They're poor. There's no other way to explain it." One profiled by the New York Times makes $24,000 a year—when he's managed to get full-time work teaching four classes. He was given just three this term between two different institutions.
The City University of New York, where Newfield teaches, has backed health benefits for adjuncts with a $10 million contribution, the Times reports. But Newfield doesn't get disability benefits or a permanent office, and she's paid just $3,622 per class she teaches. The national average for adjuncts is $2,987. CUNY's distinguished professors, by contrast, are paid an average of $144,000 a year, and the university's chancellor received $574,004 in 2012, NBC notes. But being an adjunct is a far more common position: part-time adjuncts make up 62% of the university's teaching staff of 18,600, the CUNY staff union says.