September 19, 2023
Higher education for decades has consistently drifted away from employing full-time faculty in favor of part-time, or adjunct, instructors.
But one Michigan community college is shaking up the sector’s employment model in a different way. As of July, Northwestern Michigan College’s new adjuncts aren’t even institution staff — they work for Edustaff, a staffing firm. It’s one of several Michigan community colleges, like North Central Michigan College, to adopt this approach.
Workers’ rights advocates might raise their eyebrows at this setup. After all, not being a college employee would theoretically offer fewer protections. However, Northwestern Michigan’s new employment system doesn’t appear to be a case of corporate greed but rather a distinctive method of cost-saving, said Kevin McClure, a higher ed professor at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
That’s because the arrangement allows the college to avoid contributing to a Michigan retirement system that benefits community college and public school employees — instead the college is boosting adjuncts’ pay. Adjuncts don’t often qualify for the pension because they are part time and don’t work enough hours, said Mark Liebling, Northwestern Michigan’s associate vice president of human resources.