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June 2017


Getting assignments: The good, the bad, the ugly
Kevin McCoy


the good, the bad, the ugly

The good

In 2008, the United States suffered the worst economic crisis since the Great Recession. Although recovery was slow, the last several years the US economy has made significant gains. Unemployment rate in May was 4.3%, the lowest it has been since May 2001. The Gross National Product has been growing at a slow but steady rate. Most importantly, real wages are finally starting to increase.

The bad

When the US economy is suffering, enrollment in community college increases. High unemployment encourages people to return to college to try and find a new career. People realize that community colleges offer a lot of value and they can save a significant amount of money by starting at a community college. During the height of the recession, SCCC’s enrollment increased dramatically.

Conversely, when the economy is doing well, enrollment in community colleges decreases. While we are glad the economy is getting better, it has taken a toll on our enrollment. To make matters worse, there has been a decrease in the size of graduating high school classes in Suffolk County. As a result, our enrollment has been decreasing approximately 2% a year for the last several years.  

The ugly

The college hired a significant number of additional adjuncts during the height of the recession to cover the additional sections we offered. Now that our enrollment has been decreasing, we are offering fewer sections; last fall, for example, we offered 300 fewer class sections than we did in the fall of 2010. As a result, adjuncts are frequently getting fewer assignments, or even worse, no assignments.

Helpful strategies to obtain assignments

Here are some strategies to increase your chances of getting assignments in these difficult times:

  • Try to maximize the hours you are willing to work when you fill out your NORA. The more flexible your schedule, the more likely you are going to receive an assignment.
  • Consider adding additional campuses when filling out your NORA. Again, the more flexible you are, the better the odds of getting an assignment.
  • Classroom faculty should ask their academic chairs to be certified to teach additional courses. While there may be competition for most of the courses in your department, at times chairs have difficulty finding faculty to teach specific courses.
  • Finally, if you feel like your seniority rights have been violated, contact me at

Applying for unemployment

Under certain circumstances adjuncts may be eligible for NYS unemployment insurance. To obtain unemployment benefits, you will need have your salary history available. The rules on whether adjuncts are eligible for unemployment are complex, but if you have been receiving a couple of assignments the last several semesters and don’t receive any assignments this fall, I would encourage you to file a claim. Instructions on how to file a claim can be found on the NYS Department of Labor website.

Finally, to end on a less ugly note, class sizes in elementary and middle schools have been getting larger the last couple of years. The college has also done an excellent job at recruiting Suffolk high school graduates. 

Times are tough now, but they will get better.