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But really: do what you love

March 27, 2014

MICA gatewayWell here’s some food for thought from PayScale (via The Atlantic). It’s a list of the least valuable universities, by degree. MICA comes in 10th (from the bottom) with a 20-year earning potential of minus $34,200.

If the average MICA graduate faces two decades in which the value of their degree, compared to not going to any college, is -$34,000, then how bad, really, is the adjunct pay there? After all, very many of MICA’s part-time staff are MICA grads. Can the administration not argue that it is already paying an above-market rate?*

Let’s go to the math.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics the typical American high school grad in 2011 earned $29,950. To keep it simple** we’ll just multiply it by 20 (that’s $599,000), subtract $34,200 and divide again by 20 to arrive at a rough estimate of the typical MICA grad’s expected annual earnings.

So: $28,240.

If over two semesters a MICA adjunct gets to teach the maximum-allowed four studio classes at the typical pay—$3,500—she will make $14,000.

Now, this is just part-time pay, of course. One can’t very well compare it to the full time wage depicted by Payscale. Broken down to hours, adjuncting at MICA can reasonably be said to earn $17.28 an hour.***

The comparable high school grad working 35 hours for 50 weeks is making a mere $16.14. A whole $1.14 less!


Then again, that full-time high school grad probably gets benefits. . . .

*Which, of course, they do.
**and tip our hats to the fact that inflation-adjusted earnings for more than 2/3 of all U.S. workers have been flat for four decades.
***Assume each is a single six-hour studio class per week and an IRS-approved prep ratio of 1.25 to one—810 total hours for two semesters.

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  • Realist

    “Now, this is just part-time pay, of course. One can’t very well compare it to the full time wage depicted by Payscale.” You said it yourself so don’t turn around and contradict yourself by trying to make the comparison in your very next sentence. This is part-time work and cannot be compared using your very simplistic math. Also, be reminded that the profession, as it currently exists, not just at MICA but everywhere, does not offer benefits. Really dude, stop trying to sensationalize this…

  • Joe Basile

    Much more useful would have been an analysis of SNAAP survey
    data—at least as a check on the claims the PayScale “study” was making. SNAAP is the Strategic National Arts Alumni
    Project, a nationwide survey of thousands of art and design college
    alumni. Far more scientific and
    rigorous, over 1400 MICA alumni responded to the most recent SNAAP survey. The data here show that 93% of MICA alumni
    respondents rated their MICA education as “good” or “excellent” and 77% said they
    would attend MICA again. 81% of alumni
    were either currently working or had previously worked in their area of study
    at the time of the survey. 30% reported
    that they found employment just after graduation, 36% within 4 months, and 17%
    within 4 to 12 months. Approximately 32%
    of respondents who supplied salary information were making more than $50,000/year
    at the time of the survey, and 77% were satisfied with their current job.

    Also more useful in a discussion of higher ed ROI are data
    on student loan default. Students
    struggling to make ends meet after graduating have trouble paying their student
    loans. In 2011, the two-year student
    loan default rates for alumni of private not-for-profit colleges stood at 5.2%,
    and the national average for all institutions of higher ed was 10%. But MICA alumni default rates were just
    2.7%. MICA’s three-year default rate
    from 2010 was 4.9%, while the national average for private schools was
    8.2%. The national average for all higher
    education institutions from 2010 was 14.7%.
    So, MICA alumni are paying their student loans. And here’s a pro tip, journalists: all these
    data are readily available. If you
    bother to look, that is.