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NMC’s Decision to Outsource the Employment of Adjunct Professors Spurs Debate

Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) is entering into a partnership with Edustaff, an educational staffing service agency that will be the employer of record for the adjunct faculties going forward. The same partnership was initiated in 2015; however, it didn’t materialize. While the objective of NMC is to offer better compensation and benefits to adjunct professors, there are different viewpoints.

Read on to delve into the various aspects from the standpoint of NMC and the perspectives of the adjunct professors about this partnership. In case you desire to understand the legal aspects of employment law pertaining to this partnership, talk to an Atlanta employment law attorney.

Started in 2010, Edustaff primarily focuses on enabling the staffing needs of educational institutions. While its core competencies include finding replacement teachers for K-12 schools, it has expanded its wings to include recruitment, payroll, and staffing services for colleges.

Back in 2015, the partnership of NMC with Edustaff was initiated with the former’s intention to use the latter for outsourcing the employment of its adjunct professors. The objective of NMC towards this was that through this proposal, there are better chances for the adjunct faculty to get higher pay upfront rather than awaiting their pension benefits, which are often not granted to the temporary staff later. On the contrary, the critics of this idea opined that this would hamper the commitment, affect the faculty-student relationships, and overall impact the college’s culture and values.

In May 2015, Timothy Nelson, then-president, announced that NMC would not be partnering with Edustaff as it is important that the setting of wages, supervision, and other evaluation decisions rest with NMC and are not in the hands of a third party.

Several discussions and debates followed. Earlier this year, NMC President Nick Nissley emailed the staff, informing them that NMC would partner with Edustaff. He added that from July 1, all adjunct hires would be employed by Edustaff and not directly by NMC. Nissley stated that the primary cause behind the college’s inability to offer higher salaries is the fact that pension benefits are managed through the Michigan Public Schools Employees Retirement System (MPSERS).

This requires a contribution of 3-11% from the paychecks of the staff, while the college has to contribute nearly 28% of the gross salaries, amounting to close to $1.2 million the previous year. To understand the wage and legal compliance, you can consult an Atlanta employment law attorney.

Mark Liebling, NMC’s associate Vice-president of Human Resources, said that due to the low wages, employees at NMC are forced to compromise with a low standard of living. In this regard, the college is looking for other opportunities to boost their salaries. A higher percentage of the adjunct faculty’s pay goes into the state government system, and most of them rarely benefit from pension benefits as they are treated as contingent workers.

Liebling added that the adjunct staff could receive better pay and benefits by partnering with a non-educational institution like Edustaff, which is not dictated by the state’s pension contribution rules. He said the professors would make higher take-home pay, better retirement and insurance options, and, in fact, a straight 7% increase from what they get from their direct employment in NMC.

So, how does this partnership with Edustaff differ from the one discussed in 2015? Well, the core aspect is that in the earlier case, there existed a mandate to have the participation of some of the existing employees of NMC.

However, Liebling said, “This time, we’re just letting employees decide if they want to continue down [the MPSERS] path or move over to Edustaff. If they do move over, they’ll get higher wages, but they’ll also lose those college contributions into that pension program and their participation in that program freezes. So, that’s the trade-off, but we’re not making the decision for people.”

An adjunct professor, Andrea Gerring, is speculative about the Edustaff partnership as she feels that it could greatly impact the sense of belongingness that adjuncts experience on campus. Gerring expresses her concern, saying,” Can an adjunct position be considered unique or temporary when currently 209 out of 290 instructors at NMC are adjuncts? As an adjunct at NMC for the past 13 years, I am vested and look forward to my MPSERS pension.”

However, to this, Liebling clarifies that Edustaff will only serve as a payroll administrator for NMC and that there will be no major changes with regard to process or belonging. He adds that it will be ensured that no two-tier system is created within the adjunct professors and that everyone feels the same degree of belongingness and inclusion.


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