I just sat down and figured out the opportunity cost of teaching two sections of freshman comp, based on the $60 hourly rate we now know businesses will pay me and my sidekick, a figure we believe to be somewhat below market.
Hang onto your hats, folks…
If I teach two sections of composition—just two!—instead of billing the same number of hours for editorial work, it costs me $11,059 per 16-week semester in lost income.
That’s right. The privilege of earning $4800 in pursuit of your children’s higher education actually impoverishes me by more than 11 grand. In one semester.
Here’s a conservative calculation showing that to be true. Bear in mind that it doesn’t include commute time to campus (that would be six hours a week this semester) or the unpaid time we are asked to donate to departmental meetings and faculty development workshops.
Translation: I spend 96 hours in the classroom during a typical semester with two face-to-face three-credit sessions. My graders billed me $1,311 for plowing through the spring semester’s composition papers; at $10/hour, that suggests it takes 131 hours to read and assess a semester’s worth of postadolescent writing. Course prep for those two sections took me four full days this fall. Assuming I only worked eight hours each of those days (a very modest assumption!), that comes to 32 hours of prep time and website management. Thus the total number of hours consumed by two sections over a 16-week semester is 259. I’m paid $4,800 for all that labor, which, when divided by the number of hours required, works out to $18.53 an hour.
Not great, but not so very bad (as long as you don’t figure in the required and expected freebies).
Except…if I spent that many hours working at my editorial rate of $60 per hour (which, as it develops, is a little low), I would earn $15,540 during those 16 weeks.
Subtract the amount I actually earn, $4,800, from the real value of my time, and you get the opportunity cost: $11,059.
That is more than I’d need to earn all year—in 52 weeks!—to get by without teaching any comp courses.
Reality check! Could I actually do that much editorial work in 16 weeks? Let’s see…
Sixteen hours and eleven minutes a week? Somehow I think I can struggle through it.
If you’ll recall, though, yesterday I figured The Copyeditor’s Desk would need to earn only about $6,000 for me to get by just fine in 2013. Fifteen thousand five hundred and forty bucks is 2.6 times what I absolutely have to earn to pay the bills. So let’s prorate those hours over, say, 50 weeks—give me a two-week vacation, why not? This scenario would have me billing all of five hours and 10 minutes a week to earn enough to live rather comfortably, what with Social Security and a tiny drawdown from savings. Or actually, no drawdown: because Social Security covers almost half my expenses, an income of $15,540 would mean I wouldn’t have to raid retirement savings to live.
Think of that.