Brief interlude: from the mixed-up files of the brain-dead critique of higher ed

Mike Rosen, in today’s Denver Post, with some advice for our incoming Governor John Hickenlooper:

Instead of more money for higher ed, propose an across-the-board salary cut. Labor costs have been a major driver of higher tuition.

I could actually get behind this, if the cuts were restricted to senior and mid-level administrators, who at my university are making in the mid-six figure range (or, 5 to 6 times what I make.)  My guess is that they can afford the sacrifice more than the faculty I know–but those cuts would be merely a pi$$hole in the snow, as my mother-in-law likes to say.  Rosen clearly has no data and no clue about the adjunctification of higher ed, let alone the salary freezes faculty at Baa Ram U. have labored under since 2008.

Anyone who thinks that “labor costs” (at least among the faculty) are “a major driver” of higher tuition is so out to lunch he should just never come back to his desk.

0 thoughts on “Brief interlude: from the mixed-up files of the brain-dead critique of higher ed

  1. His comments are especially surprising, given that the Denver Post has a searchable database of state salaries, which includes the higher ed system. It would have taken him about 20 minutes of half-assed research to realize he’s wrong.


  2. “Research” and “facts” on a big city op-ed page? That’s not the point. The point is to continue to circulate these brain-dead, fact-free memes that “everyone knows” so that “everone” will continue to “know” that university faculty are to blame with everything wrong with universities: Tuition is too high? Faculty salaries! Grade inflation? Faculty laziness! Students not learning what they should? Faculty malfeasance! Classes too political? Faculty radicals!

    The DP has one paleoconservative who actually appears on occasion to care about facts and research, and that’s Vincent Carroll. Rosen and the brain-dead conservatarian David Harsanyi are pure ideologues. I used to write letters to the editor to try to correct Harsanyi’s most ridiculously innacurate claims about the Constitution and early American history, but I’ve given up. (You can look it up on Lexus-Nexus if you’re interested.)


  3. I spend 34 of my 40 hours a week on campus lounging in one of our 3 outdoor pools. I for one am definitely not in favor of cutting our budget for such necessities to learning.


  4. This “new” approach to all working people are overpaid is widespread in our society. As everyone knows, The TBTF banks, CEO, VPs and other high flying inept people that take home huge salaries are not overpaid. The poor and the middle class are. University professors are “obviously” overpaid for several reasons: they are overpaid (axiomatic), science is garbage, they are semi-unionized (axiomatically blood suckers) and whenever prices (i.e. tuition) go up it’s the workers fault.

    Hebrew has the saying: “A country that consumes its inhabitants.” It’s us now.


  5. It is obvious as Historiann mentions here and at other places that faculty in the US and in other countries I will note are extremely underpaid. It is also clear that university administrators are grossly overpaid. The first class of people need raises. The second class need to have their salaries reduced to adjunct levels. How come universities never hire adjunct administrators to reduce labor costs by the way? At my previous place of employment the president officially made $8000 a month (who knows how much she stole). In contrast as an associate professor I made less than $1000 a month. To save on costs she drove away or fired all the Ph.Ds at the ‘university’ in order to hire people with only MAs and save $200 a month.


  6. The new bosses in the U.S. House of Reps just renamed the Committee on Education and Labor. It is now the Committee on Education and the Workforce. Good times ahead, I’m sure.


  7. Well I don’t know why no one realizes how grossly overpaid most administrators are, but I do know why we don’t care about CEOs. Most workers are not in Academia so when we look to our future we ourselves in corporate America. And we buy the myth, the “American dream”, that if we keep working hard enough we’ll move up (i’ll grant you some people do). It’s like we play the lottery every week in hopes that we win. And instead of lottery money going to states or whatever let’s pretend it just makes five guys super rich. We still wouldn’t care. We are dumb and think we have an opportunity to move into upper management some day, so we don’t like to see restrictions placed on their salaries or taxes because we envision ourselves there.

    That’s the problem with public employees and faculty, the “public” is generally a private sector worker, and can not identify with academic or government employees. Therefore we think they are paid too much.


  8. I know absolutely nothing about the macro level finances of higher education that drive dramatic tuition increases, but I’m gonna make a wild-ass guess that the biggest driver is the financing of capital improvements to campuses. I suspect this is much bigger than administrator salaries.


  9. capital improvements to campuses

    I don’t know about private colleges but as I understand it, state systems have tight rules about the sources of funds for capital improvements. A decreasing fraction comes from the state general fund, some comes from state bonds, and the rest must be raised via project-specific capital campaigns, shared use deals with the private sector, maybe the state lottery if you have one, and state/federal funds for specific purposes (Recovery Act funds for deferred maintenance; code compliance; etc.). There is also money to be had from agencies for upgrades with specific research or teaching outcomes.

    One way schools can get money out of students for infrastructure is through building “fees” for student-life-centered facilities like rec centers. We have fees for all sorts of stuff here at Provincial State U and they do inflate the total quite a bit but the base tuition, that’s going up because money from the state is going down.

    Much of the rationale I have heard for decoupling public universities from state governance structures (to become public corporations) is that it loosens up fundraising for infrastructure.


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