First, go read Tenured Radical’s post from yesterday. I’ll wait.
Doesn’t President Barack Obama’s speech at the University of Michigan remind you of the time that George W. Bush went to Notre Dame and Bob Jones and told them to stop being such one-issue whiners about abortion? Or like that time he went to Haliburton and lectured them about keeping costs down, otherwise he would de-fund the National Security State? Yeah: just like that!
Personally, I liked this response– mysteriously, it was the final paragraph in the Denver Post this morning, rather than the lede:
University of Washington president Mike Young said Obama showed he did not understand how the budgets of public universities work. Young said the total cost to educate college students in Washington state, which is paid for by both tuition and state government dollars, has actually gone down because of efficiencies on campus. While universities are tightening costs, the state is cutting their subsidies and authorizing tuition increases to make up for the loss.
Did you think we were done with the stupid for today? As if! Here’s another brilliant idea from the enormous number of higher education policy geniuses who apparently populate our nation and share their ideas in letters to the editors of their local newspapers:
A significant part of the solution to the problem of rising tuition is for colleges and universities to put more full-time tenured professors in the classroom. Dropping or significantly reducing the other requirements on professors — such as research, scholarship, service, and the like — would materially reduce academic costs.
The professors I had while pursing my Ph.D. taught only three courses per year on a quarter system.
Try it: Students and parents will like it. Professors and administrators will holler bloody murder. But it’s the real answer. Stop beating around the bush.
As tempting as it is to turn Barack Obama and other misguided citizens into the villains here, I think the real problem lies with the public university presidents who haven’t educated politicians or the public at all about the “effeciencies on campus” they’ve enacted over the past twenty years. Everyone who reads this blog knows that those “efficiencies” are human beings called adjunct instructors, temporary faculty, or “special” faculty who on many campuses (including mine) comprise now the MAJORITY of faculty, and certainly produce the largest number of student credit hours. They teach 4-4 loads (or more), and have zero responsibility for research or service to the university. In my department, they don’t advise students and they can’t sit on graduate student committees. They are on contracts that expect them only to teach, and they don’t enjoy the protections of tenure. This is how universities have kept tuition as low as it is. I have seen the charts and data tables for my university. The Provost of Baa Ram U. came to my department with a slide show that demonstrated that Baa Ram U. has held their expenses at 1990 levels for the past 21 years–so the tuition increases in those 21 years are entirely attributable to the withdrawl of support from the state and the federal government.
But university presidents have held their tongues and played along, and they’ve therefore encouraged citizens and taxpayers to believe that it’s really possible to get something for nothing, to squeeze blood from a stone, and to do more with less. They have also unforgiveably encouraged the notion that somehow offering free farm clubs to the NBA and the NFL are somehow better “investments” in the quality of education than hiring new tenure-track faculty, purchasing books and journal subscriptions, and improving the quality of their classrooms. Because they have been happy to exploit the “efficiencies” of casual labor, public university presidents and administrators haven’t told the general public that (for example) the people doing the majority of teaching don’t enjoy the protections of tenure and don’t get credit for anything but their teaching. They haven’t told the public that there’s no guarantee from year to year that these folks will be around to continue to teach required courses so that students can finish their majors, nor have they explained that these folks might not be available to write leters of recommendation to further their students’ careers. They also haven’t even begun to attempt an explanation that universities are not just places that pass on knowledge, they’re places that produce new knowledge, new knowledge that’s really important to the quality of teaching that a college or university can offer. And this is a failure I place squarely at the feet of the current generation of university and college presidents who earn C.E.O.-type salaries while gutting the instructional budget and lecturing the tenure-track faculty about the sacrifices we “all” have to make.
I’d almost enjoy the schadenfreude if I thought Barack Obama’s crazzy tuition-limiting scheme would cause real hardship among the Mike Youngs and Tony Franks of the world–the university presidents who have failed to provide real leadership for the good of their states. But unfortunately, the C.E.O. presidents will be just fine and continue to draw their six- and seven-figure salaries. The people who will pay for these schemes are the staff who make $20,000 or $30,000 a year, the adjuncts who make $25,000 to $35,000, or the regular faculty who make $50,000 or $60,000. That’s who will be expected to make new “efficiencies on campus.”