UW Struggle: Tenured Kingpins on Yachts Edition | Chuck Rybak

The two things wrecking higher ed are state disinvestment in higher ed (massive budget cuts) and increased spending on administrators and administration, who everywhere but community colleges are on about a two to one ratio with faculty and staff.

Big picture: education budgets no longer exist to educate students, but to increase profits for a limited sector of Americans.

This is your tax money. You can do something about this. The only solutions at this point are political.

UW Struggle: Tenured Kingpins on Yachts Edition | Chuck Rybak.


Germany Opens Up Free College to US Students

Germany-665x385Yes, it’s true: US students who have a conversational knowledge of German have been invited to attend German universities for free. I would like to encourage all US students to take them up on this offer. Germany has some of the best universities in the world, and being centrally located in Europe, any student attending universities in Germany will have relatively easy access to Europe’s most significant cities. What an adventure.

Germany is able to make this offer because German universities are made up of, for the most part, libraries and classrooms, and because Germany doesn’t use federal tax money in the form of financial aid to support farm teams for professional sports that already generate billions of dollars a year in revenue (as if they couldn’t fund their own farm teams), and because Germany isn’t embroiled in massively unnecessary overseas wars, and because the German government isn’t spending more on their military than the next eight nations combined.

But none of that is the real issue. The real issue with higher education in the United States is that it’s being turned more and more into a profit center and less and less into an educational center. The ultimate goal for higher ed. is to spend as little as possible on it while charging the same tuition and fees. Yes, that’s it. That is why there’s a lot of nonsense rhetoric about a higher ed “crisis” (the only crisis is that it’s being defunded), and why there’s a big push for computers to educate our students rather than teachers, and why over 70% of our college classes are being taught by adjuncts, and why non-profit educational institutions with occasionally bad spending habits are being demonized while for-profit educational institutions engaged in massively fraudulent practices are being defended, and on and on.

Here’s the big picture: US big business wants to take as much of your tax money from you as possible while giving back to you as little as possible in return, and it is willing to sacrifice America’s intellectual capital — and its future — in order to do so. It is willing to sacrifice its own country, you, and your children in order to make a little bit more money.

That is what the “higher ed crisis” is all about. That and nothing else. The “crisis” in US higher ed. is only about the full transformation of US higher ed. into a profit center rather than an educational center. It starts with tuition being turned into a profit center in the form of student loans, and it continues into daily operations being turned into profit centers in the form of contractors, testing centers, educational technology, and the elimination of full time instructional staff.

So I’ve just given you the magic key to all of this rhetoric of “change” and “innovation” in higher ed: when someone says they are educational innovators, you need to hear this: “I want to take more of your money while giving you less in return.” When you hear people talk about a crisis in higher ed., you need to hear this: “I want to take more of your money while giving you less in return.” When you hear the words “MOOCs should be offered for college credit,” you need to hear this: “I want to take more of your money while giving you less in return.”

And when you hear the word “socialism,” you need to hear this: “I’m going to convince you that spending your tax money to benefit you is ‘socialism’ while spending your tax money on my personal profit is ‘capitalism.’ I’m going to do this because I think you’re stupid enough to believe that.”

Are you? I hope not. Vote Republican in the next election, though, and you’ll be saying nothing else.

Let me put it another way: you’re already paying more than enough in taxes for you and your children to have free quality 10310089_10152792389654255_1764711481482102606_neducation through four years of college. But the part of your tax money that should be earmarked for education is being spent instead on bank profits, college sports, massively inflated administration, massive profits for for-profit educational institutions that don’t really educate their students, and — get this — on industry lobbyists who use the profits made from your tax money to keep you from receiving any benefit from it.

So when a politician says there isn’t money in the budget for education, ask them what they’re spending these billions of dollars of revenue on instead. A $1 trillion plane that doesn’t work (i.e., defense contractor profits)? Another unnecessary foreign war (i.e., defense contractor profits)? A ten year road project (i.e., payback for graft)? Ask where the money is going, and ask in detail. You’re a voter. You’re a US citizen. It’s your money. You have the right.

Defund for-profit colleges. Defund unnecessary wars. Spend American tax dollars on American citizens or, in other words, spend your money on you and your children. Tax money is your money. Don’t forget that. It is yours. Invest in America’s future by investing in education, our only source of intellectual capital, and invest in education by investing in teachers. Machines don’t educate people. Only people do.

Anyone who tells you anything else is, literally, selling something.

If you’re serious about pursuing this option, you may want to check out Rebecca Schuman’s blog on Slate to learn a little bit about how German universities are run.Education as Social Good

One Student’s Heartbreaking Letter Sums Up What’s Wrong With America’s Colleges – Mic

Lucy ParksAND a great article about how the problems that I describe in my blog about for-profit colleges can apply to non-profit institutions too. This student is, unfortunately, mistaking NYU President John Sexton for a human being with feelings, but more importantly, this case illustrates why this student should have attended any of the very good state schools in the NY university system rather than a private non-profit, even a very good one like NYU. Her money would have taken her through all four years of an education at a state university system, and if she can be accepted to and do well at NYU, she could make it just as well at a highly reputable flagship SUNY institution.

According to the linked article, NYU has raised $3 billion in a massively successful fundraising campaign, but not a dime of that goes toward tuition relief for students: total student loan debt at NYU is $659 million, while the institution is spending money on the following:

Instead, the school has caught flak for choosing to invest in such worthwhile endeavors as expensive real estate expansion, satellite campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai (under deplorable worker conditions), faculty homes in Manhattan, the Hamptons and Fire Island and turning school housing into a duplex for Sexton’s son.

Non-profit? Really? You understand that just 22% of NYU’s most recent fundraising campaign — not all funds altogether, just the most recent fundraising campaign — would alleviate 100% of NYU student debt and still leave the institution with over $2 billion to work with?

Don’t you dare tell me there isn’t money for higher education in this country. We don’t seem to have it because we’re more interested in monetizing higher ed for the benefit of a few than we are in serving students; i.e. our own children.

One Student’s Heartbreaking Letter Sums Up What’s Wrong With America’s Colleges – Mic.

A Simpler Model for Funding Higher Ed

Funding Higher EdEverything you really need to know about higher ed funding. Don’t tell me we don’t have the money. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to defense spending. There’s no reason we can’t divert a few of those drops away from unnecessary wars fought only for the profits of defense contractors, especially when these contractors spend more on lobbying than they do in paying taxes and keep their personal income overseas.

I grabbed the meme from Facebook.

What You Need to Know About Funding Higher Ed

State Funding DropsI recently had the opportunity to discuss higher ed funding with someone in an administrative position at a top state university in the University of California system. She told me that total cost of attendance* at this institution is $33K a year for in-state students and over $50K a year for out of state students.

I was a bit shocked and said that those costs sound more appropriate for a private institution than a public one.

And then she dropped a bombshell: she told me that since 2008 state support for that institution has dropped from providing 88% of the institution’s operating expenses to providing 14% of its expenses.

No, the school has not incurred remarkable additional expenses since 2008. It has undoubtedly cut spending in many areas.

Yes, that school, like almost every other institution, public or private, could probably be run more efficiently.

But no, no institution — no business — can keep its doors open if it loses 74% of its income in six years without raising prices (that’s obviously not a correct number, but the correct number will still be very large).

This situation is not the fault of faculty. It’s not the fault of administrators. Both faculty and administrators can respond in their various ways to help the situation, but any business in the country would shut its doors with a drop in revenue this fast and of this magnitude.

So as citizens — and I means citizens, not consumers — you need to understand what is being done to you and why.

The cost of your own and your childrens’ college education is being transferred by state legislatures from the state budget to you, though the federal government, in the form of debt.

This is happening in part because of the financial crisis of 2008, which caused a large drop in state revenues.

But just as you have the right and obligation to ask what your colleges and universities are doing with their money, so do you also have the right and obligation to ask what your state governments are doing with theirs.

And that’s all the more true because it’s not their money. It’s your money. Tax revenue is your money. Don’t forget that. You as a voter have the right to say how it is spent.

Yes, taxes on businesses are often lowered to attract business to the state.

And yes, and in California in particular, voters who are already financially strapped are unwilling to pay taxes. California especially hamstrung itself with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which seriously limited the state’s ability to collect property taxes just as the real estate market was starting to boom.

But you need to understand how this is working out for you: you and your children are becoming debt slaves to finance college. That situation benefits no one but the FIRE sector, particularly the banks and the politicians that the banks pay for.

So the solution to financing higher ed?

I will say that the current solution, which involves cutting faculty to the status of fast food workers (over 70% of your courses are taught by adjunct faculty), does nothing but compromise the quality of education that colleges and universities can offer. I’m not criticizing adjunct instructors by saying so. Most of them are hard working and dedicated. But no one can teach eight classes at four different institutions with no stability, benefits, and health insurance for very long and do a good job in all of their classes. This situation is not sustainable. These cuts make for big savings, but at a very high price, which in this case is the actual purpose of the institution.

What you need to understand is that the quality of your education is exactly equal to how well-supported your school’s faculty are, because faculty are the ones who provide that education. When you or your children apply to a college or university, ask these two questions first:

1. What percentage of your college courses are taught by full time faculty?

2. What percentage of these faculty members have terminal degrees?

If you don’t get an immediate response, don’t apply to the college. They don’t know the numbers, or they are acting like they don’t know the numbers, because they do know the numbers will make them look bad.

However, we need to control costs. We need to start by looking very hard at how much we’re spending on sports, and then cap head coach salaries at $500,000 and assistant coach salaries at 1/4 of that. Almost all sports programs in the country lose money (see also this USA Today report and ESPN’s numbers), and those that don’t are dependent upon student fees to break even.

Yes, your tax dollars are going to pay sports coaches seven figure salaries, who in most cases are the highest paid state employee in any given state.

If we were sane we would drop high cost sports altogether. If the NFL, NBA, and MLB want to use colleges and universities as farm teams, great. They can pay for it. All of those students who only want to go to college to play sports can then play sports without having to go to college — and then we wouldn’t have to worry about athletic departments paying student aides to write papers for high profile student athletes. This UNC incident isn’t isolated. It has been regular practice at many Div. I universities for decades.

We also need to cut administrative costs and impose similar caps on salaries there. While many colleges and universities across the country have been moving toward an adjunct teaching force, spending on sports has increased about 35% per athlete, and we have seen massive increases in spending on administration. From a recent Forbes article:

Between 1993 and 2007, total university expenses rose 35%. But administration expenses rose a whopping 61% and instruction expenses rose 39%. In fact, as a 2010 Goldwater Institute study finds, “universities have in recent years vastly expanded their administrative bureaucracies, while in some cases actually shrinking the numbers of professors.” While enrollment rose between 1993 and 2007 by 14.5%, administrators employed per 100 students rose nearly 40% and spending on administration per student rose by 66%.

This system does not serve students.

Next, we need to face the fact that we can pay for college two ways: through debt or through taxes, unless you’re one of the few who can find a way to pay for college without debt. It’s far better for the economy and for the individual to pay for college — and really, for education in general — through taxation than through debt. Taxation trades current benefits for current and future goods. Your taxes support immediately tangible benefits such as roads, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. Debt sacrifices the future for the present with no certain payoff.

Businesses, which I understand already feel strapped and over-regulated (and feel that way for good reasons), need to view taxes as an investment in their workforce. Otherwise, you can complain all that you want about the quality of college graduates, but I assure you — you’re getting exactly what you pay for.

*Corrected from “tuition.”