Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just When You Think It Can't Get Any Worse

UC undergraduate fees are going up by yet another 33% (not pictured here properly). I was a UC undergraduate student at the far left of the chart, and saw the dramatic rise (percentagewise). So fees will soon have more than quintupled in 20 years. That is horrendous. It was possible for people to work their way through a UC from the 1940s through the 1980s, and thousands did, particularly when the UCs expanded from 2 to nearly 10 campuses in the 1960s. All that is over. While $10K may not sound like that much it is well beyond the ability of any 19-year-old to save during the year. That doesn't include paying for room and board at rates that are at or above market rate and buying hundreds of dollars of textbooks for three "quarters" each year. You have to add $10K to share a *triple* room, or $12K for a double room per year. This includes 19 meals per week - in other words, two shy of the full "three squares."

How far we have come from the Master Plan for Education that Governor Pat Brown, Jerry Brown's father, implemented 40 years ago.

I quote from that famous report below. The report, which recommended to maintain "tuition-free" education, cited with approval this statement by the President of the University of Minnesota about "the desire of some organizations and individuals to raise tuition and fees to
meet the full operating costs of public institutions of higher education:"

"This notion is, of course, an incomprehensible repudiation of the whoIe
philosophy of a successful democracy premised upon an educated citizenry.
It negates the whole concept of wide-spread educational opportunity made
possible by the state university idea. It conceives college training as a personal
investment for profit instead of a social investment. No realistic and unrealizable counter-proposal for some vast new resource for scholarship aid and loans can compensate for a betrayal of the “American Dream” of equal opportunity to which our colleges and universities, both
private and public, have been generously and far-sightedly committed. But
the proposal persists as some kind of panacea, some kind of release from
responsibility from the pocketbook burdens of the cherished American idea
and tradition. It is an incredible proposal to turn back from the world-envied American
accomplishment of more than a century"

That, however, is the essence of Reaganism as we have lived it for the past 30 years. The attempt to shift the entire burden of education onto the students. I urge you all to reflect on how radical this once-standard view would be today. Most of our public discourse about education assumes it is "personal investment for profit" instead of a social investment, which is why the cost is put on the students themselves. We need to go back, seriously back, to the ideals of the immediate post-WWII era that understood that public education was not socialism, but a longstanding American tradition.

Sadly, this is what it is coming to. The result will be greater class disparity and, what is worse, a general decline in the fortunes of the American people as a whole.


Raised By Republicans said...

Its not just ideology. Public universities are an easy political target for budget cuts (speaking of which I'd love to see how much state support for the UCs has dropped over that same time period - I bet the increase in fees doesn't make up the difference). Their benefits are indirect and hard to measure. At the same time, most people don't use them so they seem like a tax supported program for an "elite." The direct beneficiaries of funding for public education are easy to vilify for populists.

There is ideology too of course. But most of the legislators who support cuts in support for public education are doing so because they see it as a way to balance budgets without appearing "weak on crime" or cutting a program for some key constituency.

The problem is that whenever fees increase, students (and their parents) blame the University rather than the politicians that gave the university a choice between raising fees or closing down.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Or, in the case of the UCs, the choice between raising fees or laying off do-nothing administrators that have corporatized the UC system, perhaps beyond repair.

Raised By Republicans said...

The problem is that the one thing the do-nothing administrators do is manage the budget decisions. So they're not going to get cut. Career administrators are killing public education in this country and I don't see viable way out of it.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The solution is institutional. Shift the power back to the faculty senate AND make "participation in univ governance" a substantial portion of the tenure decision.

For decades now, the American university system has encouraged professors to stay on a narrow track of abdicating more and more responsibility for anything but their own publishing (including teaching, administration, student mentoring, etc.). This training begins in graduate school, where "involvement" is not rewarded, even frowned upon as a distraction from the real work. T/A positions are employment, not training. This means that the rest is done through an increasing bureaucratic management apparatus that views professors as employees, and students as the impecunious and irritating public "customer" (see DMV for illustration).

As universities grow, then, so does management. And there are no economies of scale: the size of management grows as the square of the size of the university, I fear.

This is all so unnecessary. Professors should get out of being managed and get back into management. For this to happen, though, faculty senates also need to rejigger the reward system for faculty to include something beyond research dollar intake and publishing.

The other unfortunate side effect is that professors become more mercenaries seeking the more prestigious or better-paying institution (or just one that will also employ an often far less talented spouse) than part of actual coherent faculties that try to grow competence organically. Free agents, not teammates.

These are not irreversible trends. The professoriate recognizes and dislikes these trends, and most of its members are motivated by love of work rather than money or prestige. Unfortunately, the market being what it is, the lowest common denominator prevails.

As a final note, the endowments of Harvard, Stanford, Brandeis, and dozens of other institutions got walloped because their less-than-brilliant administrators got suckered by fancy money managers into betting the farm on the stock market as if they were a brokerage rather than an institution bent on longevity. I strongly suspect that if the economics/business faculty had sat on a finance committee overseeing the investment decisions, they would have early on detected and outed the fraud inherent in the securitization and upgrading of subprime mortgages. These insitutions may be the only places where economic analysis of this kind would have taken place, by people who did not earn money by participating in the bull market, no questions asked.

Raised By Republicans said...

I don't know too many professors who would relish the prospect of getting into management.