Who benefits from the tuition gold rush?

The logic of HMO increasingly dominates higher education. The management carefully rations the professor’s time. 35 years ago, almost 75% of all college teachers were tenured. Only a quarter worked part-time, part-time or on a permanent basis.

Today these proportions are reversed.

If you are currently enrolled in four classes of college, there is a pretty good chance that one of the four will be taught by someone who has earned a PhD and whose teaching, scholarship, and service to the profession have been extensively peer reviewed with the connected to the tenure system. In your other three classes, you will likely be taught by someone who has started but not graduated from college, has been hired by a manager who is not a professional peer, may never have been published in the field he teaches and who is in the Pool of people who were considered for the job because they were willing to work for wages close to the official poverty line.

In almost all courses in most disciplines with open-ended or additional faculty, an individual with a recent Ph.D. was available and would have liked to have taught your other three courses. But they could not afford to pay their loans and subsist on the wages offered.

This is a topic covered extensively in my new book, How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation.

University employers can only pay these wages knowing that their workers are being subsidized in a variety of ways. For student workers, the massive burden of debt subsidizes wages. For low-paid temporary teachers, who are predominantly women, strategies vary but include consumer debt, dependence on another job, or a partner’s income.

Like Walmart employees, the majority of female temporary academic workers depend on a patchwork of other sources of income, including such forms of public assistance as food stamps and unemployment benefits.

It is quite common for university lecturers to work as grocers and waiters in restaurants and earn higher salaries in these positions, or have retired from previous occupations such as bus drivers, steel construction and car assembly, and these higher-paying occupations enjoy sufficient pensions to earn a ‘second Career” as a university lecturer. The system of cheap tuition does not look for the best teachers. It sorts by people who are financially able to accept compensation below the living wage. As a result of management’s irresponsible human resources practices, more students are dropping out of school, taking longer to graduate and failing to acquire the necessary basic skills, often spending tens of thousands of dollars on a qualification employers see poorly has little value.

The real “Profscam” is not the imaginary one portrayed in Charles Sykes’ imaginative 1988 book, which invented the image of a lazy tenured faculty voluntarily abstaining from teaching.

Instead, the “Prof scam” turns out to be a management shell game that maintains a sizable stratum for marketing purposes and to generate funded research, but is so few and far between in terms of undergraduate teaching that even the most privileged students spend the money most of their training with para-faculties working in increasingly unprofessional circumstances.

As non-official union activists will tell you, the problem is not in the intellectual quality, talent, or commitment of individuals working on non-professorial bases; it’s the miserable circumstances in which college administration forces them to work, teaching too many students too quickly in too many classes, with no security, status, or office; Working according to standardized curricula; outsourced learning, remedial, and even assessment services, leaving no time for research and professional development. In McDonald’s “kitchen” even the talent of Wolfgang Puck is pressed into the service of QuarterPounder. Despite the tens of billions in “savings” in faculty wages from replacing professionals with tenure-screened disposable workers, managed higher education is becoming increasingly expensive.

Tuition increased by 38% between 2000 and 2005, outperforming almost all other economic indicators.

Where does the money from stratospheric tuition and cut faculty salaries go? With for-profit institutions, the answer is obvious: it goes into the pockets of shareholders. With not even the smear of a viable layer, the dollars squeezed out of a 100% casual faculty, along with taxpayers’ money and tuition from the poorest families in the country, enriched education providers’ shareholders. But in nonprofit education, which only “pretends” to “behave” like a corporation, where have the billions gone?

At first glance, there are no shareholders and no dividends.

However, the use of the university benefits the company shareholders. These include bearing the cost of professional training, generating patentable intellectual property, hosting sporting events, selling goods and services to captive student markets, and turning student aid into a pool of cheap or even free labor. A significant lead to follow, then, is the relationship between the financial transactions of nonprofit organizations and the skyrocketing dividends enjoyed by the shareholder class.

Private company shareholders are not the only beneficiaries of the proletarianization of faculties and the tuition gold rush.

As public nonprofits have received fewer and fewer direct subsidies from federal and state sources, the general belief has been that higher tuition and staff exploitation were somehow accomplished by sharp-eyed, hard-fought managers with at least some version of public welfare in mind, if only narrowly framework of “spending reduction”. But that belief is questionable, as managers are fairly liberal spenders in a number of areas.

One area in which nonprofit education management has invested heavily is for itself.

Over the course of three decades, the number of administrators has skyrocketed, in close parallel with the ever-growing number of the underpaid. Administrative salaries have also risen sharply, especially at the upper levels, also in close connection with the declining salaries of other campus workers. In just a few decades, administrative work has transformed from an occasional service component in a professor’s life to a “desirable career path” in its own right (Lazerson et al, A72).

Nonprofit organizations support deans of arts and sciences, chairs, associate deans, and program directors with a comfortable six-figure sum. The salaries of many medical, technical, commercial and legal administrators are rising into the mid six-digit range. University presidents are now making seven figures, hot on the heels of their basketball coaches, who can earn $3 million a year and are often the highest-paid public employees in their state. Thirty years of directed higher education has transformed the typical faculty member into a permanent, part-time woman making a few thousand dollars a year without health care. The typical administrator is male, enjoys a steady job, a six-figure income, little or no tuition, generous vacations, and excellent health care.

There are many other areas where nonprofit administrators have spent even more. With the backing of activist lawmakers, they have particularly enjoyed playing venture capitalists with campus resources and taxpayers’ money by engaging in “corporate partnerships,” which generally benefit the corporate partner but not the campus (Washburn) financially.

More prosaically, they have engaged in what most observers call an “arms race,” in which they spend on expanding facilities and facilities. And as Murray Sperber and others have documented, they have recklessly spent on sporting activities that — despite in some cases millions in broadcast revenue — generally lose vast sums of money. The commercialization of college sports has raised the bar for participation so high that students who wish to play cannot afford the time to practice. Students who would like to watch cannot afford the entrance fees.

Traditionally, the phenomenon known as ‘cross-subsidy’, the support of one program with income from another program meant primarily a modest surplus generated by the higher tuition fees and lower salaries associated with undergraduate education used to support research activity You are unlikely to find an outside financing agent. In the context of managed higher education, cross-subsidization has undermined undergraduate learning throughout the curriculum, while also becoming a gold mine for all manner of activities that satisfy the entrepreneurial urge, vanity, and hobbyhorses of administration:

Digitize curriculum! Build the best pool/golf course/stadium in the state! Bring more souls to God! Win the All Conference Championship! Why are those who control non-profit colleges and universities so readily jumped at the idea that the institution should act like a for-profit corporation? At least part of our answer has to be that it offers people in this position some compelling satisfactions, both material and emotional.

This is an age of executive license. Along with a decent salary and great benefits, George Bush enjoys the privilege of declaring war on Afghanistan and Iraq. University administrators generally enjoy higher salaries and comparable benefits, and have the privilege of declaring war on their sports competitors or on illiteracy, teenage pregnancy or industrial pollution.

It feels good to be president.

As a “decision maker” one can often arrange to take a hit on at least some of their assets.

What needs to be swept under the rug is that the ability to do these things rests on their willingness to continually extort compensation from almost every other campus worker. The university under managerial rule is an accumulation machine. If it’s in any form other than dividends at nonprofits, there’s even more surplus for administrators, trustees, local politicians, and a handful of influential faculty to spend as they see fit

Thanks to Marc Bousquet | #benefits #tuition #gold #rush

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