A New Far-Right Proposal for Financing College “Innovatively”: Or, How to Graduate from College as an Indentured Corporate Servant

In “Here’s a New Way to Pay for College,” an article published in USA Today [http://college.usatoday.com/2014/04/17/heres-a-new-way-to-pay-for-college/], Daniel Wheaton reports on a new Far-Right proposal to address the student-debt crisis. In a bill that they have called “The Student Success Act,” Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator from Florida, and Jim Petri, a Republican House member from Wisconsin, are proposing private financing of college educations with money pooled from corporate sources.

So, how is this different than student loans secured through private banks? Well, the funding would be framed or defined more as a long-term investment. The recipients would agree to pay back a portion of their incomes for 30 years as a sort of dividend to those who have made the investments in their educations. Rubio and Petri call these contracts “income-share agreements,” and the percentage of the participating student’s income that he or she will owe the investors will increase as his or her income increases.

In its broad shape, the proposal seems comparable to what some entertainers, such as David Bowie, and some athletes, such as Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, are now doing in creating “celebrity bonds.” But since students have a much less certain basis for projecting future earnings, I almost immediately suspected that for students this sort of deal would amount to a sort of indentured servitude. Continue reading

In an Era of Increasing Fiscal Constraints, an Inexplicable Shift in Hiring Patterns in Higher Education

In this past week’s issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, there is a very revealing graph representing the changes in employment in colleges and universities from 1976 to 2011. The graph is based on an analysis of IPEDs data by AAUP’s John Curtis.

 

Full-Time Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty

1976 – 353,681

2011 – 436,293

Increase – 23%

 

Graduate Student Employees

1976 – 160.086

2011 – 358,743

Increase – 123%

 

Continue reading

Crises Connected like Spokes of a Wheel—or the Pockets on a Roulette Wheel

Last Sunday, the New York Times published an editorial, signed by the editorial board, titled “The College Faculty Crisis” [http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/opinion/the-college-faculty-crisis.html].

In many ways, the editorial does not say much that should be new to anyone in higher education, but it is certainly significant that the most highly regarded newspaper in the country is highlighting the issues related to the declining state support for public colleges and universities and the effects of the increasing contingency among faculty.

Citing a new study by the Center for Community College Student Engagement, a research center at the University of Texas at Austin, a study that is based on the responses of some 71,000 faculty about their working conditions, the editorial writer emphasizes four major points, which I not only will summarize but will also elaborate on to some degree. Continue reading

The NLRB Decision on the Unionization of College Athletes at One Institution Signals, but Will Not Determine, the Changes That Are Coming

The Tacoma News Tribune very recently published a very thoughtful editorial by Bill Virgin titled “It’s Not So Far-Fetched to See the Future of Collegiate Sports as a Business Entity” [http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/04/13/3147199/its-not-so-far-fetched-to-see.html?sp=/99/261/].

Virgin considers the following contrasts: the erosion of the concept of the amateur athlete and the rise of professional sports as a major entertainment industry, the rise in the profits generated by intercollegiate athletics and the low graduation rates among college athletes; and the tension between increased allocations to intercollegiate athletics ostensibly to market academic institutions and the rise in student debt and cuts to instructional budgets.

Virgin concludes that the end of amateur collegiate athletics is on the horizon—not because of the recent NLRB decision to allow the student athletes at Northwestern University to unionize but because that decision reflects a broader societal awareness of the hypocrisy of pretending that, at its top levels, this “big business” should be able to generate huge profits for everyone involved except for those most fundamentally involved, the athletes themselves.

Like Virgin, I don’t think that there is much point in mulling over the specifics of the NLRB decision on Northwestern. It seems more significant as a pivotal event than as a critical event: that is, it has created an awareness and a certain momentum that will extend beyond even its being overturned in the courts. Continue reading

USM President Rescinds Proposed Faculty Layoffs

Those regular readers of this blog will know that we have published several posts on the proposed elimination of faculty positions at the University of Southern Maine ostensibly to close a continuing budget gap but also to allow the administration more “flexibility” in funding programs.

This afternoon, the Lewiston Morning Sentinel is reporting that the president of the university of Southern Maine, Theodora Kalikow, has reversed herself on those faculty cuts: Continue reading

How to Deny Scholars Access to Historical Archives in the Digital Age

Over the last six months, the Chinese government has been systematically reducing access to historical archives by scholars.

There has been much speculation about the purpose of this effort. Some have speculated that it has to do with China’s strained relations with several of its neighbors, but most notably Japan, over possession of several groups of small islands in the South China Sea. Others have suggested that it is in response to the heightened tensions in regions of China itself where ethnic minorities, most notably the Islamic Uyghurs in Xinjiang, have begun engaging in low-level insurgencies or intermittent terror campaigns. Still others have concluded that the effort is not directly linked to any single current circumstance but, instead, that it reflects the Chinese government’s determination to maintain some control over how its own history is told, at least to its own people.

For scholars outside of China or in disciplines that don’t require such access to such archives, the reasons why access to the historical archives is being reduced are, however, of less interest than how the Chinese government is effecting this policy. Continue reading

Koch-Funded Political Research: It Doesn’t Even Rise to the Level of Having Very Dubious Credibility

A number of Far-Right media outlets have been reporting the results of a recent academic study that has found that, to quote the Newsmax headline, “Republican ‘Red States’ Are the Most Free.”

This study has been produced by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The Mercatus Center was originally housed at Rutgers University under a different—and duller–name, the Center for the Study of Market Processes.

In the mid-1980s, the Koch Brothers donated $30 million to support the work of the center and to relocate it to the outskirts of the nation’s capital, at George Mason University. It receives no funding from the university; instead, it receives 98% of its support from Conservative foundations and individual donors.

Most broadly stated, the Mercatus Center’s mission is to “connect academic learning and real-world practice,” which, for most people would not much more enlightening than its Latinate name. More specifically, its purpose is to provide and promote free-market strategies for addressing public-policy issues.

It should surprise no one, therefore, that the research produced by this think-tank is basically Far-Right propaganda because it clearly sets out single-mindedly to find ways to confirm the core principles of that ideology. It does not seek to investigate the pressing questions of the day with anything approaching intellectual honesty and academic rigor, but it, instead, begs the questions by working from the ideological assertions that it purports then to support. Continue reading

The Top Issues Facing Higher Education in 2014 and Beyond

Writing for Forbes, John Ebersole, the president of Excelsior College, has identifeid the following ten issues as the most significant issues facing higher education this year:

1. Cost.

2. Renewal of the Higher Education Act.

3. Workforce development.

4. Competency-based education.

5. Accreditation.

6. Assessment.

7. Quality assurance in non-institutional learning.

8. Recognition of the new majority in student bodies.

9. Crisis in leadership.

10. The economy.

Ebersole notes that many readers may wonder about his exclusion of MOOCs as an issue, but he feels that the questions about their efficacy for most students and their over-exposure in the media have greatly decreased the consideration of MOOCs as an major innovation in higher education.

I agree largely with that assessment, but I would take issue with a fairly large number of his choices for the list. Continue reading

Missouri Program Allows Students to Apply University Credits Retroactively toward an Associates Degree

In a recent post, I discussed a dubious proposal put forward in Ohio to award associates degrees to all university students who have simply completed a specified number of credit hours, regardless of the distribution of those credit hours [http://academeblog.org/2014/04/04/kent-state-university-announces-plans-to-increase-dramatically-the-number-of-associates-degrees-that-it-grants/].

A much more reasonable program has been initiated in Missouri, though to date the results have not been anything close to what the proponents of the program hoped to achieve with it.

In 2012, the Missouri legislature approved what it called a “reverse-transfer program.” Recognizing the need for the state to produce more degrees at all levels and looking for inexpensive ways to achieve that goal, the legislature considered the number of students who had earned well over the number of credit hours needed for an associates degree without receiving any degree. Continue reading

Higher Education “Reform”: The Price Paid by the Next Generation of Students and Professors

An “On the Issues” Post from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education [http://futureofhighered.org]

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The increasing awareness of—and outrage about–the size of the debt crushing college graduates is, we must hope, a sign that meaningful action to address it may be possible.

The numbers alone are staggering.  According to recent reports, the average student debt for graduates with bachelor’s degrees is now $29,400—roughly 80% of a young person’s average income in this country. (See more at http://www.edcentral.org/student-debt-review/.)

The implications of these numbers are also frightening.  As we are increasingly aware, student debt is fueling the widening wealth gap in the United States (http://save2limitdebt.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Student-Loans-Widening-Wealth-Gap_Fullreport.pdf) and even threatening the health of our overall economy (http://www.kansas.com/2013/08/10/2935730/crippling-student-debt-affects.html).

Less understood is the parallel economic precariousness of this generation of college professors. Continue reading