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Education The Almighty Buck

Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job 538

Posted by Soulskill
from the dollars-and-sense dept.
An anonymous reader writes When you think of people who teach at a college, you probably imagine moderately affluent professors with nice houses and cars. All that tuition has to go into competitive salaries, right? Unfortunately, it seems being a college instructor is becoming less and less lucrative, even to the point of poverty. From the article: "Most university-level instructors are ... contingent employees, working on a contract basis year to year or semester to semester. Some of these contingent employees are full-time lecturers, and many are adjunct instructors: part-time employees, paid per class, often without health insurance or retirement benefits. This is a relatively new phenomenon: in 1969, 78 percent of professors held tenure-track positions. By 2009 this percentage had shrunk to 33.5." This is detrimental to learning as well. Some adjunct faculty, desperate to keep jobs, rely on easy courses and popularity with students to stay employed. Many others feel obligated to help students beyond the limited office hours they're paid for, essentially working for free in order to get the students the help they need. At a time when tuition prices are rising faster than ever, why are we skimping on the most fundamental aspect of college?
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Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

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  • Administrators (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chihowa (366380) * on Saturday June 21, 2014 @05:55PM (#47290029)

    In all aspects of education, from primary school to university, the growing swarms of administrators soak up the budget. In some school systems, they vastly outnumber the actual teachers, have better pay, and yet contribute nothing to the operation of the schools.

    • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lgw (121541) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:01PM (#47290057) Journal

      In the "dot com" bubble, many geeks got rich. I've worked with a couple guys over the years who made a million or two in that one. Quite a few math Phds got nice 6-figure jobs for a few years during the finance bubble - nice while it lasted.

      The tuition bubble is far more evil. Students are walking away with ~100k in debt, and no better employment prospects* than they had before. Faculty are getting poorer. It's not like the janitorial staff are getting rich here. It's a bubble based on deceiving children that benefits no workers, only the top of the pile: the most evil bubble in my lifetime.

      *Yeah, sure, a college education can have other benefits besides future salary prospects but that's not how it's sold to high-schoolers and parents! The sales pitch is outright fraud.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The tuition bubble is far more evil. Students are walking away with ~100k in debt, and no better employment prospects* than they had before.

        To begin with, colleges shouldn't be about finding jobs, but about increasing your understanding of the universe and making you a well-rounded human being. If that leads to a job, great, but that shouldn't be the point. All these people who go to college for the piece of paper are turning colleges into half-assed trade schools. And that's where they should go: Trade schools.

        "Everybody's gotta go to college" is a disease that's killing education.

        • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bmo (77928) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:24PM (#47290155)

          Ivory Tower Mentality right here:

          If that leads to a job, great, but that shouldn't be the point.

          6-figure debt makes it the point. A debt that you cannot refinance makes it the point. A debt you can't escape through bankruptcy makes it the point.

          A trillion dollar debt problem in the US makes it the point.

          HR departments requiring a BA for the most menial of office tasks makes it the point.

          Requiring a fucking MA to work in a library as a salaried employee and not a volunteer (the US is the only country I know of that does this) makes it the point.

          But sure, it's /all/ the student's fault for expecting something in return for all that money. /sneer

          I have nothing but contempt for you.

          --
          BMO

          • Re:Administrators (Score:4, Insightful)

            by buybuydandavis (644487) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:29PM (#47290409)

            Ivory Tower Mentality right here:

            If that leads to a job, great, but that shouldn't be the point.

            6-figure debt makes it the point. A debt that you cannot refinance makes it the point. A debt you can't escape through bankruptcy makes it the point.

            Yeah, it's all fine and dandy to talk about education as discovering the wonders of the universe, but few would go into debt 100k for the feel good experience, particularly when it's available to you for free. If you want to discover the universe, a universe of information is available to you on the web. Read it and feel all warm and fuzzy.

            But if you want a family and any financial security, that kind of money needs to *produce* an equal or greater amount of benefit that you couldn't get otherwise.

          • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Informative)

            by jythie (914043) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:39PM (#47290463)
            I think you missed the poster`s point. The idea is that college should not be a prerequiste for jobs, and that all those HR departments that are requiring it are a big part of the problem.
            • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:56PM (#47290795)

              I think you missed the poster`s point. The idea is that college should not be a prerequiste for jobs, and that all those HR departments that are requiring it are a big part of the problem.

              HR departments are a big part of the problem all by themselves. the Type of suit, the type of shoes, the fonting on the resume'. What is important to HR is only important to making more HR people.

            • In any situation where there's far more applicants than positions, the responsible department is going to look for some way to thin the herd. Given applicants with and without college degrees, there's a plausible expectation that the one with the degree is going to be better. Therefore, if you've got ten times as many applications as you need, you pick out the ones without college degrees and dump them. There's no requirement to be fair to the jobseeker, and the HR department's ostensible goal is to com

          • Re:Administrators (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:20PM (#47290637)
            You need to shift your perspective. Nothing but contempt? Colleges are turning into trade factories, and that's a problem. There are HUGE societal benefits to the intellectual exploration that comes with college. We need to expand who has access to that! Universal college is a laudable goal.

            In saying "6-figure debt makes it the point", you've made a mistake. Debt is a problem, and we need to address it. But the fact that college is too expensive doesn't mean you need to turn college into merely a stepping stone to a job. That's misguided.
            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              the fact that college is too expensive doesn't mean you need to turn college into merely a stepping stone to a job. That's misguided.

              Misguided is believing that people can afford to do anything else. If it doesn't make them money, they can't afford to do it, because they haven't got money.

          • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:47PM (#47290761) Journal

            6-figure debt makes it the point. A debt that you cannot refinance makes it the point. A debt you can't escape through bankruptcy makes it the point.

            Agreed but the real point is that if not everyone goes to university then the cost borne by students is far less. When I was at university in the UK tuition was free because the government paid it. The argument being that I would then go and get a job and with a higher salary my higher taxes would pay for the investment the government had made.

            However this model collapses when 50+% of the population goes to university. First the universities have to either provide additional teaching resources and/or lower graduation standards because such a large increase means that the educational standards on the incoming students are lower. This is exacerbated by the fact that the average salary of all graduates drops because the total wages available does not increase with the number of degrees granted so essentially you have the same tax base as before but now have to pay for twice as many degrees.

            The result is that tuition has gone through the roof. The same degree that was free for me 25 years ago now costs £9,000/year ($16,400/year). It is also now a 4 year degree (used to be 3 years) because of the lower standards in school. Of course this means that students acquire so much debt that they have to be extremely concerned about their potential salary after graduating. The puts an increasing pressure for universities to shift from the academic institutes of higher education which have served society for the best part of a millennium (or possibly longer in some cases) towards becoming vocational training colleges where each course is targeted to a specific career which provides enough income to pay of the massive debt so good luck finding the next generation of teachers!

          • I'm sure others have so replied, but I do so for the record.

            Higher education in your chosen career is furthering education, but it is not currently job preparation. High school is job prep, and college/uni is on the verge of becoming job prep. But it currently is not. By definition, leading to a job is not the point. For students it may be the point, but for everyone else it is not.

            A trillion dollar debt problem is NOT THE FUCKING CONVERSATION. At all. It is unrelated, unless you are talking about stud

        • Learning for learning's sake is great, but frankly that can be done in your spare time without getting in debt for tens of thousands of dollars.

          • by CRCulver (715279)

            Learning for learning's sake is great, but frankly that can be done in your spare time without getting in debt for tens of thousands of dollars.

            Not all university libraries are open to the general public, and there are still a number of fields where you cannot get an up-to-date view of the basics online: you need books, and they are expensive books that typically only libraries can afford. Advances are moving at such a pace -- and academic publishers have raised their prices to such a level -- that it is u

            • Re:Administrators (Score:4, Insightful)

              by innocent_white_lamb (151825) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:20PM (#47290639)

              I beg to disagree.

              The largest collection of human knowledge ever assembled is right here on your desktop, and mine. I live in a rural area, and I can immediately look up pretty much anything that I'm interested in finding out, and get more information about it in more formats than were ever available to ANYONE in the 20th century or before, regardless of whether they were at a university or not.

              There is absolutely no need to run to a library or purchase a book that may already be out of date.

              Earlier today I watched a video demonstrating how a synchro-mesh transmission works. Never knew that before; never knew how a transmission worked at all, in fact. Now I do. Does that change my world view? Is it an earth-shattering accomplishment? No.

              However, what I learn by reading and viewing thing online do enrich my life to a huge extent. How to write a computer program. How to waterproof a basement. When I'm reading a book (ebook) and come across a reference to Hadrian's Wall, I can immediately look it up and read more about that if I'm interested. And so on.

              When provided with this huge pool of available knowledge, some folks use it to read about Brittany Spears. But that's not the only thing it's good for.

              It's never been easier, cheaper and simpler to be an autodidact than it is today. You don't have to walk past your front door, unless you want to.

              • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

                by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:37PM (#47290707) Homepage

                I work with two branches of linguistics. The present consensus was essentially reached in the early 1990s, but is still not represented online in freely-available resources: you need access to university holdings. Now, there are sometimes ways for laymen to get access to some of this information (inter-library loan, a JSTOR subscription), but not everyone in North America or Europe is so fortunate, and it would come at such great expense that you are better off establishing some kind of status at a university anyway. Furthermore, so much of the information, whether publically available or limited to universities, is not in English and probably won't be available in English for some years more.

                There were a couple of researchers who thought it would be nice if Wikipedia reflected the state-of-the-art instead of outdated views from half a century ago that dilettantes had put up, but they quickly abandoned Wikipedia after being dissatisfied with its editing climate.

                I've heard the same complaints from fellow academics in fields from anthropology to mathematics. You can keep on thinking you have access to everything you might possibly want, but you simply have no idea how much you are missing.

            • by PRMan (959735)
              Stanford has all their classes online, as do many universities. You can LEARN all you want. You can get a top-notch education for free. But people need the PAPER that gets them by the HR tollbridge.
              • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Informative)

                by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:44PM (#47290743) Homepage

                Stanford has all their classes online, as do many universities.

                See my reply above. In any event, they may have all their lectures online, but that is only a part of an education. The other part, readings, are not necessarily available to the general public. If you want to get any recent consensus in a field, you need access to e.g. JSTOR, which is not freely available to the public (some people are lucky enough to have a public library with an institutional subscription, but not all).

                No, not a "top notch" education at all. In my own field one very quickly tires of talking with dilettantes who have "educated themselves", because they have a view of the things decades out of date. They can't read the journals they need to stay up to date because these are closed-access. Furthermore, other publications are easy to get within a university network, but may not circulate out to public libraries under inter-library loan.

        • blame HR and the schools the tech schools need to drop the part of giving out an piece of paper and tech real job skills and HR need to stop looking for that piece of paper.

        • You really should get your head out of the clouds. The point of any schooling is to prepare one to live. It doesn't matter if it's college, vocational school, or any other training. Sure, we want to increase our understanding of the Universe and be well rounded human beings, but that is the secondary goal of college. The primary goal is to make a living. You know. Food. Housing. Clothing. Those little things. Such idealism. You sound like you live in the Ivory Tower yourself.

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          This vanity that academia has about not being a part of the real world is really a red herring. Universities started as "trade schools" because the people paying for them weren't interested in just p*ssing money awy. The notion that Universities are above that sort of thing is just the result of academics repeating their own propaganda to each other over and over again.

          But to the real point... Tuition has been rising far faster than inflation for a very long time and there seems to be no real reason for it.

          • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jrminter (1123885) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:28PM (#47290683)
            There is a clear reason for the rise in tuition: The availability of "easy credit" for student loans.

            In the Dark Ages when I was an undergrad, we lived in dorms with painted cinder block walls, spartan furniture, and a bathroom per hallway. We had a minimal gym facility but reasonable equipment in the labs. With some help from my parents and working had during summers and breaks, I graduated with only $750 in loans.

            Now you have luxury dorms and sports complexes. Sadly, the cost increases for these facilities and the explosion of administrators made it practically impossible to pay for one's education at a top tier state school by working hard during the summers and breaks and some help from ones parents.

            Let's not mention the Lake Wobegone mentality that all the children are above average. Colleges love remedial courses - they get paid and the students stay longer. But that changes the economics. Attending college is a business decision and if the graduate can't repay the debt in a few years, the ROI wasn't there.

      • by Bartles (1198017)
        It's a bubble fueled by taxpayer money. Huge artificial demand has been created, and then subsidies pay for the inflated tuition.
      • You still need a college degree to get a white-collar job, and the fact is that most people want white-collar jobs. I 100% agree with you that it's an evil system designed to exploit the vulnerable, but it's not just an empty sales pitch like you're describing. The system is rigged in such a way that a lot of students HAVE to be burdened with massive debt to succeed in life. We have ZERO need for huge buildings with lecture halls in them in the age of the internet, but those people at the top are going to d

    • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate@NOSPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:02PM (#47290073)

      In all aspects of education, from primary school to university, the growing swarms of administrators soak up the budget. In some school systems, they vastly outnumber the actual teachers, have better pay, and yet contribute nothing to the operation of the schools.

      You beat me to it. It's time for adjunct administrators and more full time professors.

    • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Informative)

      by cashman73 (855518) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:23PM (#47290151) Journal
      I don't know about administrative staff, but at many of the D1 research schools, tenured and tenure-track faculty have largely been replaced by "perma-docs". That is, postdoctoral researchers that are entirely paid by "soft money" (e.g. grants), have zero teaching responsibilities, are not offered tenure (only the minute chance of a tenure-track job if they keep applying enough) and have no job security. It is not uncommon to see people in STEM fields with a PhD and having done three, four, even six post-doc appointments. In the past 20-30 years, the number of tenure/tenure-track jobs has declined dramatically, and the number of post-docs has increased exponentially.
    • by mc6809e (214243)

      In all aspects of education, from primary school to university, the growing swarms of administrators soak up the budget. In some school systems, they vastly outnumber the actual teachers, have better pay, and yet contribute nothing to the operation of the schools.

      Don't forget those in the construction industry. Like administrators, they contribute where it counts: in the voting booth where they help elect those that will continue to increase spending on that abstraction "education" rather than on actual edu

    • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Albanach (527650) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:46PM (#47290257) Homepage

      Administrators care only about getting more students through the door and the tuition dollars rolling in therefrom.

      If you want to quickly solve this problem, have US News add percentage of faculty in full-time tenured position as a weighting factor to school rankings. Overnight you'll see tens of thousands of adjuncts being offered tenure.

      While a simple faculty/student ratio is used there is actually a huge pressure to have the highest number of faculty, and therefore pressure to drive down cost. Quantity is weighted more highly than quality.

    • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Insightful)

      by flyingsquid (813711) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:17PM (#47290373)

      In my department, the faculty work in a run-down, dilapidated old building. Offices are barely large enough to hold weekly meetings with undergraduates, and it's difficult to get the lab space you need to do research. Half a dozen postdocs and graduate students are crammed into a single office. The building is infrequently cleaned- the walls, bathrooms and offices are filthy- and they don't even empty the trash cans in the offices anymore. The workers went on strike to get something like a 1.5% annual raise- which is not a raise by any stretch of the imagination when you factor in inflation. It just means your salary isn't cut.

      Meanwhile, administration gets a shiny fancy new building, with huge meeting rooms and offices, and the head of the university gets a big fat raise- and they were already paid about ten times what a starting faculty member would make.

      A good administrator is worth their weight in gold. They make things happen, they facilitate research and teaching, and make it easier for everyone else to do their job. But bad administration... bad adminstration is like a parasite. They turn things around. Instead of supporting the university, they see the rest of the university as working to support them. Instead of focusing on doing groundbreaking research, they want faculty to get government grants which pay overhead- i.e., support for administration. Somehow, there's never enough for the people who actually make things happen. But there's always enough for the people at the top of the university hierarchy. It reminds me a lot of that scene in 'Animal Farm' where the milk goes into the pigs' slop;

      • Typical ruling class: manipulating their underlings for the purposes of self-perpetuation. Only when their entirely selfish ambitions are exposed, will they relent just enough to create a facade of change, but never enough to relinquish power and restore a healthy balance.

        This is the toxic parasite of American over-individualism that exists in just about every facet of its society.

    • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mantrid42 (972953) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:34PM (#47290437)
      Yup. One administrator should not be worth four professors: http://io9.com/professors-pran... [io9.com]
    • This too, but also marketing, the corporate/profit-driven approach and other concerns apart from teaching and research.

      To answer the question: "At a time when tuition prices are rising faster than ever, why are we skimping on the most fundamental aspect of college?"
      Because you allowed your (entire) education system to be run by people who do not have education as the foremost priority.

      The issues with other parts of the education system are of a different nature (e.g. they are run as a cost centre) but the f
    • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:24PM (#47290657)
      It's the same trend as in America in general, top managers take an ever-larger share of company earnings.
    • I can confirm this - I work at a university. The executive management there is decrying a 6-7 million dollar shortfall, but the employee to management ratio is 2:1 (2 employees per manager) at a school with 30-35k students and about 800 full time employees - and apparently 400 managers.

      The shortfall just happens to equal the amount of money paid to the "executive" staff - including 180k a year for their "chief of diversity" - a woman who was a humanities major.

    • by hey! (33014)

      In all aspects of education, from primary school to university, the growing swarms of administrators soak up the budget. In some school systems, they vastly outnumber the actual teachers, have better pay, and yet contribute nothing to the operation of the schools.

      I keep hearing this, but perhaps it depends on your locality. Looking at the first hundred entries in our local school staff directory, I get:

      71 teachers
      8 secretaries *
      5 special needs professionals (4 speech pathologists +1 occupational therapist)
      5 nurses
      4 principals*
      2 guidance counselors
      1 police officer
      1 payroll clerk *
      1 information technologist *
      1 Librarian
      1 assistant superintendent *

      * administrative staff

      So going by this sample, 15% of the school department employees are "administrators" of some sort, a

  • Profit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:00PM (#47290055)

    At a time when tuition prices are rising faster than ever, why are we skimping on the most fundamental aspect of college?

    Because profit is all that matters?

    • This. Anybody who thinks the primary goal of college is education is mistaken. It is a profit-driven enterprise, pure and simple.

      In the U.S. most employers demand at least a 4 year baccalaureate degree in something as a bare minimum job qualification. So if you want a job, you need to get a degree. Colleges charge as much as the market will bear and outsource the teaching to part-time and full-time adjuncts who are paid a fraction of what a full-time tenure-track faculty member would require to teach the s
  • Oligarch's Game (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lawnboy5-O (772026) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:01PM (#47290061)
    Evermore, even our education system in the USA is now a "big" business, just like healthcare - this is despicable. Its a disgrace. It's been going on for decades, albeit at a somewhat chelonian pace; and now it's accelerating. Keep on voting GOP and corporate clown Dems... and this result will continue. Young people- you must get and vote - save your generation. Mine is lost to the oligarchs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Evermore, even our education system in the USA is now a "big" business, just like healthcare - this is despicable. Its a disgrace. It's been going on for decades, albeit at a somewhat chelonian pace; and now it's accelerating. Keep on voting GOP and corporate clown Dems... and this result will continue.

      Young people- you must get and vote - save your generation. Mine is lost to the oligarchs.

      There are certainly plenty of schools that now take the "big business" attitude towards higher education. However, don't be melodramatic... There are plenty of Universities in the USA who maintain a more traditional and dedicated academic environment. When I was in high school choosing a college, I did plenty of research on all my options to find the place that would give me the best education and I found that there were plenty of public and private schools that do this. I had an extremely difficult time d

      • I also sat down when considering colleges and looked at my choices. Due to income levels, Ivy Leagues were out for me, as was any private school. That left state schools. In-state tuition is cheaper than out of state, so that left local state schools. I wanted something bigger and better than a small community college or tech school, so that left the Research I and II schools.

        I narrowed it down to four state universities, and was accepted to them all. In the end, I went for the slightly more expensive
        • I also sat down when considering colleges and looked at my choices. Due to income levels, Ivy Leagues were out for me, as was any private school. That left state schools.

          I don't know when you went to school, but this is actually not true nowadays for very talented students. Most of the Ivy League schools have exceptional financial aid available for poor or even middle-class, sometimes making them even cheaper than state schools. For example, Harvard [harvard.edu] has a policy that students with family incomes below $65,000 pay NOTHING for tuition, and those with family incomes up to $150,000 are not expected to contribute more than 10% of that income. Other top schools may not be quit

  • Pathetic (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:01PM (#47290069)
    The state of the education system in the US has become pathetic. I've seen it for years in the primary education system. I'm a little shocked that it is now at the university level too. Especially with the prices of tuition these days. It's even more surprising when you read stories like this [thefiscaltimes.com]
    • Depends on the school. The top research universities are apparently still the best in the world in terms of the quality of the work they churn out. At least some of the rankings say so.

      http://www.timeshighereducatio... [timeshighe...tion.co.uk]

      Lower tier and the for-profits not so much. These have mediocre instruction and lots of students that fail to graduate and lots of students in majors that don't qualify them for meaningful employment.

  • I just want to know (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pooh666 (624584) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:07PM (#47290093)
    Where does the money go? Not generalizations, but accounts. If research is paid for by outsiders, if sports pay for itself, then where is this ever growing cost of education coming from?
    • by whoever57 (658626) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:23PM (#47290149) Journal

      If research is paid for by outsiders, if sports pay for itself, then where is this ever growing cost of education coming from?

      1. Sport only pays for itself in a very limited number of institutions. The claim is that somehow the sport gets almuni to gift more money, but I doubt that there are any studies that have investigated this claim.

      2. While the pay of the teachers has been going down, pay for administrators has been going up.

    • by Enry (630) <.ten.agyaw. .ta. .yrne.> on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:41PM (#47290237) Journal

      I've worked in IT at two major East Coast Universities for the past 12 years. There is a boatload of bureaucracy to be sure at almost all levels. Then again, some of it is warranted. Gone are the days of a researcher just getting a grant and spending it all on the research. You need to have grant administrators to make sure the grant is written properly and meets the needs of the funding agency, then you need them afterwards to let you know if you can spend the money you got on the things you want - these grants often times have strict rules on them.

      Then there's all the federal regulations. Are you in a lab that got private (not public) money for doing stem cell research? Awesome! Just make sure that any equipment you use (staff payroll, PCs, consumables, anything) hasn't been paid for by a federal grant. So now you have to buy everything twice and make sure you don't cross the streams.

      Even if you get a $500,000 grant, anywhere up to 2/3 of that goes immediately to the university you work for for overhead. Aforementioned administrators, physical space, power, cooling, IT...hey, so let's talk about IT for a bit.

      So each researcher thinks they're the best thing to ever hit the institution and the way they do things is right. Forget the fact that your IT staff has way more experience and would be happy to help you design whatever you need - they're idiots! So you go off and design your own system and have the grant pay for it, but you ten forget that you don't have any IT staff, so you have a few postdocs take care of it until you realize they're spending all their time working on that and not doing research, so you call up the CIO and yell at him for a while. An IT person shows up and starts identifying problems with your design and why didn't you consult him when you were writing the grant but that's not your concern. So now you're telling the researcher you need a blue Hadoop cluster and you need it right now otherwise you'll take your entire lab across country where their IT staff is apparently more organized than yours. So the IT guy is building the blue Hadoop cluster, burning through IT budget since the CIO promised you they'd take care of it. IT is now underfunded and can't afford the $3 million for a new storage array since every other researcher is doing the exact same thing. But now there's a bigger problem - you ran out of storage space! Where are you supposed to put the 75TB of data you just remembered you needed a postdoc to download? Those stupid IT guys, saying that storage is $.50/GB. I can go to Best Buy and get a 2TB drive for $100! Why can't they just use those drives?

      Hmm...I seem to have gone off on a rant. Anyway, a former director described one location as "land of 1000 CIOs". In a way it's true since it's the researchers that are bringing in money, way more than the students. So the researchers generally get their way or else they'll take off elsewhere and take all that research money with them.

      And where's my blue Hadoop?

      • by oursland (1898514)

        Even if you get a $500,000 grant, anywhere up to 2/3 of that goes immediately to the university you work for for overhead.

        I worked on a military funded research project and the Army Research Labs contract administrators balked at the 40% (!!!) mandatory overhead costs. They felt it was exorbitant as they had their own people who oversaw nearly every aspect of the contract. The only thing the university had to provide was a space for us to work.

    • I just want to know (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:58PM (#47290299)

      Sports and sport complexes, and administration.

      I work at a relatively cheap college. Adjuncts get paid 1900 a semester. I'm a part-time librarian and get about 15000 a year when the going rate is about 50000 (so part time would be 25 - 30000). Yet our president lives in a mansion on the main line, one of the most expensive areas on the east coast. The library still has asbestos in it, but will they build a new building? No, they'd rather have a fancy new gym. It is a nice gym and I plan to use the pool frequently once I work fulltime and don't have to pay for membership, but still - you can see where their priorities lie.

  • by russotto (537200) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:11PM (#47290103) Journal
    It's because colleges and universities are natural collectors of Element 0 -- Administratium [lhup.edu]
  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:22PM (#47290139) Homepage

    Basically post-secondary education was marketed really really well.
    So we have more and more post-secondary students.

    This has wide ranging effects.
    A diploma is worth less and less, as everyone has one (we have far more graduates than jobs that call for them).
    A diploma costs more, more demand for a diploma from children means you can charge more.
    And since the job market is flooded with out of work Professors and Master students the mean salary and working conditions for lecturers/professors falls.

  • Wrong question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubwvj (1045960) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:23PM (#47290153)

    "At a time when tuition prices are rising faster than ever, why are we skimping on the most fundamental aspect of college?"

    You are asking the wrong question. It isn't "We" it is "They". Colleges are seen as the bastion of liberalism but they are run as businesses by over paid executives hired by boards of directors (trustees) with the goal of maximizing profits and endowments. There is no "We" in this question.

  • by ggraham412 (1492023) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:24PM (#47290157)

    At a time when tuition prices are rising faster than ever, why are we skimping on the most fundamental aspect of college?

    Because many more able people want to teach than there are available positions.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:46PM (#47290255)

    Professors in technical areas make large amounts of money, and are guaranteed their salary for life once they've been promoted once (to associate professor).

    In my department, at the lowest level - assistant professor (tenure track, but not yet tenured) - they are making well north of 10K dollars a month. Full professors fall anywhere between 15K-25K a month.

    On the other hand, professors in the arts or history departments make less than many staff earn.

    Note that this is all public record - I'm not exactly giving away secrets.

  • by TarPitt (217247) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:50PM (#47290279)

    and for the skilled mostly blue-collar jobs that are vital to our society but do not require 4-year degrees.

    Once a skilled trade provided a good shot at a decent middle-class livelihood. Something has happened to devalue these skills.

    Young people get college degrees for which they are unsuited because it appears there is no alternative.

    Despite all the jokes about degreed barristas working for the minimum wage, the absence of a degree is now the best way to ensure a lifetime of poorly paid jobs.

    • by rcoxdav (648172) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:08PM (#47290343)
      The issues with the trades is not pay. Take a look at how much a plumber or electrician can make in the Chicago area. Here [plumberslu130ua.org] is a link showing how much they make. A 5th year apprentice would make about $70k a year working full time.

      The problem is that the trades are totally dismissed by the school counselors. We don't need so many people in traditional colleges. We need more people in the trades. Another example is in lower level IT. Basic help desk and level 1 support people need vocational training, not a BS or BA. We need to re-align higher education.You do not need a BS in CS to maintain a network.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:56PM (#47290289)
    I'm a retired chemistry professor from a Major university and was on some committee or other looking into university finances. One striking stat was that the non academic administration used 60% of the total budget. 60%!!!! Nothing could be done about it - the salaries of those folks were locked in by long term contract and many of them had no idea what an institution of higher education was about. These guys were bean counters, fund raisers and politicians but never taught a class, met a student, got a grant or did research in their professional lives yet they made judgements about the faculty competence, salaries and promotions. One of my professor colleagues found that the department secretary was making more than he was and left academia for a government research lab. No wonder universities are filled with temporary teachers having MS degrees making $2,000 per semester per 3 credit hour course. Think about lab instructors making $700 per semester per 3 contact hours teaching per week involving student contact plus time for lab report and quiz and exam grading, weekly staff meetings, and office hours. I wonder if fast food workers, restaurant wait persons, and bar tenders don't make more income in a year.
  • Could be Worse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:56PM (#47290291) Homepage

    I honestly feel bad for these people, but they think it's bad now, just wait.

    A first semester physics class pretty much covers the same material at every university and doesn't really change from year to year. In this day and age, there's really no reason other than tradition why we need to keep hiring thousands of people to present essentially identical lectures over and over.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:56PM (#47290293)

    Administrators are getting record salaries, all the benefits you can imagine, and extremely lucrative "golden parachutes"

    At my university they have a graph showing administrator pay and lecturer pay, and the administrator pay is literally off the chart while lecturer pay is on a steady decline.

    It's the same thing in high schools. We're bitching about tenure and bad teachers -- who hires those bad teachers? Administrators. They pick the cheapest green thumbs they can find so they can get rid of the more expensive, more qualified veteran teachers. It is literally, entirely their fault why schools hire bad teachers.

    Administrators are the reason high school and university funds are misspent, misdirected, misused, and why actual services to help the students and teachers/lecturers are not funded. They're the ones that want a $400 ELMO machine in every classroom but won't spend a nickel on writing paper, pencils, books, or any of the basics.

    When it comes to education administrators are always the problem. They are the most removed from education, they have the least experience with education, and they never listen to the students, parents, or other faculty when making their decisions.

  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:58PM (#47290301) Homepage

    The fact of the matter is that there are far too many people who want faculty positions compared to the number of available positions. I quote directly from our university president, "I can get professors anywhere."

    This is detrimental to learning as well. Some adjunct faculty, desperate to keep jobs, rely on easy courses and popularity with students to stay employed. Many others feel obligated to help students beyond the limited office hours they're paid for, essentially working for free in order to get the students the help they need. At a time when tuition prices are rising faster than ever, why are we skimping on the most fundamental aspect of college?

    There is pressure from the administration to buffer grades, as that effects various important statistics for the school, and it's far easier for them to give out As rather than worry about complaints and legal action etc., but otherwise the administration couldn't give a rats arse about how popular the professors are with the students. They care most about how much research money the professor is bringing in. Maybe at some big private school where you have legacies and wealthy donnors to worry about the administration actually cares about the students' feelings.

    No one goes into a professorship expecting a 9-5 job, but pointing out professors are spending extra time with their students isn't really making the case the situtation is detrimental for education, either. When you get your degree, you have a decision -- do I enjoy doing research/teaching so much that I go into academia, or do I want a profitable career and go into industry? Professors aren't in it for the money. They're the sort of people who just wouldn't fit anywhere else. You don't need to pay them well. The professors making $40k tend to work as hard and spend as much time in the lab as the professors making $80k. I'll bet many would work for room and board if you gave them a nice lab to go with it.

    If you want to improve the situation, your options are either establish some legal minimums, or curb the excess of academics by providing either positions for them and/or doing a better job of training people for other positions. Unless you're an engineer, most bachelors degrees are more or less geared toward becoming an academic, even though relatively few people will wind up in academia, and it doesn't help this situation when you have a flood of graduates who aren't really sure what they can do with themselves besides stay in the university environment.

  • Where the money goes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:13PM (#47290363)

    I am a university professor, so I know a little bit about fighting for money.

    Tuition rates are indeed skyrocketing, and most of that money is getting funneled into two places: athletic programs and facilities.

    Most universities are in a facilities arms race to build lab complexes and procure equipment to attract foreign students, who are often backed by enormous and nearly unlimited sums of money back home. The university I work for has an entire administrative department whose sole purpose is to court foreign students.

    Athletic programs are pretty self-explanatory.

    • by gwolf (26339) <gwolf&gwolf,org> on Sunday June 22, 2014 @12:41AM (#47291609) Homepage

      ...I find this whole thread really amazing to read, and almost impossible to understand.

      Most countries I know have large, well-reputed public university systems. I happen to work on the largest university of Mexico (and Latin America), UNAM. Tuition? Virtually zero (there is a 1940s law where it stipulates a tuition for this university... It currently sits at MX$0.30, or ~US$0.02 per semester). Most public schools in Mexico have 100% free programs. Not only that, the same situation holds for most of Latin America. And that's for college level ("Licenciatura") — Want to study a Masters or Doctorate degree? In all of the "excellence"-rated programs, you are automatically entitled to receive funding from the government so you don't have to find a way to pay for your life while you work to become a more productive member of society. And yes, we do have private universities, often as expensive as USA-based ones are. But the fields where they excel are usually very different.

      I know this same model exists in most Latin American countries. European states have a somewhat different program, but still, public (government-funded and tuition-free) universities are all but the norm. I just cannot understand how the USA continues to function (some would even say, thrive) under such schemes.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:31PM (#47291159)

    [Academic year] salaries for full-time faculty averaged $73,207. By rank, the average was $98,974 for professors, $69,911 for associate professors, $58,662 for assistant professors, $42,609 for instructors, and $48,289 for lecturers. Faculty in 4-year institutions earn higher salaries, on average, than do those in 2-year schools. In 2006–07, faculty salaries averaged $84,249 in private independent institutions, $71,362 in public institutions, and $66,118 in religiously affiliated private colleges and universities

    Source: Department of Labor, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

    By comparison, median personal income is $32000, so those are actually clearly all middle class or above (yes, even taking into account median vs average); keep in mind that the above academic salaries are for 9 months, not 12 months, of work.

    Furthermore, faculty salaries have slightly increased over time in constant dollars; they certainly haven't decreased, so teaching college is no less of a middle class job now than it was 10 or 20 years ago.

    http://www.nea.org/home/34399.... [nea.org]

    And for every faculty opening, there are usually dozens of applications, so there is an oversupply of people willing to do this job.

    Finally, if you want to earn more money, do something more demanding than teaching French literature, like tax preparation or accounting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by buswolley (591500)

      you miss the point. They are not hiring full faculty. They are hiring adjuncts, with pay scales around 20-30k. Also there is the post-doc hell.

  • by David Jao (2759) <djao@dominia.org> on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:33PM (#47291163) Homepage

    When Mary Margaret Vojtko died last September—penniless and virtually homeless and eighty-three years old, having been referred to Adult Protective Services because the effects of living in poverty made it seem to some that she was incapable of caring for herself—it made the news because she was a professor.

    The story of Mary Margaret Vojtko is more complicated than it seems on first glance. Vojtko was a hoarder who rebuffed numerous attempts by others to reach out and help. [slate.com] Among other things, she refused to let a repairman fix her boiler because she didn't want anyone disturbing her house. Yes, she was paid poorly and had no benefits, but there were other factors at work.

  • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Sunday June 22, 2014 @12:07AM (#47291495) Homepage

    Sports. That is all there really is to it. The idiocracy of America values sports infinitely higher than academics. University of Chicago, one of the schools with the least emphasis on sports, has 81% full time instructors, the majority tenure or on the tenure track, and a student to teacher ratio of 6:1. Yes it's expensive to go there, but at least you know where the money is going. It's not paying $5 million a year for a name football coach.

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