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Education The Almighty Buck

Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job 538

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.

  • 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?

  • 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:Administrators (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dfenstrate ( 202098 ) < minus language> 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:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:07PM (#47290097)

    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:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:15PM (#47290123)

    In capitalism, people doing the actual work get screwed by the layers of management stealing from them.

    In leftism, people doing the actual work get screwed by the layers of administrators stealing from them.

  • 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 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 TarPitt ( 217247 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:52PM (#47290283)

    *Not* being a college graduate is a certain guarantee of a lifetime of poorly paying jobs.

  • 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.

  • Re: Administrators (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:06PM (#47290325)

    Oh look, he thinks that IT is programming/comp sci.

    How cute.

    I don't expect the IT guy to be able to write a damn line of C code, but I have also run into plenty of programmers that can't remember why you have to "safely eject" a USB drive in Windows.

    "Uh, hey, I can't find my stuff...can you get it back?"

    IT is to comp sci as plumbing is to hydrology - I don't expect the hydrology prof at URIGSO to know how to hook up plastic pipe to copper, and I don't expect the plumber to tell me anything about the Ogallala Aquifer.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:12PM (#47290359)
    When will the guberment learn blah blah blah wibble blah? This is the angry bold text. Socialists. Socialists. I have no idea what the fuck I'm doing. Government is bad. Except when it's killing brown people, go America. Kill more brown people. Taxes. Taxes. More angry bold text.
  • 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;

  • 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, Insightful)

    by Mantrid42 ( 972953 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:34PM (#47290437)
    Yup. One administrator should not be worth four professors: []
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:39PM (#47290715)

    >Don't straw man me

    You said, and I quote accurately:

    All these people who go to college for the piece of paper are turning colleges into half-assed trade schools

    If those aren't students, then who the fuck are they?

    -- BMO

    For all the arguments about "who's to blame", the students are probably the least to blame.

    Kids have been indoctrinated since day one that they have to go to college, lest they lose the game of life. It takes a while to figure out that it is bullshit.

    And what has happened is that in the supply and demand world created by the entire educational system, and gobbled up by parents who fear that their children will get too far behind if they don't read stories to them while in the womb, colleges have seen fit to increase tuition by double digit amounts every year.

    And they have added layer upon layer of management structure, which conveniently sucks up all that money as overhead. Teaching has become irrelevant, and college is viewed as High school grades 13 through 17.

    And unless the student is a scholarship case, or has wealthy parents, many (most?) parents are forced to forgo retirement savings, or the student has to take out easily available loans, which put them in a huge amount of debt.

    Now however, they have a tiger by the tail. They've been churning out graduates like crazy, and in a supply/demand equation, there is a glut of supply. Which is why you see Staff assistants and McDonald's shift supervisors with degrees, and businesses even demanding them for jobs that need no degree at all. We'll be seeing demands for degrees in the mailroom soon.

    So IMO, the heirarchy of blame:

    1. Academically inclined people who like every working group, believes that solving problems demands more of their own group. Engineers wnat more engineers, accountants, more accountants, etc.

    2. Primary and secondary schools that buy in.

    3. Well meaning but stupid parents who adhere to the old stereotype - Go to the right preschool, so you can go to the right Kindergarten, so you can get itno the right school, so you can go to the right college, so you can meet the right person, get the right job, get married in the right church, live in the right neighborhood.......

    4. Colleges and universities that are willing and able to take advantage of people who are willing to pay almost anything to achieve that "rightness".

    5. Way down on the list are the victims, the students.

    It's just now, after years of grumbling, that the equation is getting askew, that the benefits are starting to not be worth the cost.

  • 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!

  • Re:Administrators (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:54PM (#47290787)

    None of that tirade makes job placement the point of a university.

    Except when it's being sold as that.

    Funny, I recall the local university making job prospects a big part of thei pitch.

    In your idealized situation, the university exists as a way to produce more professors, and to advance knowledge. Not as a training ground for careers. I think at one time, that was probably true.

    Okay - then why do they all quite happily take money from people who are especting something that they have no intention of producing? Your ideal University, and the real world situation make the University/student relationship identical to the Carny/Rube relationship.

    In other words, how to get as much money as possible from people you despise, while giving as little back in return.

    If your ideal University actually existed, they would turn away most potential students. It's pretty hard to justify taking money from people with no intention of giving them what they think they are there for.

  • 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.

  • Re:Administrators (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:48PM (#47291209) Homepage

    Greed is the problem. Sheer insensate insatiable greed is consuming the whole system and education is just part of that system that is also collapsing. Snarling animals fighting in a pit, the more they fight, the less they have, so the more they fight. Greed is consuming US society, starving it into collapse. The illusion of marketing is predominating all, attempting to hide the reality of the harm greed is causing. Blame it on government, blame it on corporations but never ever blame it on the person in the mirror. The US government has become exactly what Americans have allowed it to become, a puppet of US corporations run by psychopaths and everything else is being torn down with it. Government is never corrupt, individuals within government are corrupt and of course those paying the bribes from private industry are corrupt. Don't forget, they are always the minority because when they cease to be a minority the country collapses and ceases to be. They are social parasites consuming ever more resources creating vast piles of economic dung that they live in, starving out the rest of society, until it all collapses. This failing is just another sign of that collapse.

  • Re:Administrators (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @06:53AM (#47292331)

    1. Academically inclined people who like every working group, believes that solving problems demands more of their own group. Engineers wnat more engineers, accountants, more accountants, etc.

    This is a problem in two ways. First, one of those groups- the leadership and administration- is in charge of determining how the pie is cut. Unsurprisingly, over time we find that the people who cut the pie end up with larger and larger slices, and the people doing the baking, rolling the dough, grinding the flour and cutting up the pumpkins (it is a pumpkin pie in our example, because I like pumpkin pie, and if you don't, you can write your own pie-based metaphor) get less and less. Good leadership and management are critical to the success of an organization, but administrative bloat just increases the paperwork and make life more difficult for everyone else. Now the guy rolling the dough has to fill out a bunch of forms and get a performance review, and the guy buying the flour has to go through a complicated procurement process instead of just going down to the store. So this creates inefficiency and waste within the university.

    The other issue is the degree to which university education is itself wasteful. We're fed the line that we need more PhDs to be competitive. This is a vicious lie, spread by self-serving academics. One recent article found that only 15% of biology PhDs got a tenure-track job within 5 years of receiving their PhD. I don't know what the figure is these days, but I guarantee you that with the economic downturn and the surge of grad school enrollment after the financial crisis, that percentage went down. I don't necessarily have a problem with a system that rejects 85% of people and keeps only the 15% who are good if the cut is made early. The problem is that you're forcing people to invest 5-6 years in a PhD (perhaps on top of a couple years of MS), and then another 5 years as a postdoc... and then you're casting them off. Training up a bunch of people to do jobs they will never realistically get to do is exploitative, cruel, and wasteful. It reminds me of a parable told by Zhuangzi, about a student who paid a great deal to a teacher to be taught the art of dragon-slaying... he graduates only to find that there's no market for his highly specialized skills, because he can't find any dragons. Grad school is a lot like that.

    Graduate school primarily exists to serve one need- not the need of a student for education, not the need of society for a highly educated workforce- the need of academia for cheap labor. Graduate students exist to help teach courses and run experiments, cheaply. They are the cheap, hard-working, moderately skilled migrant fruit-picker of academia. Recently I was given this advice on a grant proposal: don't hire a postdoc, they're expensive and if they're actually any good at all, they'll just try to get a job and leave. For the same price, you get two grad students, and they're guaranteed to stick around for the duration of the PhD. Great. So instead of throwing a lifeline to some dumb bastard of a postdoc who was stupid enough to go into academia, we're going to instead create two new people who will in a few years go on to compete with the first poor fuck in the impossible quest for a tenure track job. But the incentives are structured by the university and the granting agency so that we will end up doing just that.

    That's my reward for being in the 15%. I get to go from being the exploited, to the exploitee. No longer a whore, but madam of my own whorehouse. Hopefully I'll still be able to look myself in the mirror in a few years. I try to rationalize what I'm doing by saying hey, at least I'm honest. I tell prospective students just what they're in for. I will never, ever say "in a few years there will be a lot of retirements, and a lot of jobs will become available". They've been saying that for 20 years, and they'll say it for another 20, and it will never, ever happen. And if I ever say that, please shoot me. But there's

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin