One has to laugh when one reads that "liberal, socialist, anti-American, tenured radicals" have taken over American higher education. Actually, our institutions of higher learning are coming more and more under the control of autocratic and bureaucratic administrators, often with backgrounds in business, who are forcing our colleges to adopt a "corporate" model. Some have called this the "Walmartization of higher education." One would think this "business" model would actually please many conservatives!
A look at the facts shows that "tenured" academic positions have become much less common in the last two decades. Statistics show that up to 75 percent of college professors are adjunct instructors with little hope of achieving full-time status with any benefits, much less "tenure". While adjunct instructors may teach the same load as full-time instructors, they are compensated less and some actually qualify for public assistance!
It is no secret that colleges across the country want to eliminate their full-time faculty and to replace them with poorly-compensated adjuncts. Some colleges try to accomplish this through attrition/retirement. In some cases, administrators permit work environments that drive professors to quit or retire early. In other cases, highly competent, long-serving full-time instructors are simply replaced with adjuncts.
While there is certainly a place for adjuncts and many are certainly highly committed educators, the downgrading of full-time positions has negative effects upon higher education. These include less time spent with students and, since adjuncts are often looking for full-time jobs, there is understandably less commitment to the college.
Many perpetuate the myth that college academics — and educators in general — are "underworked and overpaid". This disrespect for the teaching profession is echoed by many politicians as well as by educational bureaucrats, many of whom have spent little time in a classroom but who earn huge salaries because of their "business expertise". The management style of many administrators is "top down" and even autocratic, with little regard for the input of faculty and staff members who for years have served students and built our colleges. In addition, there is a growing trend where the "bottom line", slick salesmanship and appearances are more important than quality. This can only lead to the further "dumbing down" of higher education.
Meanwhile, students pay outrageously high tuition and take out loans they will spend years paying back while the role of the instructor is degraded and the administrators pay themselves larger salaries. This is part of the so-called "business model" in higher education. Some administrators even call students "customers" and courses "products". As in corporate culture, the CEOs and other top managers of our colleges and universities expect salaries much, much higher than the average employee as well as such "perks" as free housing, annuities, club memberships, and company cars. Of course, in some places, the athletic directors and coaches make even more than the administrators!
Three decades ago, it was possible for a student to finance a college education with high school savings, perhaps some family contribution, and student and summer jobs. There was a time when, in some states, community college courses were free or at very low cost.
Those who support this corporate model are going to blame faculty and collective bargaining for the rising cost of education. Administrators often cite a "lack of funding". While it is true that legislatures are giving less to public education it is equally true that more and more administrative staff is being hired at salaries much higher than any instructor. Instead of investing in good faculty, they invest in more educational bureaucrats, buildings or in highly experimental programs designed to turn colleges into "degree mills". While it is public money being used, there is sometimes a woeful lack of oversight. Perhaps tax dollars are being misspent but who is doing the misspending?
And, why do lawmakers not see education and keeping good, loyal instructors as a sound investment? They claim they value education but actions "speak louder than words".
Public education is not a business. It is a service that should be available to all. Education is already free through the university level in many countries. A fraction of what we have spent on the military in the last decade could pay off all student loans and give several years of free higher education for America's students. Surely, quality education is also part of "national security".
(Scott Cracraft is a U.S. citizen, taxpayer, voter, veteran, and resident of Gilford.)
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