professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Both Sides Now

I love this song by Joni Mitchell. It talks about how we can look at things differently as tiome passes. The older I get, the more this seems true. And it is true when I read op-ed pieces that seem to be decidedly one-sided. This piece ran in the spring in the New York Times: It points the finger at increased tuition being caused by high salaried administrators. It asserts that funding has not been cut, indeed it is flourishing. Well, not in my neck of the woods.

Are salaries higher? Yep. Over time that happens to salaries. It took me nearly 10 years of university teaching, though, to catch up to the salary I was earning as a middle school teacher. And it meant teaching summers as well. I am not crying over my salary; I am simply pointing out that many of the new faculty members coming to the university face salary cuts. And, I ask you to consider this:

"The average annual salary for head coaches at major colleges (not including four schools that moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision this season) is $1.64 million, up nearly 12% over last season — and more than 70% since 2006, when USA TODAY Sports began tracking coaches' compensation" USA Today

Our administrators do not make anything near this average.

The other claim that funding has not been cut is false at least here in the Lone Star State (and I suspect lots of other places as well). It dropped 7% in one year (2012). It has been cut before and since as well. Colleges were told to make up the cuts with tuition hikes, hikes lawmakers now seem to have forgotten, quite conveniently.

But I think there is more sinister stuff going on. In an effort to make college more affordable, we have seen the rise of the online programs that offer degrees and other programs that offer semester hour credits for life experience. Oh, and I did I mention alternative certification programs.

If you want to dismantle education as a place where students learn to THINK (and not to become career ready as if this were some sort of factory training ground), then this is the blueprint: cut funding, offer alternatives. And one more thing: criticize the poor job colleges and universities are doing (never mind that those criticizing wen to said colleges). As I near retirement, I find I have less and less patience with those who cut funding and then criticize. I do not tolerate those who have quick fixes, either.

I was fortunate enough to graduate debt-free. I commuted to and from classes via bus; I worked close to full time to defray tuition. I did not attend summer classes so I could save up funds for the rest of the school year. But times have changed, and this is not entirely possible. If we do not safeguard what is left, I fear college will once again become something that only the elite will be able to access.

It certainly does not help when one of our own (the authors of the NYT piece is a professor) points fingers without telling all of the story.

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