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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008
One of the most moving and graphic tales of adjunct life appeared in today's Inside Higher Ed. By graphic I mean a mixture of descriptions of impossible teaching loads, terrible hours, unpayable debt, non-healthcare, and summer unemployment pay. But in the midst of it he says this:
Some have asked why I continued to teach as a part-timer if things were so tough, and to be honest, every spring I begin asking myself that same question. In fact, I have left teaching twice. The first time I was offered a position as a business manager for a corporation that owns travel stops throughout the Southwest. The money was good, the hours were close to what I would put in as a part-time instructor (counting prep time and time grading papers), and I had benefits.

I hated it.

There is something about teaching that keeps pulling me in. I love writing, and I love sharing my passion for it with my students. I love feeling that I might be making a positive difference in people’s lives. I love feeling like I’m contributing something to my community.

The first time I left teaching, I stayed away for one year. The second time, I resisted the call for two years. Twelve years ago I moved to the Seattle area, landed teaching jobs at three different schools, and have been performing the juggling act of a freeway flyer ever since.
Then there's a semi-happy ending - for him.

The temping of a whole higher ed teaching profession is a crazy, thoughtless, destructive thing whose passage means we are sleepwalking about money and all means for all the Jacks who teach and teach and teach and don't write these articles.

The whole point of the humanities for me is to rescue our obscure selves from oblivion, which is where temping puts all the brilliant Jacks. So how screwed up is it that we teach the humanities with adjuncts? They teach, get back in their car, drive away, disappear.

This trend has to end.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008
The New York Times has had good coverage of problems in the student loan industry - to put it politely. They have a good new piece on how some major banks are cutting back on loans to community college students, who are generally the least-well-off economically and who amount to 40% of the country's college students. The banks seem to be segmenting the student loan market, with loans to students at expensive private universities remaining fairly easy to get. "The banks generally say these loans are bigger, more profitable and less risky, in part perhaps because the banks expect the universities’ graduates to earn more." Some community colleges are getting redlined.

Michelle McClain, 40, who is studying to become a teacher, learned on Friday that she would have to find a new lender after Citibank dropped William Jessup University. The news angered her.

“The loan is between me and the lender,” Ms. McClain said. “I’m the one that’s taking out the loan, I’m the one whose credit is in jeopardy if I don’t pay it, I am the one totally responsible for the loan, and as long as I’m going to an accredited college, I don’t understand why it would make one iota of difference where I am going to college.”
In a speech last week, University of Missouri President Gary Forsee cited some all-too-familiar stats about the decline of public funding for Missouri higher ed. Missouri is 47th out of 50 in per-capita spending on higher education, in part because the share of the U of M budget that comes from the state has fallen from over 60% to 30% in the last eight years.

Missouri's growth in student enrollments was also weak (39th of 50), so its increase in approporiations between 2001 and 2006 was actually above average (SHEEO's State Higher Education Finance FY 2006, Figures 12 and 13). That's a sad commentary on the rest of the country. Missouri is a little sadder though - its tax effort per capita is 0.71, where the US average is 1.0.

Forsee asks how Missouri can prepare itself for the economy of the future with that kind of higher ed spending. The same question goes for states that think they are the economy of the future, like California. California is still above the US averge, but not by much. A super-competitive economy supposedly means you need to be much more special to do well, not be somewhat above average.

We also need to explain how universities help broader social goals, like supporting "minority-majority" states that work because they are equitable. But even in mainstream economic terms, higher ed investment looks poor.