de Vos: Too late, smart
The Friday Report
It was an exciting time when I was in college.
Hard to imagine but the politics of the late 1960s were more turbulent and divisive than today. The pervasive philosophy among a fairly unified body of college students was not to trust anyone over 30. Fat, old, white men were drafting us as disposable pawns to serve their global ambitions and that didn’t sit well. Many believed that peace and stability couldn’t be found in carpet bombing and deforestation.
We had Jefferson Airplane and the Beatles screaming for Revolution, with Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs telling us why and Cat Stevens trying to calm the whole thing down.
It was a dangerous time as well. On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a group of unarmed students, wounding eight and killing four. Police across the nation donned riot gear and bashed kids with clubs, flooding campuses with tear gas and fire hoses in retaliation for protesting a futile, senseless war. The Vietnamese called it “the American War”, a war that never officially ended; the US simply gave up and went home.
What we didn’t have back then was a gilded buffoon running for president to put a ridiculous spin on things. Nope, there was nothing funny about Tricky Dick, Richard Millhouse Nixon.
One thing we did have was affordable higher education. In my final year at Arizona State, tuition cost around $20 per semester hour, so a full-time student paid about $640 per year. Books often cost about the same, a rip-off we felt, as professors required new editions every year or so.
College administrators today explain the incredible rise in tuition by citing a decrease in public funding. But that’s only a distraction, furthermore it’s a lie. The US military budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960 while government funding of higher education is more than 10 times higher. Had automobile prices risen that fast, an average Ford would cost over $80,000.
What college administrators won’t tell you is that salaries of full-time teachers are barely higher than they were in 1970. That year, 78 percent of the faculty were full-time employees but today that number has dropped below 50 percent. Universities are hiring lower-paid, part-time teachers without benefits. The net result is that the average salaries of teachers have actually declined in real dollars.
So what’s going on? Between 1993 and 2009, Bloomberg reports that administrative positions at university and colleges grew an astonishing 10 times faster than the increase in faculty positions.
In just one striking example, California State University faculty members rose from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, while administration positions increased from 3,800 to 12,183.
In 1970, there were 1.7 teachers per administrator. Since then student numbers have risen by about 50 percent and this has generally been matched by the increase in the numbers of teachers. However, during this same time, administrators have increased by 85 percent and administrative staff support has risen by a staggering 240 percent.
While teacher’s salaries have remained stagnant, the same is not true for college presidents and administrators. Graham Spanier was president of Penn State in 2011. He got fired for covering up the fact that Jerry Sandusky had been sexually molesting children on university property for years. Nonetheless, he was still granted his full salary for that year, a mere $2.9 million dollars. Though disgraced and hopefully unemployable, no doubt Spanier takes comfort in his continuing tenured position collecting $600,000 annually from Penn State while not allowed on campus.
Similar examples of rock-star salaries abound in university circles. A college education has always been the American dream. For many of the 42 million Americans who are trapped in $1.3 trillion dollars of student debt, administrative bloat has turned that dream into a nightmare.
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