Education

The ‘Recipe For Disaster’ Threatening Students & Teachers

September 17, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco

Experts say higher education is under threat.

Experts say higher education is under threat.

New York, NY – Hardworking moms and dads struggling to get their kids through college won’t be happy to learn that higher institutions of learning across the country are increasingly spending a lot more money on already well-paid administrators than those actually teaching in front of the classroom — and students are the ones being shortchanged in the process. 

Supporters of a new report from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education called “Who Needs Faculty?”, say what’s happening inside colleges and universities today is a “recipe for disaster” that actually threatens the nation’s democratic core.

Back in 1969, three-quarters of college educators were either already tenured or on the tenure track. Today, that number has dwindled to a paltry 26.5 percent, leaving most of the job of educating students to poorly compensated, overworked adjunct professors who are still considered part-time employees no matter how long they’ve been at the job.

“We’re making the wrong choices with our money,” Adrianna Kezar, associate director, Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis said during a conference call with reporters this week. 

On average, adjuncts professors — or “contingent faculty” as they’re also called — earn about $3,000 per course. They’re services can be terminated at any time, benefits are dismal and despite being highly educated and credentialed, many earn less than $40,000 a year.  

The situation is so bleak, that nearly half of all adjunct professors must also juggle part-time jobs just to make ends meet. The so-called “just-in-time” employment model means that adjunct professors actually don’t have enough time to give students the kind extra classroom support education experts insist students need to thrive. 

“The irony is that we have institutions of higher learning calling for greater student engagement at the same time they are systematically disengaging from faculty,” said Gary Rhoades, director, Center for the Study of Higher Education. “But if you want the engagement of students, you need to be engaging faculty.”

While tuition rates and student loan debt continue to soar unabated, and adjunct professor salaries remain largely stagnant, Center for the Study of Higher Education analysts also say that administrative payrolls are “mushrooming” with university and college presidents raking in salaries comparable to blue chip CEOs. 

Good teachers may only want to be paid well to teach, but the economic realities playing out on modern college and university campuses means that many adjunct professors are under increasing pressure to chuck it all, and think about becoming “education managers” themselves. 

“They are being told that if you want to change your financial situation, just stop teaching,” said Jennifer Eagan, president of the California Faculty Association. “But if they have to sacrifice [like that], it’s not a fair choice for them to make. We’re really in a crisis.”

Follow Joe on Twitter @maniscalco_Joe or email him at joe@laborpress.org

September 17, 2015

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