Why Study Chicano/Latino Studies?

Digital storytelling project from CHLS 498, CSU Long Beach. Reflects history and social significance of the discipline.


“MnSCU faculty distraught about system’s ‘bold shift’ to Soviet-style bureaucracy” (Monte Bute)

bureaucracy

    by Teri Shaffer Yamada, CSU Long Beach

(Thanks to Monte Bute, Sociology professor at  Metro State University,  for forwarding information  on this  issue.)

In fall  2012, Chancellor Rosenstone of the  Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, with its 54-campus system, declared that it must become more “strategic” and confront “’wicked questions’ around the future of higher education and the system itself.”  (1) He charged a new 46-member Task Force, split into three workgroups, to develop a ten-year strategic plan incorporating its vision of three broad topics—  the education, the workforce, and the system of the future— that would provide “the most cost-effective, highest value education” to all Minnesotans.

In June 2013, his task force described their 35-page, first-draft report of “Charting the Future” as a  “bold shift” for the MnSCU system.  Along with the merging of collective bargaining units, it advocated “campus and center mergers, relocating academic  programs and offering a single portal to the system’s online offerings.” This initial draft was open for comments and review over the subsequent four months.  The second draft, with a set of six recommended strategic priorities,  has just been published, with the report to be finalized prior to the November 2013 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

In response to the latest draft,   the Inter Faculty Organization (IFO), a faculty union representing 4,000 faculty members at seven Minnesota state universities, released this comment: “We oppose moving toward a Soviet-style management structure with centrally controlled decision making by bureaucrats who are far removed from the classroom.” The IFO’s key criticisms are that the plan could squeeze out innovation on campuses and emphasize job-training programs at the expense of academic ones: “Student program choices should not be limited to the programs supported by the business community.” (2)  See their complete comments below.

The IFO critique is denied by the administration, which emphasizes that collaboration is a core value of the 10-year plan.

A key to understanding this difference of perspective between the IFO and administration is the process itself.  Chancellor Rosenstone’s 46-member task force had a membership of 14-17 people per workgroup: typically two faculty, two students and two staff representatives, with approximately 50-60% of the remaining membership  the “administrative cohort’”(campus presidents, deans, trustees and Chancellor’s Fellows).  Administrators headed all three  work groups.

Were the six non-administrative representatives on a work group to agree on specific recommendations, they could still be outvoted by the administrative cohort. The lack of real power for faculty representation within this organizational structure is familiar to those of us who have served on university task forces with similar membership composition.  It simply provides a cover story for faculty participation.

The Catch-22 for a faculty representative on this type of structured task force is the genuine desire to make a difference.  If one faculty member refuses to serve, another will be appointed anyway.  Yet it is unlikely that one faculty opinion will sway the rest of the group given its composition.  Ironically, a faculty representative’s thoughtful ideas ultimately may be redirected to a means of oppressing fellow faculty rather than serving their interests.

Nancy Black, union president of IFO and a faculty representative on the “Education of the Future” workgroup, states that the June report took her by surprise: “We had what I would term, euphemistically, lively discussions,” she said, but her group did not vote on any of the recommendations. She said she did not see the final draft until it was made public June 19.    She also reports that faculty were “enraged at me for being a part of it.”  The truth  is  Nancy Black was never  “part of it”  since she was excluded from the smaller core of decision makers within her work group.  They are the ones who formed the first rough draft and circulated it among themselves for comment before forwarding it to whomever put the entire report together.

The game was rigged from the beginning, with the Chancellor’s questions that skew the outcome and the Task Force composition.  Given these two factors, the recommendations naturally reflect administrative interests.   These interests are currently to provide efficiencies that include weakening faculty power over the curriculum,  shared governance structures,  and faculty unions —that is shifting more control to the administration in a top-down organizational structure.    This efficiency objective incorporates the consolidation and elimination of programs and colleges—essentially the elimination of faculty and staff jobs— and the shrinking of knowledge or its elimination through the privileging of “professional” degrees.

The following statements are from the 2009 report “Bridging the Skills Gap”  found in the Task Force’s bibliography, a report we infer was used to shape their recommendations:

When jobs are created again, actual hiring patterns will vary by industry and by geography, but one pattern is already clear according to Lisa Belkin in an October 2009 New York Times article. Many of the low-skill, low-wage jobs lost during the current recession were held by men. Many of the jobs that will be created during the recovery will be filled by women because they cost less to hire—women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by a man—and because they are concentrated in industries, such as healthcare and education, that are expected to grow….

Professional and related occupations will be one of the two fastest-growing and will add the most new jobs. Almost three-quarters of job growth will come from three occupations: computer and math occupations; healthcare practitioners and technical occupations; and education, training, and library occupations…. Management, scientific, and technical consulting services will grow 78 percent.  According to BLS, “demand for these services will be spurred by the increased use of new technology and computer software and the growing complexity of business.” (p. 9)

Through the Task Force’s  vision of efficiency, its 10-year plan eliminates choice and diversity of knowledge, both faculty values.   Administrative vision is also very costly to implement.  Just one item, the consolidation of online courses from 54 campuses into one portal, may require ten’s of millions of dollars in course redesign and a costly private provider for the unifying learning management system (LMS) or platform that will be required to link campuses or establish a supra structure over them.  There is no cost-benefit analysis attached to this report.  And we have yet to see how many costly administrators are projected to be eliminated with this bold vision.

(1)  The Chancellor’s questions shape the vision itself: These questions focus heavily on e-learning, technology, and workplace solutions responsive to business and industry as well as access and cost-saving efficiencies.

(2) IFL Board Response to “Charting the Future”   is available here.

The IFO Board Response to Charting the Future (CTF)

The IFO strongly supports Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ (MnSCU) strategic framework:

a. b. c.

Ensure access to an extraordinary education for all Minnesotans; Be the partner of choice to meet Minnesota’s workforce and community needs; Deliver to students, employers, communities, and taxpayers the highest value/most affordable option.

However, the IFO rejects the strategic recommendations of Charting the Future:

1. Charting the Future promotes centralization—a goal the IFO fundamentally rejects. According to CTF: “Our system values institutional autonomy and decentralization…. This culture is out of sync in a world where collaboration and synergy are needed….” (CTF:9). The CTF document is filled with proposals that promote centralization—for example, a statewide academic planning and program review process; a statewide facilities master plan; a statewide certification of competency based award of credit; a comprehensive statewide e-strategy; and continuing education and customized training through statewide collaboration.

Instead, student and community needs are best achieved through competitive and highly autonomous institutions that can quickly and nimbly change to meet local and regional needs. We oppose moving toward a Soviet-style management structure with centrally controlled decisions made by bureaucrats who are far removed from the classroom. Multi-layered, centralized bureaucracies tend to be self-perpetuating, and consume financial resources that could be better spent on student learning.

2. CTF fails to address the most pressing higher education issues on the minds of students, their families, and the legislators who represent them: student debt and the affordability of higher education. MnSCU sought a 3% tuition increase in 2013, a goal the IFO successfully opposed during the 2013 legislative session. In CTF, MnSCU pays lip service to affordability, without supporting policies to accomplish it. IFO supports efforts to reduce the cost of higher education, which is best accomplished through local control.

3. The MnSCU state universities have been a critical socio-economic asset for over one hundred years. The liberal arts university promotes the development and practice of analytical and critical thinking skills. The state universities provide an affordable and accessible four-year education for all Minnesotans, representing diverse and underserved communities and groups throughout the state. CTF does not sufficiently

recognize or value the long-established universities, and the communities within which they are located, particularly in Greater Minnesota.

4. Academic offerings should be driven by the demands of students and their families—not the demands of the business community. Businesses should fill their workforce needs by offering livable wages and benefits, quality in-house training, and desirable working conditions to attract the best employees. If employers offer attractive wages, benefits and working conditions, students will invest in the education necessary to obtain those jobs. Diverse education for a diverse community of employers strengthens Minnesota.

Finally, the IFO urges Chancellor Rosenstone and the MnSCU Board of Trustees to reject the CTF’s recommendations—including statewide academic planning and union consolidation that simply increase bureaucracy and centralization—and instead promote a vision for the future that provides student-driven choices for all Minnesotans. The IFO encourages legislators and Governor Dayton to oppose administrative strategies that lead to larger, costlier, and more centralized management structures. Instead, Minnesota leaders should continue to support efforts to work with faculty to ensure access to an extraordinary and affordable education for all Minnesotans. Far from resisting change, state university faculty are on the front lines of educational innovation, helping to ensure students, employers, communities, and taxpayers the highest value and most affordable option for higher education.


Colleges, universities should show less caution, more courage and challenges (Jeff Kolnick)

img_0997Jeff  Kolnick’s thoughtful comments below, questioning the quality and courage of administrative leadership in our public institutions, echo a number of other recent media commentaries and publications that problematize this issue.  Where have all the creative, courageous, and competent administrative leaders gone?   Or is this a new form of academic nostalgia?  Bringing clarity to this question   is Diane Ravitch’s cautionary lecture on the  ‘fetish of measurement’ overtaking the public higher education sector and the need for courageous administrators to rethink the “obsession with data let loose on the land.” This obsession is enhanced by President Obama’s recent campaign for a type of NCLB accountability system tagged to universities receiving federal aid; such aid abuse can be solved by other means.    There is also Serena Golden’s intriguing new publication Zombies in the Academy: Living Death in Higher Education.As we chuckle at the zombie meme we simultaneously note the dead zone of communication that often seems to exist between higher level administrators and their worker faculty on our campuses.  Perhaps we have entered a post-MOOC media mania moment, where some very serious issues like the real and immediate need for strong and principled academic leadership at this moment in the shifting sands of higher education history can find some space in our ed journalists’ tweets and blog musings.     Teri Yamada

Colleges, universities should show less caution, more courage and challenges

Prof. Jeff Kolnick (Southwest Minnesota State University), Aug. 21, 2013

The fall semester is an exciting time to be a college professor. The spring semester has its charms with the promise of summer and the thrill of graduation, but for me, the start of the school year is what keeps me coming back for more. My scholarly work over the summer months pays off immediately in the changes that appear on my syllabi. My batteries are recharged by a blessed absence from office politics and paperwork. And the best part is I get to encounter a new class of college students. This year many of these newcomers will be from the high-school class of 2013.

The class of 2013 is an important group of young people. Many of them would have started their academic journey in the last year of Bill Clinton’s presidency and entered first grade under No Child Left Behind. They also began the first grade around the time of the Sept. 11th attacks. For this class of young people, their academic minds have been shaped by a steady diet of high-stakes standardized tests, and their civic consciousness has been molded by a nation continuously at war.

What kind of colleges and universities will these students enter? While reading the current issue of Harper’s Magazine I discovered Harry Lewis, a distinguished professor of computer science at Harvard and the former dean of Harvard College. To give you a sense of Lewis’ thinking on the current state of higher education, I share this with you:

“One of the reasons that moral courage is lacking in the [United States] is that it is lacking in universities. As institutions, they now operate much more like ordinary corporations, fearful of bad publicity, eager to stay on good terms with the government, and focused on their bottom lines, than as boiling cauldrons of unconventional ideas sorted out through a process of disputation, debate, and occasional dramatic gestures.”

More cautious, increasingly conservative

I teach at Southwest Minnesota State University, not at Harvard. And at SMSU, disputation and debate are common, though the dramatic gesture has retreated largely to the theater building! But Lewis was thinking institutionally and not about individual classes or particular events on campus. And I think he is right. I have been around colleges and universities since 1977, and in that time the institutions have become cautious.

kolnick portrait

Jeff Kolnic
What has changed, I think, is that the austerity agenda has starved them of money. As the conservative hostility to all things “public” (including idea of a public good) has settled in as the new normal, universities have entered into a life-and-death competition for students (customers?) that has caused them to wither from the top.

Education is now seen as a personal investment, not a public good. Scarce dollars cause colleges to chase money from billionaire philanthropists who push free-market solutions to every conceivable problem. University leaders feel the need to appeal to increasingly conservative state legislators who despise government.

University governing boards, chancellors, presidents, provosts, deans and chairs (and, sadly, even most faculty) are afraid to challenge the conservative orthodoxy because they desperately want to save what is left of higher education. Colleges and universities, as institutions, used to challenge authority with facts and reason. This is less common today and stems, I believe, from the austerity agenda of the super rich.

Mentor ‘shocked one into thinking’

Eleanor Roosevelt once said of her mentor and favorite teacher, Mademoiselle Marie Souvestre, that she “shocked one into thinking, and that on the whole was very beneficial.” It is this chance to shock students into thinking, into realizing the power of their own minds and ideas, that causes me to return each fall semester.

If ever there was a class of students that needed to be shocked into thinking, it is the class of 2013. After 12 years of No Child Left Behind, too many of them have been numbed into believing that filling in bubbles can measure intelligence. Never having known a conscious moment of peace, some of them might think that war is normal.

What they need from a college is a boiling cauldron of unconventional ideas that are tested through rigorous debate and civil discourse. I fear that they will find instead institutions that prepare them only for work and not to think or, when necessary, to challenge stale orthodoxy.

Jeff Kolnick is a professor of history at Southwest Minnesota State University.  This blog entry, originally posted  on MINNPOST on August 21, 2013  is reposted here with permission of the author.


Funding Solutions for Higher Ed: CFHE Press Conference

college  Campaign for the Future of Higher Ed,
NATIONAL TELEPHONE NEWS BRIEFING
Tuesday, February 12 (10 am Pacific/1 pm Eastern)
• The three authors of working papers on new ways to fund higher education will explain their proposals and take questions from the news media, including campus reporters and education bloggers.
• The briefing begins a drive by CFHE for faculty to step up our role in the search for new possibilities that will save access to higher education and strengthen our nation’s middle class.
• The briefing takes place on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Lincoln signed the 1862 Morrill Act that initiated America’s public higher education system, starting with Land Grant Colleges. Today that system spans the nation but is on the road to elimination.
 

These working papers are meant to encourage discussion and foster debate. The national Campaign for the Future of Higher Education invites faculty members and higher education supporters, particularly those with direct experience in America’s classrooms with students, to add thoughts about these models and ideas about others through the comment section of the CFHE website. 
 
Starting on Sunday, February 10 you will be able to view the papers and post your comments at www.futureofhighered.org/workingpapers (Before Feb 10, go to http://biz127.inmotionhosting.com/~future58/workingpapers/)
 
We also invite you to post on the CFHE Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FutureofHigherEd 
and follow CFHE on Twitter @FutureofHE or comment on Twitter using #FutureofHE
If you have a blog, we strongly encourage you to write about the papers and topics on funding higher education.
 
CALL-IN DETAILS:
Tuesday, February 12 (10 am Pacific/1 pm Eastern) to hear a short discussion by the three authors. join the call:
• Call (800) 553-0273  / Ask for “Campaign for the Future of Higher Education”
• You may dial up to 5 minutes before the start time
To see the papers in advance:
 
PLEASE NOTE: To ensure that the news media is able to ask their questions, only reporters and bloggers who provide the name of a media outlet will be able to ask questions during the call. 
 

Report: Campaign for the Future of Higher Ed, 4th national meeting (Jan. 18-21, 2013)

         Reposted with permission of the California Faculty Association    (January 24, 2013)       
Sacramento, CA: site of the 4th CFHE national meeting.

Sacramento, CA: site of the 4th CFHE national meeting.

National leaders discuss organizing, funding ideas at 4th Campaign for the Future of Higher Ed meeting

The 4th national meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education last weekend took on some of the toughest challenges confronting the faculty across the country, including the hard-sell push toward online education and the harsh cuts to public funding of state colleges and universities.

Leaders of faculty, students, and higher education staff from 14 states and national organizations heard Jonathan Potter of the Chicago Teachers Union describe the revitalization of his union to take on attacks against teachers and public education.

His talk on “Lessons Learned from the Recent Chicago Teachers’ Strike,” which detailed how teachers built strongly unified faculty-community support for the schools, earned a standing ovation. Faculty participants lauded the connection between teachers and college faculty and noted the similarities in what all educators at all levels are up against.

Learn about the Chicago Teachers Union at http://www.ctunet.com/

The meeting also followed up on a previous decision to develop new ideas on how to fund public higher education and public support for students.

Three funding ideas were presented as papers that CFHE will release to stimulate discussion and to foster public hearings and other action at the state and national levels.

CFHE participating groups decided to take the three papers back to their respective states and campuses as examples of thinking that will actually rebuild, rather than tear down, public support for higher education. They will write opinion articles in their respective regional media on funding and take the papers as examples to policy makers.

One of these papers, by Bob Samuels, president of the AFT local that represents UC Lecturers, mapped the math that shows it is possible to “Make All Public Higher Education Free” to students by refocusing the money the states and federal government already spend.

Economist and AAUP national president Rudy Fichtenbaum’s paper shows how a very small “Financial Speculation Tax” would not only fund all public higher education in our nation but also help to stabilize the U.S. economy.

Stanton Glantz and Eric Hays, officers in the Council of UC Faculty Associations, provided the calculations on how much money per taxpayer it would take to “reset” higher education funding in California to a more reasonable, recent level. Alert: Not all that much. They are now working on similar calculations for other states.

Meeting attendees also heard about and debated a “Pay it Forward” funding model that would allow students to attend school without advance tuition and to pay a small percentage of their income in the future to fund the next generation of students.

Watch CFA Headlines for the public release of the CFHE funding ideas papers and for a link to a soon-to-be-launched web site to discuss and share ideas on “Funding Higher Education: The Search for New Possibilities.”

Finally, CFHE heard a panel discussion by four faculty members who teach online. They presented ideas on what does and does not work and on how to ensure students get the best possible education using online tools.

They cited some positives. Their students write a lot, since discussion is online. Every student can contribute a thought. It is helpful for non-traditional students with difficult schedules in locations far from a campus.

On the other hand, students indicate they sorely miss the face-to-face college experience. And the faculty cited high attrition rates; they said it works better for experienced students with strong foundations in learning and may be problematic for under-prepared students and for remedial classes.

The group decided to call for papers about online education similar to the papers developed on funding. Specific ideas and papers will be discussed at the 5th meeting of CFHE to take place in Ohio in May.

Read more in CFHE Principle #4: Quality higher education in the 21st century should incorporate technology in ways that expand opportunity and maintain quality. 

CFA officers, members and staff who attended the CFHE gathering thanked the meeting hosts, the Community College Association/California Teachers Association organized by Ron Reel, CCA president. He has been with CFHE since its founding news conference in Washington DC.

The next gathering will be jointly hosted by the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors, the Ohio Federation of Teachers/AFT, and the Ohio Education Association/NEA.


Transforming the Knowledge Plantation: “We Have a Dream”

By any measure of moral greatness,  a culture is judged by its treatment of the most vulnerable.  In the case of knowledge workers in our higher education sector that would be contingent and adjunct faculty.   With a Masters or Doctorate degree in hand, facing a crushing job market for tenure-track hires, those who honor and respect knowledge and aspire to the noble profession of teaching find themselves on one of Dante’s rings of hell as adjuncts.  Exploited as cheap-labor academic field hands on plantations of higher learning, they earn as little as $1,000 per course with no benefits.  No wonder the graduate students who curate Online PhD have produced the following statement and graphic:

                                           The PhD’s Job Crisis

“A consequence of the “Great Recession,” states across the country have been mired in debt and forced to make dramatic cuts to higher education. As funding for higher education constricts, fewer tenure track academic positions for recent graduates are opening as universities increasingly turn to economically cheaper adjunct and part-time professors to instruct their ballooning classes. Amid this reduction in the demand for PhDs is the fact that the United States is producing a record number of doctorates. The result is a job crisis for PhD candidates and ultimately the diminished quality of education in America’s higher education system.”

“We Have a Dream,” Anne Wiegard’s welcome address at the New Faculty Majority Foundation Summit on January 27, 2012 (Washington DC) inspires us to move forward together for a better Education America.   Teri Yamada

Anne Wiegard, President, President, New Faculty Majority Foundation

“We Have a Dream”

Thank you all for making time to travel here and join us.

Deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day.

I am a child of the Sixties.  I lived just outside of Washington DC when Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke there on August 28th, 1963, inspiring millions to march forward toward civil rights for African Americans.  His words had a profound effect upon me.  They still do.  Much of what he said in his visionary “I Have a Dream” speech applies to all movements for social justice, including the one which brings us to Washington this weekend.  Though the scale and gravity of the Civil Rights movement obviously and vastly overshadows ours, please allow me to liberally invoke King’s language to set the stage for what we hope will be a landmark moment in the movement to secure equity for contingent academic workers and transform higher education in America.

In a sense, like those Civil Rights workers who came with King to our nation’s capital to cash the check the architects of our republic had written, a promissory note guaranteeing all citizens the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we are here to cash a check, too.  Our nation’s founders acknowledged that a true democracy cannot survive without an informed citizenry.  They were implicitly signing a social contract honoring the belief that education is the cornerstone of this nation, a belief that is more widely held now than ever.

It is obvious today that the American higher education system has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as the majority of its faculty is concerned, not to mention the millions of students whose educations are indirectly compromised.   College and university faculty spend decades preparing for and engaging in a profession that does not make good on its promise to provide commensurate, equitable economic and social status.  Instead of honoring its obligation, the University of the United States has given the majority of college and university faculty a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’

But we refuse to believe that the bank of higher education is bankrupt.  We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of academic freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to Washington to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the ghetto of contingency “to the sunlit path” of equality.  It would be fatal to overlook the urgency of the moment. Our legitimate discontent will not pass until there is change. The NFM Summit is not an end, but a beginning.

But there is something that I must say to all of you who stand on this threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place in the university we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for equity by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into counterproductive antagonism. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the contingent community must not lead us to a distrust of all administrators and tenured faculty, who, as evidenced by their presence here this weekend, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. We cannot walk alone.  Let us join hands with anyone who wishes to ensure that all of our children and grandchildren will develop the advanced knowledge and skills they will need to meet the challenges of the 21st century, for such higher education cannot be achieved without empowering teachers  to reach their full potential as well.

As we talk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.  We can never be satisfied as long as our colleagues are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Tenure-track Only.”  I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have fought for decades at great cost to yourself and your families. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for equity has left you battered by the storms of persecution or benign neglect. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.   We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Go back to your campus in Chicago, go back to your campus in Colorado, go back to your campuses in Georgia and Michigan, go back to your campus in New Jersey, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.   Together, we shall overcome.

Posted with permission of the New Faculty Majority  3/10/12

Editor’s note:  This well attended event —”Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Facing the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education”—had  comprehensive coverage in Inside Higher Ed:

1. Lee Bessette “New Faculty Majority Summit:  Can We Bridge the Trust Gap?

2. Lee Bessette “The Time is Now: Report from the New Faculty Majority Summit”

3. Lee Bessette “Among the Majority”

4. Brian Croxall “Reporting from the New Faculty Majority Summit”


Time to reverse course: ‘We’ are not broke — and Minnesota can do more to educate our young

Southwest Minnesota State University

Prof. Kolnick mentions California in his blog below.  The CSU has the sad distinction of making the U.S. Department of Education’s list of the top 32 public, 4-year universities in the United States with the steepest tuition increases from 2007-2010 as reported in SFGate: “Now, the U.S. Department of Education has premiered a database on its web-site comparing college costs of all kinds. Of 32 public, four-year schools in the United States with the steepest tuition increases from 2007 to 2010, 22 are CSUs, with tuition rising 35 percent at Humboldt State at the low end, to 47 percent at San Diego State.”  This year, if the budget situation in California does not improve, the CSU will face restructuring that could destroy the integrity of our institutions.   ty

 

Time to reverse course: ‘We’ are not broke — and Minnesota can do more to educate our young

Jeff Kolnick

                                                   Guest blog by Jeff Kolnick, professor of History, Southwest Minnesota State University

Recent reports have indicated that accumulated student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion and is greater than the nation’s combined credit-card debt.  In response to this bad news, we hear the usual: We are broke and must adapt to the new normal of diminishing resources and austerity.

With the Legislature now in session, we have a chance to reverse course on what is a profound generational betrayal of our young people. I refuse to believe that “we” are broke or that we are living in a period of diminished resources. I am forced to turn to the facts rather than the fantasy that passes for conventional wisdom these days.

America is a richer nation now than it was when I was an undergraduate, 1977-1982. Back in those days, another period of recession and high unemployment (remember stagflation?) my college tuition was much lower. I am from California and began my career at Fullerton Community College, where tuition was free.

Did he say free? Yes, free. I paid absolutely nothing for three years of excellent education with outstanding faculty. You can adjust for inflation all you want, but free is free.

After I transferred to UCLA, I paid a whopping $1,657 for two years of quality education. Imagine, a BA degree awarded from an elite university for less than $1,700. 

Minnesota used to have low tuition too
But that’s California, you say – a state run by hippies. Well, Minnesota also used to have low tuition. According to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, between 1993 and 2009, a period when per-capita income in Minnesota increased from $22,302 to $42,549, tuition at the University of Minnesota went from $3,421 to $10,756. At State Universities the increase was from $2,521 to $6,373, and at two-year schools the increase was from $1,950 to $4,548. These increases were during a time when the wealth of Minnesota nearly doubled.

But heck, that was Minnesota. Was America a richer nation when I went to college? Were we somehow less broke? Of course not. As the chart below indicates, we were a poorer nation by every measure in 1980 than we are now. In 1980, in constant dollars, our per capita GDP was $25,640 and today it is $42,204. Looked at another way, the United States is more than twice as rich today as we were in 1970.

Year Real GDP
(millions of 2005 dollars)
Real GDP per capita
(year 2005 dollars)
1970 4,269,900 20,819.74
1975 4,879,500 22,592.27
1980 5,839,000 25,640.46
1985 6,849,300 28,717.52
1990 8,033,900 32,112.35
1995 9,093,700 34,111.44
2000 11,226,000 39,749.59
2005 12,623,000 42,612.30
2010 13,088,000 42,204.92

So I ask you, where are the diminished resources? Where is this broke nation? To find out who is broke you can visit our state colleges and universities, where students are paying super high tuition because my generation has decided to slam the door shut on the very opportunity that allowed me to become an educated citizen.

Today, Minnesota state policy (Minnesota Statutes 136F.01) is that the state will fund 67 percent of the cost of a college education. In fact we are paying only about 30 percent of the cost of a college education, and students are paying the remaining 70 percent. MnSCU institutions are incredibly efficient. MnSCU appropriations for this biennium are the same in real dollars as they were in 1999; we are educating many tens of thousands more students, and the total cost of educating a student per capita has remained roughly the same.

Reneging on commitment started with Pawlenty
The state’s decision to renege on its commitment to paying two-thirds of the cost of a public education began under the Pawlenty administration. As recently as 2002, the state honored the law and only began its generational betrayal under the former governor, a man who, like me,needed and used public higher education to jumpstart his career. [PDF, page 45]

It is time to refute the lie that we are broke! WE are not broke! Some of us are broke, some of us are in debt and going deeper into debt. But the United States is a richer nation now than it was 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago. The trouble is that all of the money has gone to the top 5 percent and those at the top are not as generous today as they were 30 years ago when I got a world-class education for $1,657.

America has the money to rebuild its infrastructure and educate its citizens. In 1955, when we built the interstate highway system and expanded opportunity in public higher education, per capita GDP was $15,128.12,not the $42,204 it was in 2010. In those days we acted like a nation that looked out for one another, and we prospered together. Today we act more like a pack of wolves, except that wolves do not eat their young.

Reposted from MinnPost.Com (Tues, Jan 24, 2012) with permission of the author .