The Revolution Will Not Be Televised : Deconstructing the CFHE News Briefing (February 12, 2013) on Funding Hi Ed.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised : Deconstructing the  CFHE News Briefing (February 12, 2013) on Funding Hi Ed.

tumblr_mhbhstLtSM1r4tplxo1_500Teri Yamada, Prof. of Asian Studies, CSU Long Beach

“Contemporary society, observed the late Cornelius Castoriadis, has stopped questioning itself.  Lack of genuine questioning —at once a questioning of self and society—is fundamental to the political deadlocks of contemporary social life”

(Anthony Elliot  from “The New Individualist Perspective: Identity Transformations in the Aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis”)

At the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) news briefing, three scholars representing faculty across the U.S. strongly advocated for a change in state and federal funding of public higher ed. Their request— stop capitulating to a dysfunctional NEW NORMAL — was directed at politicians and administrative leaders with the power to change a funding system that longer works for most Americans.

Three scholars—Professors Samuels, Fichtenbaum and Glantz—presented    different common-sense solutions for funding public higher education based on tax reforms or spending state and federal dollars more wisely.  All proposals attempt to reverse the privatization trend in public higher education that shifts the expense from the state and federal government onto the most vulnerable families and individuals.  These scholars share the concern that a failure to fund quality public higher education equally for every American gradually leads to a diminished democracy with a two-tiered class system.  It is past time to rethink this problem and take action to correct it.

  • Bob Samuels in “Making All Public Higher Education Free” argues for reallocating monies used for state and government education subsidies. According to his research, the cost for free undergraduate public education in 2009-10 was $127 bil.   The total amount of state and government dollars currently allocated to college-saving programs, grants, subsidies and student loan expenses would cover this cost AND stop the horrendous problem of   student debt.
  • Rudy Fichtenbaum in “How to Invest in Higher Education: A Financial Speculation Tax” proposes a responsibly administered, modest tax of no more than .5% on speculative financial transactions.   The U.S. had a small financial transactions tax from 1914 to 1966.  Its diminished relative now supports the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Many other nations— Great Britain, Singapore, France and Finland, for example— have a financial speculation tax with the subsidiary benefit of reducing speculation while providing funding for public projects.
  • Stanton Glantz in  “Financial Options for Restoring Quality and Access to Public Higher Education in California: 2012/13” suggests we reset student fees to the 2001 level.  Glantz provides an analysis to show that a $48 tax per median California taxpayer would restore the state to that 2001 level.  Otherwise, the offloading of public higher education costs to private individuals will continue to make education less affordable to the public.  A tax like this in each state would return public education to the status of a public good.

The facts in these three proposals were reported on a number of online education venues. I was disappointed, however, in reportage that failed to emphasize the despair faculty feel over the current damage to public higher education.   It is authentic concern and frustration that compel faculty to develop such proposals.   If this trend of defunding continues what is positive about our current public higher ed system will be tossed out in the madness of  “efficiency” reform.  We will end up with a one-size-fits-all commodity education for children who cannot afford private colleges: a second-class education for second-class citizens.

The Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) and Inside Higher Ed (IHE) reporters papered over the political message of failed leadership, although the IHE reporter did quote Glantz’s comment on urgency: ”We’ve got to get policy makers and individuals who represent institutions to stop wringing their hands and address the problem.”   Samuels, Fichtenbaum and Glantz were unified in criticizing the failure of college presidents and political leaders to question and mitigate the negative influence of neo-liberal economic policy on public higher education.   It is unconscionable to passively accept the New Normal as an excuse for maintaining a dysfunctional status quo.  Inaction is not an option.   In contrast, NEA reporter Mary Ellen Flannery more accurately emphasized the urgency of the faculty message, the reason for this news briefing.

It is also interesting that no reporter took advantage of Glantz’s suggestion to contact a college president.  Since the “failure of leadership to question and create change” was the seminal subtext of the three faculty proposals, it is ironic that most reporters would adhere to status quo coverage of facts not message.   Glantz’s suggestion would involve more effort, perhaps impossible in the face of time constraints imposed by short deadlines.  The Chronicle of Higher Ed blogger had his post up within hours of the event.  Calling a few campus presidents may not be an option with a two-three hour deadline.  This is not the moment, however, to reflect on the decontextualization and flattening of news that occurs in the immediacy of the tweets and blogs of “networked time”.    Glantz’s suggestion would necessitate finding a campus president “engaged enough” to have read the three proposals and “brave enough” to respond to reporter’s questions with the possibility of an “unpopular” quote ending up in print for all to read.  Easier and safer for a campus president just to ignore it all.    Perhaps for the next set of research proposals, CFHE organizers will send notification in advance to an array of campus presidents mentioning that reporters might call.   And if no president is willing, interested, or able to respond, that type of dismissal and disengagement from faculty concerns is itself newsworthy.

Those of us teaching in the public higher ed domain are watching our administrators dismantle the liberal arts mission of our institutions while denying such action or blaming the New Normal for it.  They can’t help it; it’s not their fault; the state budgets made them do it; STEM matters.  Administrative emotion has become coldly authoritarian.  If capitulation to the New Normal continues,  those disciplines hardest to monetize and located in small programs and departments—foreign languages,  philosophy, ethnic studies—will be eliminated as  tenure lines are not replaced.  Following the SUNY model, general education requirements will be streamlined into pathways as public universities reduce  “product lines.”  Pressure to graduate everyone in four years mandates a factory-like system for state colleges.  Does the public care?  We think they should.

What will be lost in ten years is the cultural space that our institutions once provided for intellectual experimentation and development.  They provided a safe haven for learning, which valorized choice over restriction, community engagement over individualism.  If this efficiency trend continues, our students will be managed through a three-four year delivery pipeline with diminished chance to change a major or even add a minor.  The spirit of discovery, which may take more than ten minutes, will be wrung out of the institution.

It is ironic that those in political office who do not teach demand “efficiency and quality”.  They have no idea about the sorry state of the technological infrastructure in our classrooms.  Their fantasy of a speedy pipeline education that utilizes “cheap” online instruction will not make the United States more competitive in the global economy.  Nor will our streamlined “student product” satisfy the “worker needs” of 21st century corporations.  Our administrators in their “detached engagement” tell us this new normal is a done deal.  It is all about improving efficiency to provide a “good-enough” education for the 99%.


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Lone Star Wars: The Deprivation of Higher Education in Texas

Guest blogger Prof. Terry Garrett  is currently an associate professor of government at The University of Texas at Brownsville and serves as the chair of the Government Department and Provost Fellow for Leadership. He is the current president of the Texas Brownsville United Faculty, local chapter of the Texas Faculty Association - email: texasbrownsvilleunitedfaculty@gmail.com

“Lone Star Wars: The Deprivation of Higher Education in Texas”

August 15, 2011

Just a few days ago Governor Rick Perry announced that he was running for president of the U.S.[1] This occurred despite the fact that he declared previously that Texas secession was possible.[2]  While the state clearly is no longer being considered for striking out on its own, the mindset behind the declaration is still in place.  And for higher education policy in Texas, as well as the ramifications for the U.S. should Governor Perry be elected, there bodes a future of tax cuts nationally combined with spending cuts for colleges and universities.  The ideological driver specifically behind Governor Perry’s higher education policy is the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).[3]  Key to the TPPF’s strategy – and Governor Perry – are the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” designed to change public higher education in Texas.  The solutions (and goals) are briefly summed here …

1. Measure teaching efficiency and effectiveness.

Goal: Improve the quality of teaching by making use of a public measurement tool to evaluate faculty teaching performance that makes it possible to recognize excellent teachers.

2. Publicly recognize and reward extraordinary teachers.

Goal: Create a financial incentive to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching at Texas’ colleges and universities that will help attract the best teachers from across the nation.

3. Split research and teaching budgets to encourage excellence in both.

Goal:  Increase transparency and accountability by emphasizing teaching and research as separate efforts in higher education, and making it easier to recognize excellence in each area.

4. Require evidence of teaching skill for tenure.

Goal: Highlight the importance of great teachers by evaluating teaching skill in nominating and awarding faculty tenure.

5. Use “results-based” contracts with students to measure quality.

Goal: Increase transparency and accountability to students with learning contracts between Deans, department heads, and teachers that clearly state the promises of each degree program to each student.

6. Put state funding directly in the hands of students.

Goal: Increase college access and make students the actual customers for higher education with student-directed scholarships for undergraduate and graduate education with funding from the state’s current appropriation that goes directly to colleges and universities.

7. Create results-based accrediting alternatives.

Goal: Encourage greater competition in higher education and more choices for students by creating an alternative accrediting body that would focus on results and the college’s or university’s ability to uphold any obligation or promise made to the student.[4]

The effect of the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” combined with severe budget cuts in the 2012-2013 biennial budget for higher education in Texas is severe.  The “Solutions” are politically loaded and have policy consequences that have included professors being “measured” for teaching productivity to determine their individual efficiencies at the University of Texas system[5] and the Texas A&M system – though in each case the TPPF and its policies were also criticized.[6] Texas A&M, a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities, was warned by the president of the organization because of the adoption of the TPPF’s “Seven Solutions” for its adverse impact on scholarly research.[7] With respect to the overall budget for the state of Texas, the estimate is that $1.7 billion will be cut in the next budget cycle as “the $21.1 billion budgeted for higher education represents a 7.6 percent drop from the $22.7 billion budgeted in 2010-11.”[8] In many instances, institutions have resorted to raising tuition costs to students or have fired employees – staff and academic – in order to alleviate cuts in services or simply make them.[9] The full effects of budget cuts and the “Seven Solutions” on the overall Texas higher education have not yet been fully realized.  The prognosis for the scholarly community in terms of reasonable expectations for advancement, remuneration, and job security is not good.

Wither Texas, whither the US?

With regard to higher education policy nationally, there are many “ifs” for the U.S. if Governor Perry were to become president after the 2012 elections.  The ramifications of the 2012-2013 budget cuts have not been fully realized, though much of the potential for growth in higher education in Texas has been reduced.  While the population of the state continues to grow, fewer resources will be made available for incoming freshman to afford a public higher education, thus resulting in a “lost generation” of Texas students.[10]  The cost of a public higher education will be less affordable.  If Governor Rick Perry wins in November 2012 and has the support of Congress, there will be little doubt that he will do the same for higher education policy in the U.S. as he has done so for Texas.  There can be little doubt about that prospect.  A President Perry would promote and try to implement his TPPF-based proposals much in the same fashion as another former Texan, President George W. Bush, did shortly after he was sworn into office with No Child Left Behind in 2002.[11]


[1] April Castro (12 August 2011) Perry announces he’ll run for president.  The Boston Globe. Retrieved 8/15/2011 at http://articles.boston.com/2011-08-12/news/29881167_1_governor-rick-perry-texas-governor-presidential-field

[2] Alexander Mooney (16 April 2009) Texas governor says secession possible. CNN. Retrieved 8/15/2011 at http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/04/16/texas-governor-says-secession-possible/

[3] Texas Public Policy Foundation (n.d.).  Retrieved 8/15/2011 at http://www.texaspolicy.com/

[4] TPPF. (n.d.) 7 Solutions: Strengthening Higher Education for Texas’ Future. Retrieved 8/15/2011 at http://texashighered.com/7-solutions

[5] Reeve Hamilton. (5 May 2011). UT System Releases Data on Faculty “Productivity.” The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 8/15/2011 at http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/higher-education/ut-system-releases-data-on-faculty-productivity/

[6] Holly K. Hacker. (24 May 2011). UT, A&M faculty productivity criticized in studies — and studies criticized, too. The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 8/15/2011 at http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20110524-ut-am-faculty-productivity-criticized-in-studies-and-studies-criticized-too.ece

[7] Robert M. Berdahl. (n.d.). AAU Letter to Chancellor McKinney.  Retrieved 8/15/2011 at http://Www.theeagle.com/images/eagle/ctobox/berdahl.pdf

[8] Diane Smith. (20 January 2011). Texas budget plan would cut $1.7 billion from higher education. Ft. Worth Star Telegram.  Retrieved 8/15/2011 http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/01/19/2781778/texas-budget-plan-would-cut-17.html#ixzz1V9KGNMiX

[9] Reeve Hamilton. (26 July 2011). Texplainer: Will Budget Cuts Mean Higher Tuition? The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 8/15/2011 at http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/higher-education/texplainer-will-budget-cuts-mean-higher-tuition/

[10] Melissa Ludwig. (2 March 2011). Grant cuts could result in ‘lost generation’ of students: Reducing Texas grants program seen as closing the door on the poor. San Antonio News Express.  Retrieved 8/15/2011 at http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/article/A-lostgeneration-of-students-now-feared-1032771.php#ixzz1V9WoBbPH

[11] Education Week. (4 August 2004). No Child Left Behind. Retrieved 8/15/2011 at http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/no-child-left-behind/

Editor’ Note

For more on Perry see:

1. “Newest Presidential Contender Has Strong Views on Higher Education” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Aug. 15. 2011.

2)  “Their Vehicle to Power:The New Apostolic Reformation seeks dominion over society and government — and it looks like Perry is their chosen candidate.”in Alternet, Aug. 15, 2011.


Charter Universities: More for Less or More of the Same?

Guest blogger Gary Rhoades is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Arizona’s Center for the Study of Higher Education, for which he served as director from 1997-2008.  Recently, he served as general secretary of the AAUP.  Rhoades’ scholarship focuses on the restructuring of higher education institutions and of professions in the academy, evidenced in his books, “Managed Professionals: Unionized Faculty and Restructuring Academic Labor” (SUNY 1998), and “Academic Capitalism and the New Economy” (with Sheila Slaughter, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).

Charter Universities:
More for Less or More of the Same?

Some variation of  “charter universities” has been implemented in public policy in several states (and is being considered in others, such as Ohio) as an innovation that enables institutions to be more productive with less public money.  The attraction of the charter concept to many policymakers and university presidents lies in its promise of more entrepreneurial opportunity and less governmental regulation.  A prominent feature of most charter policies is that in exchange for less state appropriations universities get less state regulation over certain budgetary (e.g., construction projects) and personnel (employment rights) matters, and tuition is deregulated, with universities getting greater flexibility to differentiate and raise tuition.  Not so prominently featured is the greater regulation of academic matters, in stipulations to meet performance measures in various student outcomes.  Charter policies seem to offer a new path for what many see as the new normal of limited or less public funding for higher education.  It is said to solve the challenge of how to provide more students with more effective, high quality education for less public money.

Yet the evidence indicates otherwise: charter universities are more of the same.  Moreover, they not only offer little promise of resolving the key social, educational, and political challenges of the day, they actually exacerbate the problems we face.

One key shortcoming of the concept is that it is applied to only the four-year part of public higher education, cutting out much of the system that serves many and in some states most of the college student population.  Indeed, the policy generally applies only to a select few of the universities, which already have become less dependent on state appropriations and less devoted to the needs of the state they were created to serve.
Charters lead elite public universities to continue to increase tuition far above cost of living indexes even as institutions decrease access for in-state students of modest means and less.  Charters incentivize universities to charge students more.  That is leading more students who previously would have started at a university to go to a community college.  And that, in turn, is reducing access for first generation students, students of color, and immigrant students—the growth populations of the 18-24 year old population—as community colleges cap enrollments, turning students away because they lack the human capacity to serve them.  Charters exacerbate the social problems of heightened tuition and reduced access, rationing higher education by money not just by ability.  They continue a thirty-year pattern of academic capitalism in which flagship universities, in pursuing more revenues, have become engines of social inequality.

Charters also compromise public higher education’s ability to increase quality and effectiveness.  By incentivizing efficiency in producing more students for less money, they encourage universities to continue down the path of increasing class size (and student faculty ratios), reducing the proportion of tenure-track faculty, and increasingly exploiting contingent faculty who are subjected to sub-par working conditions, leading to sub-par learning conditions.  The overriding emphasis on narrow conceptions of productivity encourages universities to demand less of students.  It also encourages them to pursue the easiest path to increased graduation rates (which rather than student learning, satisfaction, or success after graduation, becomes the sole measure of “effectiveness”), to chase those students most likely to succeed and run away from the growth population of students.  Ironically, universities spend increasingly less, on balance, on educational personnel, programs, and activities, investing more in leisure facilities and activities to attract those upper middle class students who are most likely to succeed and least likely to require financial aid.

Finally, the public policy of charter universities fails to focus universities on serving the state, its students, its communities, its small and medium sized businesses, its social and technological challenges, and its future vitality.  Charters isolate institutions from one another, pitting them against each other in pursuit of revenues, prestige, and “world class” status.  This individualistic focus comes at the expense of institutional cooperation and coordination in the broader interests of addressing states’ structural challenges, for instance, in laying the foundation for a new economy.  Charters reflect a failure of political vision and will to undertake the major collective project of investing in the state’s future.

In sum, charter universities do not offer a new path to do more with less.  They are more of the same.  They fail to redress the basic challenges in public higher education—limiting tuition to ensure access, increasing quality and effectiveness, and holding institutions accountable for better serving the public interest.  Charters offer a continued path of heightened tuition and social stratification: charging students more for less access to smaller proportions of professors and student service professionals.  They encourage institutions to continue to pursue efficiency measures that compromise quality.  And in focusing on universities that have been reducing their commitment to the public interest, and in formally releasing them from obligations to the communities in which they are situated, the charter concept fails to provide systemic strategies for laying the foundations for the future.  Finally, charters offer universities more regulation of academic matters for less public money and less regulation of financial and personnel matters.  Charters chart the wrong course for all concerned.

By Gary Rhoades


Faculty Productivity Considered

Guest blogger Johann Neem is Associate Professor of History at Western Washington University and author of the book "Creating a Nation of Joiners" (2008).

“Faculty Productivity Considered”

In a recent post “Campus CFO’s are Right” (1) on The Chronicle of Higher Education website, education reformer and critic Richard Vedder slams faculty for their low productivity, and urges that faculty be required to be in their office from 9am to 5pm, and to teach more classes.

Vedder seems to have lost touch with the creative economy of the 21st century, drawing instead from the 19th-century theories of Frederick Winslow Taylor. He seems to think that creative work can be produced on an industrial model. He makes several mistakes here.

First, he assumes that there is a productivity problem. There is no reason to think this. Studies in fact show that faculty often work over time to meet their teaching and scholarly goals. Moreover, productivity cannot be measured by the number of classes taught, but by the effectiveness of the classroom experience. Efficiency requires doing the same for less, not doing less for less.

Second, he assumes that creative work can be standardized and made predictable. In fact, the most creative businesses have sought to develop college campus-like environments. The entire culture of Silicon Valley, including large corporations like Microsoft, has been oriented around fostering creativity by allowing employees greater flexibility. Thus, businesses build campuses, order pizza, and even provide couches and common areas. They allow their employees to work all night, or all day. The best corporations know that creative work is not done on a factory model, but instead by setting clear goals and allowing workers to meet them in their own way.

Despite Vedder’s accusations, colleges have been at the forefront of productivity. The best businesses have emulated colleges. Vedder’s solutions would undermine productivity rather than increase it.

Vedder offers two objections to this claim. First, he argues, that most scholarly research is trivial. That is his judgment. In fact, the purpose of scholarly research is not to gain a high number of readers, but to influence our understanding of the world. If scholars read it, and if they use it to pursue new knowledge, it matters little whether most of it reaches the general public. What matters is whether it is used in ways that help the public. And here, there are many examples. Small research innovations in science can be combined to produce new innovations of greater reach, whether as commodities like a fuel-efficient car, or simply deeper understandings of the nature of atoms.

The same is true in the humanities and social sciences. Scholarly work is translated to the broader public through teaching, through textbooks, and through the work of popularizers and synthesizers. New York Times columnist David Brooks, for example, relies heavily on social science research for his best-selling books. The same is true for historians David McCullough and Gordon Wood. What matters, then, is not whether a particular article or book has sold thousands of copies, but whether it is a contribution to our understanding of the world. And if it is, in time it will be used.

Vedder’s second objection is that most faculty never publish an article each year. Of course, again he is making some mistakes. Scholarly research takes time. In history, a single article can take years of research—much of it, of necessity, outside the office. By forcing more publishing more quickly, Vedder will ensure the triviality he fears.

More important, most faculty publish little because most American colleges are focused on teaching and have high teaching loads. Vedder uses the low teaching loads at a handful of American research institutions like UT-Austin to account for the low scholarly productivity of faculty at teaching institutions. He is simply stereotyping and mixing categories.

One must wonder, then, what motivates Vedder. Perhaps he simply dislikes faculty because they have the ability to exercise control over their working conditions. Perhaps he supports the trend reallocating authority in American work life from workers—whether faculty or unionized employees—to managers.

But I think that there is a deeper issue. Vedder cannot fathom the fact that faculty teach and write because they want to share knowledge with the world. If they wanted to make money, they would have gone to business school, law school, or architectural school and then worked in the kinds of offices Vedder admires. But what makes faculty so productive is that they are motivated by other ends, that they are mission oriented. Most corporations struggle to develop this sense of mission in their employees in order to increase productivity; colleges have it handed to them. Their faculty are willing to work harder for less money than other professionals because they are committed to a calling.

Vedder’s perspective is not that of someone seeking to improve teaching and scholarship. Rather it is of someone who thinks that faculty must be controlled and put in their place. It seems that Vedder cannot imagine a world in which people believe in their work, and thus he seeks to impose incentives and rules that would fundamentally alter the source of faculty creativity and hard work.

Editor’s note:

(1) Ironically, you can get to Vedder’s article by TYPING the address in the URL: http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/campus-cfos-are-right/29787

Victor Borden has a very interesting and informative article “The Accountability/Improvement Paradox” in Inside Higher Ed (April 30, 2010) http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/04/30/borden

Please send your update about the current situation of higher education in your state or your commentary on national trends affecting public higher education to teri.yamada@gmail.com.