Highlights: Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, 3rd National Meeting (May 18-20, 2012)

Report from the Third National Meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE)  

Teri Yamada, Prof. Asian Studies, posting from Phnom Penh

APSCUF March 2012 campaign against state budget cuts to public higher ed.

CFHE, May 20, 2012, Joint Statement on Federal Financial Aid  

Demand for college is at an all-­‐time high and student debt has reached a devastating one trillion dollars. Despite this, Congress is debating whether to cut student aid.

This kind of cut would further close off college access, particularly for lower income students and students of color, the growth demographic of traditional age students.

Proposals to reduce eligibility and the size of Pell Grants and to increase interest rates on student loans, if adapted, would be a tragic and short-­‐sighted slamming of the door on our nation’s future.

We need a strong Pell Grant program that does not reduce either eligibility or the size of the grant. We also need the lowest possible interest rates on federally subsidized student loans.

This is not the time to curtail the prospects for students to attend colleges and universities.

We need a national discussion about how ensure that higher education is affordable, available and accessible to everyone who can benefit from it. 


The third national meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) was held under beautiful blue skies in Ypsilanti, Michigan, May 18-20, 2012 (1).   More than 60 faculty and professional staff, including members of the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions, participated in a grassroots assessment of the challenges facing public higher education.

The event began with short reports on challenges and successes.   A noteworthy success since the last CFHE  (Boston: December 2011) was a formal meeting with U.S Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter.  The CFHE contingent was able to correct some misinformation, such as the belief that increasing costs in public higher education are due to high faculty salaries rather than dramatically higher administrative costs and expensive building projects that are unrelated to direct instructional needs. Other topics  included problems facing the contingent faculty workforce. Over the past 40 years, institutions have shifted away from tenured faculty to 70% of the workforce being underpaid, contingent or “adjunct faculty with no health and other benefits” (2).    CFHE will schedule a follow-up meeting with the U.S. Department of Education to continue this discussion.

Other successes reported on opening night include UFF-Florida International University’s contract gains; Rutgers AUP-AFT advance of Non Tenture-Track (NTT) faculty issues using a caucus model and its successful negotiation of the first promotion pathway for NTT faculty; the Inter Faculty Organization of Minnesota, which successfully negotiated a restoration of Professional Improvement Funds.

In an age of shock-doctrine capitalism, many states—Pennsylavania, New Jersey, and California, for example—are still experiencing dramatic budget cuts to public higher education, while other states like New York have revenue streams that have stabilized.  New York’s CUNY now has other restructuring challenges, however, with the imposition of mandated Pathways.  The upper midwestern region—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin—is facing an onslaught of antiunion legislation promoted by ALEC and funded by the Koch brothers.

Over 80 pieces of antiunion legislation have been introduced in Michigan, attempting to change it to a “right-to-work” state. One plan attempts to divide the state by a patchwork of “right-to-work zones” that would be locally implemented in more conservative areas of the state. In response, Michigan-AAUP has organized the Protect Our Jobs campaign, which includes advocating for a state constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining rights. It succeeded in gathering enough signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot. Ohio faculty unions are working on a similar initiative.  The Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculties (APSCUF) is facing another 20% state reduction to higher education in Pennsylvania.  In response they initiated the United we Stand, Underfunded we Fail campaign in March 2012.   APSCUF is confronting both Governor Corbett’s higher education task force, which narrowly focuses on “technical experience, distance learning and job training”  and the specter of right-to-work legislation.

Discussion on contingent faculty.

Also discussed over the weekend were the poor working conditions of contingent faculty who face at-whim employment and poverty level wages.  The New Faculty Majority (NFM) has contributed to a recent publication on these issues: Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty: Changing Campuses for the New Faculty Majority.  As part of its coalition building campaign, NFM convened a national summit in Washington, DC on January 28, 2012: Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Facing the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education.”  This summit focused on improving communications among stakeholders, identifying broad-based reform goals along with strategies for their implementation.

The reduction in state spending for public education is still a common trend across states.  As Rudy Fichtenbaum and Howard Bunsis stressed in their presentation on university budgets—“Taking on the administration’s ‘We’re broke’ argument”—a state’s fiscal crisis is being used by many institutions as an excuse to restructure. Restructuring is imposed irrespective of the hefty unrestricted reserves which institution’s refuse to allocate to instructional support.  This restructuring conforms to the current trend to vocationalize and standardize pubic higher education while weakening faculty governance.  To track our institution’s actual financial health, we need to examine its audited financial statements.

Several ideas for funding public higher education were brought forth for discussion with the understanding that states alone cannot solve the public higher education funding problem.   A menu of solutions could be used across states depending on their specific situation.  Some funding ideas at the federal level were a “pay it forward” plan that includes doubling the size of PELL grants while increasing the scope of eligibility and providing maintenance of effort provisions at the state level; other ideas involved various taxes including a financial speculation tax.

Gary Rhoades, Head of CFHE Virtual Think Tank

CFHE’s Virtual Think Tank was established to introduce a faculty voice in the national discussion of higher education policies, currently dominated by executives, consultants, and philanthropic foundations.  Gary Rhoades provided an update on CFHE’s first two policy reports.   “Closing the Door, Increasing the Gap: Who’s not going to (community) college?” (April 2012) analyzes recent problematic enrollment and policy trends at the nation’s community colleges. As caps on community college enrollment are expanding, the scope of educational programs is narrowing; as quality is undermined, access is denied to large numbers of lower-income students and students of color.  The second policy report, forthcoming shortly, “Who is professor staff and how can s/he teach so many classes?” is based on New Faculty Majority research regarding contingent faculty working conditions and their affect on student learning. Just-in-time hiring practices do not allow any faculty adequate time to develop a course.  Also, the demographics of contingent faculty models complex racial inequities.

CFHE plans its next meeting, Sacramento, January 2013.

Some Shared Resources:

  • Profs. Douglas Carr (carr@oakland.edu) and Roger Larocca (larocca@oakland.edu).  In response to the advocates of performance funding in higher eduction, including Lumina Foundation and the National Governors Association, and the fact that “many states have adopted performance-funding programs in spite of the weak evidence of their effectiveness” (Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas, for example), Professors Carr and Larocca have co-authored “The Effects of Performance Funding on Higher Education Outcomes” (26 March 2012).

Abstract: “We study the effects of performance funding metrics for graduation and retention on actual graduation and retention rates at all 4-year and 2-year public universities…. We find no significant effect of graduation metrics on graduation rates at 4-year or 2-year institutions, and no significant effect of retention measures on retention rates at 4-year institutions.  We do find that retention measures are significantly associated with higher retention rates at 2-year institutions, but only for 2-year institutions that receive a relatively large share of their funding from state appropriations.”

  • AAUP-Connecticut State University.  Academic Year in Review: 2011-2012. Vol. 3.13 (May 3, 2012).  This report contains information on major administrative restructuring a new Board of Regents for Higher Education imposed on the Connecticut State University System (CSUS), a seventeen-campus system, to prepare “students for productive and satisfying futures.” Restructuring eliminated twenty-four top administrative positions from CSU and CTC. It consolidated higher-Ed into ConnSCU (Connecticut State Colleges & Universities) a merger of CSU, Community/Technical Colleges, and Charter Oak State College.  The legislature was also busy, passing HB 5030 that established a “general education core of courses.”
  • PSC-CUNY.org. (PSC-CUNYORG@PSC.CUNY) “What is Pathways?” In June 2011, CUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution to establish a new, uniform General Education Framework, called “Pathways” “…ostensibly created to facilitate student transfer throughout CUNY.”  This mandate requires a 30-credit common core for CUNY colleges: 12-credit “required core” and 18-credit “flexible core.”  All Common Core courses must fulfill learning objectives established by the Chancellor’s office. This resolution was passed over the objections of the University Faculty Senate, Professional Staff Conference, among others. Pathways is aligned with the national reform agenda, funded by Lumina and the Gates foundations, that stresses ‘college completion’ above all else.  PSC-CUNY considers this reform an assault on faculty governance and a further corporatization of the university system.  As a form of austerity education it establishes an impoverished curriculum “that will prepare CUNY students for low expectations in an austerity economy,” one that accommodates to rather than challenges underfunding of the system.  See also the CUNY Community College financial analysis report “Invest in Opportunity: Invest in CUNY Community Colleges” prepared by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC).  In fall 2012, tuition will have increased by 212% since 1990-91. “In 2011-12 CUNY community college tuition and fees ($3,946) were 33% higher than the national average tuition and fees at 2-year public colleges ($2,963).”
  • Bruce Nissen and Yue Zhang. Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy.  “How FIU Spends Its Money: FIU Expenditures on Faculty and Higher Level Administration with special emphasis on the two years between 2008-09 to 2010-11.”  The United Faculty of Florida at Florida International University (UFF-FIU) commissioned this report to establish creditable data on the number and salary of administrators compared to faculty as well as data on increased faculty workload.  Information in this report reflects patterns across the United States: administration is diverting resources away from faculty and instruction to administrative personnel and salaries.  Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators at America’s leading universities grew by 39%, while the number of faculty and service employees grew by 18%.  At FIU during this period, the number of administrators per 100 students grew by 79.5% while the number of faculty decreased by 29.2% as instate undergraduate tuition grew by 40.3% and FIU enrollment rose 57%. During the past two years covered by the study, the pace of administrative growth has slowed to 10.2%; yet the growth in faculty numbers has increased only 4.2% as the growth in students increased 10.7%.  Average annual faculty workload increased 3.5% per year at a rate consistent with the previous 13 year period, when the teaching load grew 56%.  The number of faculty tenure track positions at all levels declined over the past two years by 11.25% as the total salaries for these positions decreased by 5.27%.  The top 40 highest paid administrators at FIU have salaries that range between $522.750 and $217,508.  The average salary of $198,643 for the second tier of top paid administrators, when adjusted to faculty, is $41,789 more than the average salary for full professors.
  • Prof. Rudy Fichtenbaum (President-elect AAUP). “How to Invest in Higher Education” proposes the idea of a “financial speculation tax.”  According to a study published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “A financial speculation tax would generate $176.9 to $353.8 billion in revenue per year.” Some federal legislators have proposed bills based on this idea, which is supported by a number of prominent economists including Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.
NOTES
  1. Special thanks to Michael Bailey and others of the MI-AAUP (Michigan Conference American Association of University Professors) for hosting this conference.  Twelve CFHE affiliates also assisted with funding for this event.
  2. For further information, see the New Faculty Majority.

“The Momentum is Gaining: Enough Is Enough!”

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). Currently he also serves as director of the CFHE Think Tank.

“The Momentum is Gaining: Enough Is Enough!”

On November 9, I walked an information picket line at California State University East Bay ( CSUEB) in support of the California Faculty Association’s fight to defend public higher education.  “Enough is enough” is the rallying cry for faculty in a system whose management–despite fact finders’ discoveries–refuses to face the facts, honor the contract, and allocate salary monies to faculty.  Enough is enough in a system that, despite dramatic increases in class size and profound challenges in remediation and graduation rates, continues to reduce the share of instructional expenditures, now at 35%.  Enough is enough in a system in which, despite tens of thousands of students being turned away and thousands of others for whom affordable higher education has slipped away, the chancellor identifies alleged low executive compensation as a key problem.  That is Wall Street thinking: satiate the insatiable 1% at the public trough and starve the 99%, while blaming public employees for the system’s problems.  Enough is enough.

The momentum is gaining.  On November 8, in a landslide, the people of Ohio also said enough is enough.  They voted to repeal SB 5.  They voted overwhelmingly to reject the initiative of Governor Kasich, a former Lehman Brothers executive who helped  the state pension fund lose hundreds of millions of dollars (invested in Lehman Brothers) and yet who blamed public employees for the state’s economic woes (after passing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy).  The people of Ohio voted to repeal a bill that gutted, and for full-time faculty eliminated, longstanding rights to collectively bargain.  They voted in support of public employees.

SB 5 is part of a national assault on working people.  In state after state, Tea Party governors and legislators have sought to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees.  In statement after statement, public employees are denigrated and union workers are demonized, though they are the people who save, nurture, and teach us.

In Ohio, a broad coalition was formed of blue and white collar, public and private sector unions, of community groups, of grandmothers and students, and more, under the umbrella, We are Ohio.  It formed to reverse the assault on public employees and public institutions.  It formed in support of the idea that teachers and firefighters, first responders and professors, police and nurses, and other public employees are key to our future.  And the coalition, We are Ohio, won.  By a mile.  By working together.

So it is on the information picket line at the East Bay campus.  Students called out support, schoolteachers walked with signs calling for a fair contract, and teamsters honked their truck horns in solidarity with professors.  The 99% are seeing they have common cause, and they are speaking out in support of one another.

“We are all Badgers!” was the rallying cry in Wisconsin’s battle over public employees’ collective bargaining rights.  The response to the assault led to the recall of two state senators, and now to a recall drive on Governor Walker.  The tens of thousands of people in Wisconsin who took to the streets and the Democratic legislators who took to neighboring states gave strength to their compatriots in Ohio and beyond.

So, now, as the rallying cry “We are ALL Ohio!” takes hold, the staggeringly successful struggle of this broad coalition is giving hope to and strengthening the resolve of public employees across the country.  It is possible, together, to reverse the tide. To those whose political platform is to eliminate the civil rights of workers, women, same sex couples, immigrants, and the voting rights of citizens, to those who wish to eliminate the advances of the 20th century that have strengthened our country, it is possible to not just say, enough is enough, but to successfully challenge and change public policy.

Step by step, day by day, battle by battle, the momentum is building.  Not only in these state struggles but also in the (inter)national OccupyWallStreet (OWS) movement that is creating space and foregrounding the dramatically sharpened, inequitable, and unhealthy stratification in our society in ways that have reshaped public discourse and public policy proposals.  OWS has tapped into and catalyzed a powerful national sentiment that is repainting our social and political landscape.  It has helped rekindle a sense that not just resistance but also change is possible.  It has fed on the hunger for and fostered the momentum for a social movement to change our country’s path.

The momentum, and sense of being part of something larger, was evident in the information picket line on Loop Drive into the CSU East Bay campus, where California professors under fire took heart from the victory in Ohio and the sense of a growing pushback.  It was evident in the energy of an event that is a precursor to a November 17 strike on two California State University campuses.  It was evident in professors’ understanding that this is a first step in fostering political pressure on administration to honor the contract and bargain in good faith.  Enough is enough.

The CFA’s choice of East Bay and Dominguez Hills as the sites for November 17 action is significant.  These are two of the campuses with the most diverse student bodies in the system.  They represent the historic mission of the CSU as the people’s university, the university of the 99%.  They also represent the best future and hope for the state and the country in which the growth demographics of 18-21 year-olds are lower income students, students of color and immigrants.  And yet in another shameful statement of misplaced priorities, these two campuses are among the most underfunded in the system.

Enough is enough.  As the California Faculty Association continues its battle to ensure that the CSU be driven more by a commitment to the people who educate and who are the 99%, than by a continued catering to the desires of the 1%, we are all the CFA.  The momentum is building.  It is time for us all to support our colleagues in California and to help continue and build the momentum nationally to change our course from the policies of recent decades that further stratify our society and that favor and further enrich the 1%.  It is time for us all to demand that we support and invest in our future, in the public institutions and public employees who serve and who are the 99%.


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