A collection of clippings on #HigherEd, jobs and policy | Blog#42

Following are clippings from articles written about the state of higher education in the US over the last few years.

Koch High: How The Koch Brothers Are Buying Their Way Into Public School

In the spring of 2012, Spenser Johnson, a junior at Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kansas, was unpacking his acoustic bass before orchestra practice when a sign caught his eye. “Do you want to make money?” it asked. The poster encouraged the predominantly poor students at Highland Park to enroll in a new, yearlong course that would provide lessons in basic economic principles and practical instruction on starting a business. Students would receive generous financial incentives including startup capital and scholarships after graduation. The course would begin that fall. Johnson eagerly signed up. In some ways, the class looked like a typical high school business course, taught in a Highland Park classroom by a Highland Park teacher. But it was actually run by Youth Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit group created and funded primarily by Charles G. Koch, the billionaire chairman of Koch Industries. The official mission of Youth Entrepreneurs is to provide kids with “business and entrepreneurial education and experiences that help them prosper and become contributing members of society.” The underlying goal of the program, however, is to impart Koch’s radical free-market ideology to teenagers.

 Koch Foundation Proposal to College: Teach Our Curriculum, Get Millions | BillMoyers.com

In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.

First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.

Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.

And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman — even though he told his wife he’d step down in 2009 after one three-year term.

The Charles Koch Foundation expressed a willingness to give Florida State an extra $105,000 to keep Benson — a self-described “libertarian anarchist” who asserts that every government function he’s studied “can be, has been, or is being produced better by the private sector” — in place.

To get the full picture on the extent of ALEC’s influence, read from Exposing ALEC’s Ron Rabatzky’s contribution:

Privatizing Schooling and Policy Making: The American Legislative Exchange Council and New Political and Discursive Strategies of Education Governance


In this article, we examine the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) within larger policy networks composed of new policy entrepreneurs – venture philanthropists, think tanks, private “edu-businesses” and their lobbyists, advocacy organizations, and social entrepreneurs – among others. These new policy networks have come to exert an impressive level of influence on public policy in the last 30 years in the United States. We describe and analyze several model education bills that ALEC has promoted and describe the strategies it employs. We found that these strategies, which are employed by corporate leaders and largely Republican legislators, are aimed at a strategic alliance of neoliberal, neoconservative, libertarian, and liberal constituencies with the goal of privatizing and marketizing public education.

The New Old Labor Crisis

Think being an adjunct professor is hard? Try being a black adjunct professor.

The New York Times reported recently on an adjunct instructor, James Hoff, who walks like a professor, talks like a professor, and teaches like a professor, but has none of the benefits of being a professor, because he is an adjunct. Adjunct labor in higher education has revealed the structural flaw in our post-recession reality: The prescription for poverty—educational attainment—has become a condition for poverty. The high price, in dollars and opportunity costs, of getting All the Education™ has to be reconfigured, because tenured jobs with their tenured wages are declining. And that has made lots of people angry.

I’m actually quite glad people are getting angry about adjunct-ification. On Friday, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce issued a 36-page reportchronicling the low salaries, long hours, and lack of benefits and job security that “contingent faculty” face. (The report puts an adjunct’s average annual pay at just under $25,000.)

But to be clear, there’s been a labor crisis in higher ed for a long time. It just hasn’t always been a crisis for everyone in higher ed.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has pretty much confirmed what the stories about adjuncts on food stamps and dying without health coverage illustrate: A “long-term fiscal crisis” has crushed Ph.D.s into adjunct spackle, to be applied liberally to cracks in university foundations. The report also shows something else: “The proportion of African-Americans in non-tenure-track positions (15.2 percent) is more than 50 percent greater than that of whites (9.6 percent).”  In 2009, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education analyzed data from the Department of Education and projected that if current rates of hiring and promotion of black Ph.D.s remained steady, it would “take nearly a century and a half for the percentage of African-American college faculty to reach parity with the percentage of blacks in the nation’s population.” African-Americans make up just 5 percent of full-time faculty. If you leave out the high proportion of black Ph.D.s working in historically black colleges and universities, black full-time faculty in the U.S. barely clears 4 percent.

You have two sets of conditions unfolding against these statistics. On the one hand, African-Americans are less likely to attend graduate school than whites for myriad reasons. First, you have to know that graduate school exists and is a practical option for someone like you. That often takes sharing a network—family, friends, mentors—who can model how that’s done and what it looks like. But historical discrimination in college enrollment and persisting inequalities from kindergarten through college means black students are less likely to know someone who has been to graduate school.

Should you discover graduate school and meet the institutional requirements for graduate school, you still have to pay for graduate school. Everything from shelling out a couple hundred dollars per application to funding a move to get there would be a whole lot easier with inherited wealth or parents with home equity and a good credit score. Again, for reasons well-documented by sociologists like James Shapiro, the hidden cost of being black in America makes getting there a lot harder.

Education: To paper over the chasms of corporate tax breaks, Jindal has repeatedly robbed the state’s colleges and universities. Funding for higher education has been slashed by more than 43 percent since Jindal took office, a cutback exceeded only by Arizona. The flagship Louisiana State University may be forced to shrink its budget by 40 percent next year. Jindal also presided over the creation of one of the largest public-school voucher systems for K-12 grade students, which courts have twice ruled unconstitutional. Recent data suggests that Jindal’s much-publicized reforms are not delivering the promised educational gains.

The Washington Post:

Adjunct professors fight for crumbs on campus – The Washington Post

As colleges and universities rev for the fall semester, the stony exploitation of the adjunct faculty continues, providing cheap labor for America’s campuses, from small community colleges to knowledge factories with 40,000 students. The median salary for adjuncts, according to the American Association of University Professors, is $2,700 per three-credit course. Some schools raise this slightly to $3,000 to $5,000; a tiny few go higher. Others sink to $1,000. Pay scales vary from school to school, course to course. Adjuncts teaching upper-level biophysics are likely to earn more than those teaching freshman grammar.

 Inside Higher Ed:  Fight for 15K

April 16, 2015

Low-wage workers in cities from New York City to Los Angeles participated in national day of protest Wednesday to draw attention to their fight for a living wage. Most of the workers were from home health and child care, retail, fast food, and other traditionally low-paying fields, but a significant number of protesters represented what is — for some — surprisingly low-wage work: non-tenure-track academic labor.

“I’ve been involved in adjuncting for 4 years teaching 10 to 12 classes a year, which is more than a full load and, quite frankly, I’m sick of it,” said Cole Bellamy, an adjunct instructor of composition at Saint Leo University who participated in a rally in support of adjuncts on the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus. “I work 50 percent more than a full-timer in order to make more than a living wage, and something needs to be done about that.”

But it’s not just about the money — about $2,600 per course — Bellamy said. “This is about the fact that teaching at the university level is something that is being rapidly devalued and deprofessionalized. And at the same time we’ve got ever-rising tuition, administrative glut and executive salaries. … This really is a battle for the soul of the university.”

Second class: Madison’s adjunct professors lack wages, job security of their full-time peers

May 13, 2015

Student Israel Ortiz, a native of Mexico, said he sought out the class after taking an online course with McDaniel.

“I figured it would be interesting to see Latino literature from a U.S. approach, but it was because he was a good teacher more than anything,” Ortiz said.

He always has thought of McDaniel as “professor,” Ortiz said, and was surprised to learn that McDaniel is a part-time instructor who does not know from one semester to the next which classes, if any, he will be teaching.

McDaniel earns less than $8,000 a semester teaching a three-course load, considered full time in academia.

“When you see the amount of time he puts into it …” Ortiz trailed off before adding that at least one other teacher at MATC had talked about his part-time status.

“They are giving full efforts, and not being compensated for it,” Ortiz said.

That’s the sentiment among many of the thousand-plus adjunct instructors who teach thousands of students in Madison, at MATC, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College.

The circumstances of these adjunct instructors differ from institution to institution. They may struggle to paste together a sufficient workload to make ends meet, teaching at multiple local institutions. Others earn a comfortable wage, but bristle at the better pay and greater job security given tenured faculty doing similar work. Some profess appreciation at being given the opportunity to bring their professional experience to the college classroom.

All say they love to teach.

Read more of Second class: Madison’s adjunct professors lack wages, job security of their full-time peers : Ct

[…] So it’s no surprise that the Koch Brothers, notoriously right-wing billionaires, are using their fortunes to promote radical, conservative priorities to millennials through their organization, Generation Opportunity.

However, reading through American Bridge’s report about the group, it’s clear that they’ll face an uphill battle. That’s not just because young people tend to disagree with the priorities the Koch Brothers are putting forth, but especially because young people are actually working against the very issues that GenOpp stands for.

Generation Opportunity opposes government subsidized student loans, federal aid to colleges, lowering loan rates – basically, any realistic measure that could make a college education more accessible to millions of students. With 71 percent of studentsgraduating from college with debt and low-income students bearing the greatest brunt of tuition increases, making college more – not less – affordable is critical in order for students of all backgrounds to attend college. That’s a big reason why every day I work with students through People For the American Way Foundation’s Young People For (YP4) program that are fighting directly against Koch priorities that seek to restrict college access.


For a full analysis of these clippings, see my essay, American Precariat: HigherEd edition.



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