Friday, January 23, 2015

The Profits of College Classes

By Professor Doom

     Many times I’ve commented on the immense profit that college courses generate. I’ve naturally calculated things very crudely in a three step process. First, revenue for a class is tuition for a student, multiplied by the number of students. Next, cost is whatever is paid to the teacher. Third and last, subtract cost from revenue, and you have profit.

      I totally grant this is a simplistic approach, but I claim that the per-class overhead costs, especially at a large school, double-especially for an online school, are minimal compared to tuition revenue. For-profit schools make massive, massive profits, so I know my calculations can’t be far off when it comes to realizing the awesome profits that classes (more accurately, tuition…even more accurately, the student loans) generate.

     Anyway, I’m hardly alone in realizing that admin, as is so often the case, is full of crap when they say there’s just no way to make money in “small” classes with “only” a couple dozen students in them.

      Someone else also decided to do that math and see the truth of the matter:

--“General Education” refers to those classes that basically all students have to take, usually taught by minimally paid adjuncts, grad students, or instructors. As I’ve shown before, these courses have been reduced to high school level material or lower, and so don’t require all that much ability.

     Now, I’ve done the math for schools I’ve taught at, but this time around the calculations are done at Clemson:

1 section of English 345 (fiction writing): 19 student cap
1 section of English 312 (advanced composition): 19 student cap
Total number of students: 94 = 63 in-state, 31 out-of-state
In-state credit hour revenue: 63 x 3 = 189 x $402/hr = $75,978
Out-of-state credit hour revenue: 31 x 3 = 93 x $1020/hr = $94,860
Total: $170,388/semester[6]
My salary at Clemson was just over $25,000/year[7].
On a yearly basis, I was responsible for over $340,000 of revenue.

     So, much like I’ve found elsewhere, we’re seeing a 900% or better return on expenses. That’s a very hefty profit…in this case it’s on classes with 19 students. When you consider there are plenty of college classes with 200, 400, even 1,000 students, it’s close to infuriating when administration says it’s time to raise tuition some more, and raise the class size some more, and lower teacher pay some more, or else the institution, already overflowing with students, just can’t make ends meet.

Where does the money go? Not to English departments or general education, certainly…

     Where indeed, does that money go? I want to point out that, once again, we’re talking about a state supported institution…in the face of these kinds of profits, just how much “support” is necessary, anyway? And how is it not enough?

Yes, this is the fault of neglectful legislatures and bloated, corporatist administration and all kinds of other things. Tenured faculty are not to blame for the state of the world, even as I believe that they are uniquely empowered to challenge the status quo.

     Heh, the author here comes to the same conclusions I do, namely that the horribly bloated and overpaid administrative staff are key to what’s going on in higher education. On the other hand he’s wrong in thinking tenured faculty can do anything about it. As I’ve shown in my blog many times, tenure means nothing. Even if tenure did magically mean something, administrators are already awarding tenure to themselves…and they have the numbers to overwhelm tenured legitimate faculty. No, at this point what’s needed is a full on reset, or an overnight removal of basically everyone in higher education that has nothing to do with teaching or research (i.e., pretty much all administration).

      We also need to get rid of the student loan scam…and none of these solutions are on the table, even though the student loan scam was known as such at least 20 years ago. Anyway, back to what the author has to say…

“We all should be banding together to protest,…”

     Hehehe, no. Administration has a chokehold on what’s going on right now…protesters, complainers, and whistleblowers are removed in short order, sometimes brutally. There will be no banding together.  What I like about Inside Higher Education, where I’m quoting from, is they allow posts from readers, so that if something is horribly wrong about the article, someone who knows better can make a correction. Mainstream media doesn’t allow such posts, and that’s a problem. If/when (more realistically, “when”) they provide complete crap you have no choice but to take it at face value, because no reader can make corrections.

      Anyway, the readers have much to say here, but not in the way of corrections:

“Additionally, at most colleges, there's also a series of fees that are dedicated to different areas.
For example, at Clemson students pay a $40 "activity" fee, and a $12 "software license" fee, and a $53 "campus rec" fee, $118 "information technology" fee. That technology fee brings in over $2 million a semester, all by itself…”

     While many news pieces focus on tuition increases, it’s worth pointing out there are MANY other fees involved (one online course I know of has a $400 technology fee just for that course…and the student provides his own computer and internet access!). One thing missing in the list is parking fees. Again, one school charges $20 a month if you want to park within a mile of the building where your classes are.

     As a former business person, the idea of apportionment being "revenue" or "sales" and the resulting government/public service cost somehow netting a "profit" or "loss" really upsets my sensibilities.

    As is quite common, people outside the industry are surprised at just how nutty the approach to institutional revenue is.

Maybe we need to call for an independent audit of the university. I mean, where is the money *actually* going?

     Yeah, good luck with getting that audit done in an honest way. It’ll be easier to audit the Fed. Luckily, you don’t really need an audit to figure out where the money goes, just look at the huge size of the administrative/support/non-teaching staff, and their ridiculous salaries.

The underlying assumptions here are that all such classes have instructional costs of just over $3000 and that there are no institutional grants or scholarships granted.

     This is a point many administrators make, as most public institutions don’t really collect all the tuition from the student, for every student. For example, I received a $500 scholarship for one semester (that covered the whole semester and my books, to give some idea of how cheap higher education used to be before all the $100,000 a year administrators, one per class at the minimum, moved in). 

     But…scholarship money still counts as money. For an institution to grant money to the student, it has to first get that money from somewhere. I’ve been involved in awarding a few scholarships: before the scholarship is awarded, first the money for the scholarship is raised. So, no, this is misdirection. Scholarship money first has to be collected before it is awarded.

     Even if the school has many blanket discounts (child of alumni, employee discount, or whatever), then if the school isn’t making money on these classes, that’s a sign of horrible mismanagement by administration. Many places give employee discounts…but no sane businessman offers discounts to the point that the business loses money on the sale (at least not generally).

The short list includes: the building, the renovated class room, the digital technology, video, audio, and projection system, electricity, heating and AC, internet, networking, desks, chairs, the staff the maintains the facility, the staff that schedules classes, the staff the deals with the state, accreditation, and taxes, the legal staff, and a slew of others that “support” the classes.

      There really are many overhead costs being ignored, but I point out: state schools are supported by taxpayer money. If the support doesn’t go to the students or faculty, and it clearly doesn’t, then is must be going to infrastructure. I also want to point out, for profit schools seem to get by just fine without all that stuff. And, I want to point out that there are accredited schools that charge basically no tuition, don’t have massive endowments or state support, and STILL don’t need huge class sizes to be operational.

     No, the real overhead comes from administration. See, every class needs a teacher, that’s pretty obvious. For some reason, in higher education today, teachers are the minority, in many cases outnumbered by 2:1 on campus by administrators. Think that through, and you’ll realize that means every single classroom has, in addition to the minimally paid teacher with the actual knowledge teaching the course, at least one full time, and highly paid, administrator doing, what? I don’t know. Nobody knows. I grant that we need a few, at the beginning and end of the semester, but it’s really nuts how many there are now, full time, doing….nobody knows what.

     Seriously, anyone counting the money in higher education knows that tuition has been driven so high, and teacher pay so low, that only wild mismanagement can explain institutions asking their instructors to cover classes sizes over 30 today.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Obama’s Stupid Community College Plan

By Professor Doom

      Over the last year or more, I’ve documented extensive fraud and corruption in higher education. While universities totally have their share, when it comes to the truly awesome fraud, nothing beats community college.

     Much of the reason for this is because community colleges (and for-profit schools, a slightly larger source of fraud) are built practically overnight from the top down: administration sets the rules and controls the entire system. So, education is tossed very quickly, and standards annihilated, in pursuit of fast growth and a large student base.

      I have no faith in government to do the right thing, but I still foolishly have a bit of faith that, at least sometimes, it won’t do the worst possible thing. Obama crushed that foolish faith in a recent announcement, where he announced a plan to offer 2 years of “free” community college to everyone. Naturally, higher education administration is thrilled at the growth potential:

     Seriously, “free” community college for everyone? You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.
      For readers that haven’t been following along in my blog, here’s a quick primer of three things that best describe what really goes on, academically, in community college:

1.     25% of Community College Is 6th Grade Level

--even though it violates Federal law to use government money for “college” material below the 9th grade, community colleges regularly violate the law, since following the law cuts into growth.

2.     90% of Community College isn’t College

--I’m not simply talking about all the bogus gender-studies type coursework here, I’m talking, literally, the same material that everyone in the public school system learns is simply being retaught in community college. I also should note that only about 1% of the coursework in community college is actually 2nd year coursework as a university knows it (in fact, what’s going on at your local high school is now second year community college work). Failing students cuts into growth; it just makes sense to present and reteach coursework they already know, or at least have seen before. Oh, wait, words like “coursework” and “reteach” are inaccurate, because:

3. Study Finds Community College “Unhinged”

--this study found that while on paper community colleges use college level syllabi and textbooks, what actually goes on in the colleges is way below college, even in the “College level” courses. The reason for this fraud is because accreditation only looks at the syllabi and textbooks, and, past that, trusts administration to report that what’s going on in the classroom is legitimate. That worked really well at UNC, right? Yes, UNC is a university, and absolutely massive frauds go on at university…but UNC had at least a small tradition of legitimacy that allowed their 18 year fraud to eventually be exposed. Community colleges have no such tradition, and I know of at least one community college with decade-long frauds running with no hope whatsoever that anything will be done about it. Having integrity cuts into growth, you see.

     So, there is absolutely no legitimacy to the community college system…and Obama wants to put everyone in this system? I’d send him an e-mail detailing the above if I thought it would do any good. Anyway, back to the article’s unbridled enthusiasm for forcing kids into this scam:

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said: "Having listened to students and their parents across the state — all of whom have implored me to do more to combat the prohibitive costs of higher education — I will work hard to assure prompt consideration of this promising and important proposal."

     This is just classic government. Tuition wasn’t a problem before the government-created student loan scam…but now tuition is high. It’s a problem created by government. So, government to the rescue! It plans to fix this problem by creating a bigger problem, namely by promoting the community college scam.


If all states participate, federal officials estimate that 9 million students could benefit.
--I don’t see how there can be a “benefit” to putting our kids into such a fraudulent system

     Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for job and technical training, but that’s not what goes on at community college. Most of the coursework is “liberal arts” coursework…again, not a problem per se, but why should endless tax dollars be spent on training our children to, for example, hate white males? Alas, there’s only a touch of hyperbole in that rhetorical question, as this is, realistically, what will happen.

     See, job training is a low priority at community college. Your community college administrator wants to keep the price of teaching down. Hiring someone with actual job skills (the only ones that should be doing job training, right?) is expensive, and materials for courses that teach real skills are pricey—you can’t teach computer, lab, or mechanical stills without computers, a lab or a machine shop, after all. Even more problematic, someone with job skills isn’t going to pass someone completely ignorant out of class—people with skills take pride in their skills, and have integrity, and don’t want their skills to get a bad reputation.

      On the other hand, someone with skills in Gender Studies or whatever?  This kind of person doesn’t really have any prospects in the job market, so can be hired very cheaply. Since these courses typically have minimal assignments at best, the college need spend almost nothing on course materials. Since there are no skills involved here, these people pass students, regardless of whether the students did anything or learned anything.

     I’m not saying that previous paragraph to be mean, it’s now quite documented that many college classes have “no requirements” (i.e., no reading, no writing, no demonstration of learning), that community colleges offer degrees in Urban Studies (taught, presumably, by people with training in Urban Studies), and that even if there is minimal college coursework, it’s on the level of “don’t shave.”

     Nothing in the article or Obama’s proposal indicates how we’re going to make community colleges legitimate…instead, there’s just cheering of “free” college for all. I keep putting “free” in quotes because nothing from government is free; anything government hands out is just a fraction of what the government first took from someone else (keeping the best for itself, of course).

      This “free” college idea isn’t terrible because it isn’t “free”, however. Community college isn’t college, and that’s a serious problem. A far better proposal would be simply to shut down most all community college programs, and give them a chance to start over, as tiny schools that grow because they offer legitimate education, instead of huge, fraudulent schools that only exist due to the fraud of Pell grant and student loan scams.

     Bottom line, the government’s response to the huge mess it created with the student loan scam is to…make an even bigger mess, with an even bigger scam. Coincidentally, last year I started writing another book, The Community College Scam…still trying to get a mainstream publisher to even consider it, however.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Open Admission Administration Gibberish

By Professor Doom

     Administration: “Pure lies.”
--often I quote things I’ve heard with my own ears, but here I’m just paraphrasing.

     When I was at a college, it was amazing how many times administration would spew such open lies, and I, and other faculty, would simply sit there with our mouths shut. Even when the lies were so blatant that only an idiot could believe, we said nothing. Granted, we had no choice, and no power to do anything about it.

      As always, the gentle reader need not take my word for it, as another article shows just how stupid administration in higher education thinks everyone else is. Their arrogance doesn’t let them see that the only reason they get away with their lies is because the student loan scam, and the thorough corruption of accreditation, means administration can do whatever they want. That they fritter away such power on pointless lies further illustrates their worthlessness, but I digress.

      So, here go again with another flurry of lies:

     At first glance, this is just another school going to open admissions. I was a big fan of open admission to higher education, too…I drank the Kool-Aid. “All those tests are elitist!” I was told to believe. But the reality is, for all the problems of standardized testing, in lieu of nothing else, standardized tests do at least give a slight clue as to whether a prospective student has any interest in academics. Incidentally there’s a big difference between the endless high stakes tests-for-all of public schools and entrance examinations for those-that-want-it of higher education, but I digress.
      Let’s see how the college rationalizes the elimination of using test scores:

Thomas College will continue to concentrate on a student’s high school record and activities as the primary factor in offering admission…”

     Rubbish. Entrance will be reduced to “has a high school diploma or GED”. Keep in mind, the school already uses the high school record (the word “continue”)…administration will deliberately now use LESS information to decide to accept a student.

     Well, gee, since they’re using less information, that means that some administrators will be fired, and other administrators will have their pay cut, since they’re doing less of a job now, right? Right? Yeah, right.

     Back to reality, the only thing that can happen from this decision is that the school will be taking worse students than before.

“Thomas College joins a growing movement among universities and colleges nationwide by no longer basing its admissions decisions on standardized test scores.”

     This is from the article, and not from administration, so it’s true. The only thing administration cares about, at any school, is “growth.” Trouble is, roughly 88% of our high school graduates eventually go to some sort of college…the other 12%, through a variety of good reasons, aren’t going to go despite all the easy student loan money. Admin things getting rid of standardized tests will allow them to screw over the remaining 12%.

     Really, higher education has captured 88%...there is just so little room for more growth. While normal businesses at this point would try to stand out amongst the crowd of competitors with quality or something like that, in higher education, they’re still trying to get into new markets. “Open admission” is a very simple way to expand the market, by lowering standards to as low as possible, although, seriously, there is no more market to expand into.

      “Our faculty recognize that admissions criteria need not rely on singular examinations,” commented Academic Dean Dr. Jim Libby…”

      Back to quoting administration, and thus quoting lies. The Dean, by the way, has his Ph.D. in Public Policy in Higher Education…in other words, an Administrative Degree, which I’ve investigated before. The bald-facedness of this lie is amazing. The faculty didn’t make this decision. No honest faculty member, anywhere, says “our school will be better if we take worse students”. Faculty don’t even have the capacity to make this sort of change…it came from admin.

      Faculty know that standardized tests aren’t that great, but faculty also know that you don’t simply throw away data when you have nothing better to replace it. This lie from administration is being crammed into faculty’s mouth.

“…the College feels that standardized test scores are not as accurate as an applicant’s high school career in predicting success in college for most students…”

     Wait, I thought this decision came from the faculty? Administration can’t even keep their story straight. Anyway, this is just more lies. See, there are lots and lots of high schools out there, and no institution can possibly keep track of what’s going on at every high school in America. A student might be valedictorian, president of three different service organizations, and winner of “best student in school” award for 4 years running…but that doesn’t mean much when the high school only has 1 student. Between the grade inflation and social advancement of public high schools, there’s just no way to tell much about a student looking just at a high school diploma and whatever the student says…and we all know admin is too lazy to do any real follow-up on the high school transcripts.

     Hence the entire point of standardized tests: they provide the institution a unified standard of measurement. While public high schools have many, many, scandals, ETS (which runs many standardized tests) does an extraordinary job of maintaining integrity. ETS has to, as a private institution. If they lose their integrity, they have nothing...that doesn’t seem to apply to public schools, however.

      Why does the gentle reader suspect institutions in higher education are avoiding anything that looks like integrity? 

     Anyway, everyone knows that eliminating standards will reduce quality.

      Vice President of Enrollment Management Jonathan Kent emphasized that a “test-optional” admissions process does not mean the College is lowering admissions standards…

      Vice President of Enrollment Management…that’s a spiffy title for a school with less than 1400 students. Seriously, way too many administrators in higher education…

      Anyway, how can removing standardized test scores, RAISE admission standards? That’s impossible, on the face of it. The vice-Poo-Bah here is saying it’s not lowering it, either. Hmm, not lowering, not raising…so it’s exactly the same as before?

     Wait, what? If it’s exactly the same as before, then there’s absolutely no point in making any change! Why the wasted effort, then? 

     It’s so easy to catch administration in their lies, all you have to do is think for a second. 

“Thomas College is a special institution…”

     It’s amazing how pretty much every word out of an administrator’s mouth is a lie. If Thomas is so special, why are they trying to be like everyone else? How is that an advantage?

     "The College believes this policy change will allow a larger and more diverse applicant pool…"

     Ah, finally, after torturing it for a while, administration lets the truth out, sort of. “Larger and more diverse applicant pool”. In other words, growth, although couched in words that make it sound good. Keep in mind, most every other school in the country is open admission now, and yet Thomas is actually crowing about it.

      Let’s put that in perspective. When Jackie Robinson became the first African-American professional baseball player, it was a big deal. But imagine if, today, every single time a baseball team recruited a minority baseball player, it had a big press conference to make a big deal out of it getting a player, just because that player is a minority.

     We’d look at the team owners and administrators like they were idiots. And yet somehow the media and public don’t think it’s idiocy when administration in higher education does the same thing?

    Of course, in baseball, we all understand being a minority is irrelevant in a team member, what matters is quality. “Racial purity” silliness was discarded in pro sports, because what is critical to owners of professional teams is having quality players—owners (generally) want wins, above all else.

      In higher education, however, quality is discarded whenever possible, because administration wants growth, above all else.

     Once again, administration in higher education is standing up and saying “we’re going to reduce quality” and being proud of it. Every potential student of that school should listen to what administration is saying, and head somewhere else.