Thursday, November 21, 2013

The other big lie of community college



By Professor Doom

 

     Allow me to finish my overview of the community college scam, explaining why these abominations keep springing up like mushrooms.

     In previous essays I’ve shown how the CC’s offer minimal education. My examples of the CCs that don’t offer marketable skills aren’t exceptional, and the explanation is simple. CC’s pay little for faculty (“We’re not a university, so we don’t pay those wages”, or so the excuse goes). People with marketable skills, say, computer skills, can generally make double the salary of a typical CC faculty member. So, CC’s can’t get people with marketable skills. On the other hand, people with skills in Gender Studies, or Sexual Deviancy (yes, that’s a course) are hard pressed to find well-paying jobs, and thus gladly work for the low wages of a CC, which offers great quantities of courses in non-marketable, non-rigorous courses.

    Thus is it that there isn’t a lot of job training going on at a CC either.

    “We bring education to your community!” cries the CC admin, but I’ve shown over 90% of that education is the same as is offered in the high schools. It would be vastly cheaper just to pay the high school teachers to offer some night courses covering the same material they do for the children. Still, there is a tiny amount of actual college material at a CC. Now it’s time for our second lie:

The Second Lie of Community Colleges:

“Community Colleges are cheaper than universities.”

     “We’re cheaper than the university!” screams the CC admin…but I’ve shown that the bulk of students waste years of their lives and thousands of dollars of tuition money learning bogus material for bogus degrees. It’s not cheaper for the students, most of them.  For the few remaining students that get some benefit by playing the game I described earlier, it might be cheaper, but let’s look at the big picture.

     Most of the population of the United States is within an hour drive of a university (heck, I’m within an hour drive of half a dozen), so in terms of geography, there’s generally no need for a CC. Due to quirks of university funding that I’ve only lightly touched on, most universities are massively overbuilt, with many empty rooms, if not open land; I know, I don’t have a study to back that up, but every university I’ve taught at has plenty of unused space, literally whole buildings that could be used for classrooms, either as-is or with a little remodeling. Hold that thought: there’s plenty of room at even fast growing universities.

     When a community college opens up, the student base comes from two sources. The first source is the suckers, the ones that spend years there bouncing from one remedial course to the next, accomplishing nothing but getting older and deeper in debt—that’s most of them. The remainder could just as easily have gone to a university.

     Those “remainder” at the CC are simply taking students away from the university. The admin of the university responds in the obvious way: cut back faculty, many of whom either use marketable skills to get other jobs, or go to the CC, taking the pay cut.

The point: a city with a university, and a city with both university and CC, employ about the same number of faculty, and have the same number of real students getting an education.

“Congratulations to our two new vice-chancellors!”

--in the previous years, a local CC managed to screw up the calendar (so that the semesters were much shorter than what they legally can be), mess up the tuition calculation (a 10% increase turned into a 1% increase…admin just don’t have the skills to tell the difference),  and fail to budget properly causing failure to make payroll by $100k, among other goofy mistakes. The people most responsible got promotions, however. Meanwhile, faculty promotions and pay are locked…budget problems, you see.

 

     So it’s all a wash, right? Nope. Same number of faculty, same number of real students…but the CC gets a bonus legion of administrators. Even a tiny college, with a campus holding less than 2,000 students, can expect to have (in addition to the minimum 5 member board of trustees): a chancellor, two vice-chancellors, at least one dean, a registrar, a head librarian, assistants to each one of those, half a dozen HR people, half a dozen accountants, a PR department, an executive secretary, an IT department, and more…each making between three and ten times as much as the faculty. For some reason, they don’t get minimal pay like faculty, because “best practices” determines their pay. It’s really weird, the justification admin uses for their high pay is that they are paid highly.


--Administrative pay really is so insane that they’re actually passing laws to cap pay raises for administrators to a “mere” 10% a year.

     There is no real savings to the community with those “cheaper” classes, those few that are actually college courses. The money is just extracted from the community via taxes, to pay for a boatload of administrators that would not even exist but for the community college. It would be vastly cheaper to just use that administrative pay to fund scholarships for the real students to go to the university; the administrative caste as a single small school could support dozens of scholarships via their salary.

     After months of detailing so many problems in higher education, I reckon it’s time I talk about solutions. Most are trivial to implement, but they are deeply unlikely to be implemented all the same.