Friday, January 30, 2015

The Pay to Play Scam is Just A Small Part of the Fraud, Part 2

By Professor Doom

     So, I’m looking at yet another scandal in higher education, a rather piffling one, really: administration got caught taking a second bribe to let a student on campus. The scandals surrounding the scandal are interesting as well, such as the hiring of an unqualified paid booster into an administrative position.

    It doesn’t matter if the paid booster is unqualified to be a deanling; it takes nothing to be a deanling. I’ve seen many of these cases, and it’s never been a problem that such appointees are incompetent to do the job, because these jobs require nothing. I can’t even begin to list the unqualified administrators running higher education, whose only credentials are being friends of the Poo-Bah. No faculty know what these people do in their jobs.

     All we know is because the institution is paying these money-soaks so much, we need to double class sizes again, or teach an extra section for no pay. Yet another massive fraud of higher education only glossed over in this article (through no fault of the author, I concede).

     Anyone, and I mean anyone, that dares to try to stop what’s going on is removed:

“The emails also demonstrate this network of influence extended itself into the impeachment of Wallace Hall, a university regent who has challenged insider influence-peddling.”

     As is always the case, anyone inside higher education who tries to do anything about the frauds of higher education (and uses his real name), is removed in as humiliating a way possible. You can guess what happened to whistleblower Hall: he didn’t stand a chance:

 “…Rep. Eric Johnson, another member of the legislative committee who voted against Hall, was also interested in attending a graduate program at UT Law…”

     Does anyone else think that maybe the jury shouldn’t have a vested interest in passing judgment over the accused?  This alone should instantly void that “impeachment” of the one poor soul who foolishly tried to put some integrity back into the system.

     Honest, the corruption really is that over-the-top now. I’ve seen similar in the kangaroo court system of higher education many times. Perhaps the worst I’ve personally seen was secret testimony and evidence given in a secret counter-appeal given against another faculty, by a lawyer/faculty…you really think a competent lawyer would know better than to give secret evidence/testimony, but my own eyes have shown otherwise (of course, as I’ve shown before, competence is NOT what administration wants in faculty anyway). The faculty in that case, incidentally, knew it was a huge breach of integrity and a denial of due process, but had no choice but to accept it—the defendant had no chance at all.

     So, the whistleblower gets pulled into the kangaroo campus court system, and annihilated:

“…unsubstantiated claims that Hall “bullied staff” at UT. Evidence in Hall’s impeachment report consists of a single incident: Hall arguing in an email that an administrator named Kevin Hegarty ought to be punished for inventing and testifying to an incorrect figure that was at the crux of one of the accusations against Hall…”

     Yeah, that’s some real bullying there. It’s funny how big the double standard is for administration. I, and several of my faculty friends, have been bullied by admin. I wasn’t stupid enough to make a formal complaint, but one of my friends was.

     He fills out the forms, and provides the evidence, including documents with e-mails and testimony. Human Resources then forms a committee of administrators, which investigated themselves, and, *shock*, found no evidence of bullying. My friend, of course, was gone within the year.

     A complaint against admin will not get rid of even the most viciously incompetent administrator. On the other hand, if admin wants you out, as you can see above, it doesn’t take much in the way of evidence at all to be rid of you.

     As a legitimate site, Watchdog allows comments; a couple are from obvious paid trolls, in support of the Poo-Bah (considering the money he’s paying them, I don’t begrudge them, however). I won’t discuss them here, but if a reader wishes to read more, he can. One comment merits a response:

“This is not surprising, that it was found out IS surprising. UT is probably the most corrupt university in the nation, and has been for many years, in many areas…”

     Indeed, administration has many tools for squelching investigation, as the 18 year UNC open scandal demonstrates. But “probably the most corrupt”? I’m sorry, friend, but [citation needed]. Higher education is hideously, thoroughly corrupt, and the above is just a glimmer of what’s going on at one university…and what’s going on in the community college system (which should be almost entirely shut down) is vastly worse.

      Still, I give a solid A- for this piece, which at least covers a tiny bit of the fraud going on right now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pay To Play Scandal Just Part of Higher Ed Fraud

By Professor Doom

     It really is amazing how ridiculously corrupt higher education is; any story that tries to focus on one scandal can’t help but running into two others. A recent article by Jon Cassidy at really drives home the point as it merely tries to cover one aspect of the fraud…but I’ll try to point out a few others going on that the article overlooked.

      The short discussion of the scandal is as follows: in order for his son to get accepted into the business/graduate school, the father offered to pay a “donation” of $25,000 to the school/administration. The business school is hardly elite, accepting some 70% of applicants; the son had been rejected, however, and so the father was motivated to offer an extra enticement.

      I’m not pro-bribery, mind you, but I’m not sure I follow the distinction here; administrators already get “bribed” via tuition money to let students onto campus (it’s why so many campuses are “open admission” now, after all). Having already accepted bribes, why is taking two bribes a scandal? 

     That’s the main gist of the piece, and while I mostly see their point, they gloss over other aspects of the immense fraud in higher education.

      Anyway, the offer of the extra $25,000 payment was accepted, but there were some strings attached:

“…will be admitted into McCombs upon completing several of the prerequisites (e.g. Calculus, Statistics, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics) with good grades (around a 3.5 GPA). Will that work?”

     This strikes me as a perfectly reasonable counter-offer…the son was clearly unqualified to enter graduate school. I can’t help but notice here that the son has seemed to have skipped over some of the “real” courses he needed to take. That’s a whole semester of hard core work he missed, more like a year. How did he get a degree without taking any courses like those? What was he taking instead? Why did his advisor put him in crap courses, leaving him totally unprepared for the graduate school that, apparently, the son wanted to go to? Those are some simple questions an article investigating bizarre goings-on on campus might ask…there are many frauds suggested there.

      And so we’re at our first overlooked fraud. See, in times past, you really couldn’t get a degree in rubbish, and you couldn’t just register for rubbish, semester after semester, and eventually graduate. Instead, you had a faculty advisor, one who actually gave a damn about students, who would do things like ask the student what he wanted (eg, “do you want to go to business graduate school?”) and make the student register for the courses he actually needed to succeed (eg, “if so, then you need drop out of Women’s Studies and African Studies, and instead take Calculus and Statistics”).

     Alas, those days are gone. Administration now controls higher education, and tricks students into taking years of crap coursework that don’t in any way help the students achieve their goals. It’s one of several good reasons we now have hundreds of thousands of college graduates in minimum wage jobs today. An educator cares about education, and would help the student. An administrator cares about retention, and thus stuck this poor kid into coursework that, while very easy and great for retention, left him far behind his peers and unable to work towards his goals. An extra $25,000 from the father still won’t help educate the son.

     Of course, there’s one more fraud here that’s been missed. Imagine the deal is struck, and consider the faculty with the son in his Calculus class. He’s failing…but the faculty receives a phone call from admin, “You’ll need to pass the son.” The faculty will have no choice but to pass him (even if he fails the son, admin can just over-ride the grade anyway)….there’s nothing in accreditation to prevent this from happening, and, even if caught, the school will face no penalty from accreditation, as I’ve shown before.

     Insult to injury, of course, is that none of the extra $25,000 bribe will go into the faculty’s pockets…instead it goes to the administration for their “fine work.”

     And now back to the article.

“…Leshin is a founding member of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group of Longhorn insiders established to maintain the status quo at UT. Members of the coalition and the alumni association have been quoted in dozens of news articles, creating the appearance of broad support for Powers.
Far from being independent voices, the email records obtained by find the coalition and the alumni association often looped in on message coordination emails from Powers’ PR staff…”

     Now, this is interesting. In response to the scandal, the Poo-Bah has a bunch of supporters coordinate a PR campaign that says the Poo-Bah is a great fellow. At first glance, there’s nothing wrong this this: if the man has friends, they should be allowed to speak, even if they’re surreptitiously organizing their activities so it looks like they’re just people acting independently.

Yet in February 2013, when Powers’ hold on his job began to look tenuous, the Office of the President began paying the Texas Exes $100,000 every six months to support email blasts and other communications. The “game plan” for that campaign was coordinated with Powers’ deputy.

     While the article focuses on the scandal of the Poo-Bah paying for his PR and calling them “just supporters”, it misses yet another fraud going on here.

      The Poo-Bah isn’t just paying these guys, he’s paying them with university money. Your tax dollars at work! Keep that in mind, year after year faculty are told to tighten their belts because of money problems, but the Poo-Bah can casually throw away money for dubious things like getting PR to spin taking an extra bribe.

     So, that’s like what, the 4th aspect of the pervasive fraud in higher education that the article missed, because it’s only looking at the second-bribe issue. Back to the article on the influence-peddling going on here:

“…admitting state Reps. Richard Peña Raymond and Eddie Rodriguez to the law school, although neither has been able to pass the bar despite repeated attempts…”

     I don’t know about you, but I’m rather curious what classes these guys were taking, and what grades they got. The article only has so much ground it can cover.

      “….Powers rewarded Beckworth by appointing him associate dean of the law school.”
--Powers is the Poo-Bah here, Beckworth is the head of the “fan club.”

      And so another deanling is added to what I’m sure is a very bloated administrative bureaucracy at this school. Again, the article is right to point out the very obvious conflict here in the Poo-Bah hiring paid boosters to serve under him, but this only scratches the surface. Most of administration in higher education is appointed in a fraudulent manner, little different than this. As faculty, we sit by and see $100,000+ positions created from nothing, year after year, deanling after deanling after deanling.

     Faculty include people that can smash atoms in their spare time, translate ancient languages nobody speaks into modern prose, describe the fundamental workings of reality without even trying….and not a one of them has been able to figure out what, exactly, any of these deanlings actually DO in their jobs. We also don’t have a clue how to get rid of them…but we sure wish we could.

       It gets quite a bit worse, and the article hints at some of the other frauds going on, frauds that are everyday in higher education today.

     Next time.


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.