By Professor Doom
One of the reasons UNC was interested in having bogus paper classes is because writing courses, legitimate ones, are labor-intensive. It’s very time consuming to look over a student’s paper, read it carefully and in detail, determine what, exactly is wrong, and write down in detail how to fix the paper. Since education is no longer the purpose of many of our institutions of higher education, it just makes sense to make writing courses bogus; that was UNC’s approach, although many other schools take the route of simply not having much writing in their courses at all (less of a paper trail that way).
Despite all the student loan money flowing into our institutions of higher education, working conditions only seem to get worse…classes get larger and larger, students coming into the class are less and less interested in being there, and faculty pay never seems to change much (funny note: a friend of mine’s mother had my same job title in the 70s, and did essentially the same work…for the same pay I receive today).
One of the best recent examples of what it’s like to work in higher education today is ASU, especially if you teach a writing course there. A few years back, they increased the class size from 19 to 25, essentially a 30% increase in workload, for no increase in pay. Well, no increase in pay for the instructors of the courses, the administrators who thought of this idea naturally got a fat pay raise as reward for “lowering costs”.
Instructors were teaching 76 students a semester, and now 100. It’s worth noting that the recommended maximum number of students a writing teacher should have is 60, 45 if teaching remedial students. Now, I grant the organization in that link might be “a little” self-serving with such a recommendation, but do keep in mind that this is what class sizes and workloads were like decades ago…when we didn’t consistently have many people coming out of a university with literally no improvement in ability over the course of 6 years of ridiculously expensive tuition (in fact, back then it only took 4 years, and tuition was much lower…how long until someone with the power to change things realizes the math is very screwy now?).
Nevertheless, having class sizes this large violates best practices. It’s curious when administration screws over faculty or gives themselves another ridiculously huge pay raise, they use “best practices” as the reason. But when best practices might give faculty a break, well, admin says “screw best practices.”
ASU will be topping themselves. In addition to making the class sizes larger, now ASU is mandating that faculty will need to teach 5 writing courses a semester, instead of 4…again, for no additional pay. I should point out the pay that these highly educated professionals get for their wonderful jobs is $32,000 a year. Keep in mind, many, if not all, of these professors have Ph.D.s. Many of the instructors at ASU are, in fact, alumni of ASU, who go their advanced degrees at ASU…in exchange for huge student loans, which they can’t pay off because the job their degree is worth doesn’t pay enough for that. Anymore.
Arizona State, meanwhile, says the change is necessary to address a budget shortfall.
As always, the reason for asking for more from the serfs is money. But…these courses are already highly profitable. Let’s do some math here. According the ASU’s tuition calculator, each student pays about $2,000 for the course (the institution also gets considerable money through various fees, as well as a cut of the loot from the textbooks for the course). So, 200 students a year means these instructors are responsible for $400,000 in revenue for the institution, which in turn gives the instructors $32,000. Assuming an adequate benefits package, that means about $40,000 outflow per instructor, versus $400,000 inflow.
Do keep in mind, ASU is state supported, and almost certainly gets a big break on real estate and other taxes to the state, as well as discounts on utilities and other overhead, so paying the instructor almost certainly represents most of the expense for these courses.
In exchange for the extra course work, instructors won’t have to engage in professional development or other activity that might give them a slight chance to improve their lot in life…administration actually makes that sound like a deal! Instructors realize it isn’t:
The instructor, who asked that her name not be used due to concerns about job security, added: “Further disenfranchising faculty from the department and the university makes this one a hard sell.”
--what, an instructor doesn’t want to use her name because she fears retaliation from administration? Oh come on now, everyone knows that faculty in higher education that (snicker) use their real (chuckle) names when making a (snort) complaint will be treated with fairneHAHAHAHHAHAHHAH…sorry, there’s no way to complete that with a straight face. You better believe it’s that bad in higher education, that even complaining about this level of abuse can lead to retaliation.
ASU gets 10 times as much money back as they put in. Many retail businesses would be *thrilled* to have a 900% return on investment (there’s a reason for-profit institutions make such great money). You’ll be very hard pressed to find ANY legitimate, long running business with this kind of return (again, for-profits don’t satisfy the “legitimate” part of that).
So, unsatisfied with the 900% rate of return, ASU administration wants MOAR, and they don’t care if it’ll make the education even worse, or if it violates industry standards, or if it violates common sense. They need the money, you see.
But, wait a minute here. Just a few months ago, the Poo-Bah of ASU got a 20% pay raise, to the miserable, lowly sum of $900,000 a year. Wow, a 20% pay raise…I’ve never come close to getting something like that, nor have I ever heard of a faculty member getting it. Hmm. Maybe he’s just getting the pay due to that “best practices” stuff? The linked article helpfully answers that question:
“The typical public-college president earned $478,896 in total compensation in 2012-13, the most recent year available…”
You can bet, however, that other Poo-Bahs are going to be looking at ASU and saying best practices say they deserve MOAR. Oh well, after that big bump, I guess he won’t be expecting any more increases anytime soon. Oh, wait:
2015: Up to $180,000 for meeting goals in several categories, including freshman retention, research revenue, bachelor's degrees and number of transfer students coming to ASU.
--do note that education is not one of his goals, and mostly what he’ll need to do is sell out the school more, in order to attract students that might go elsewhere.
Hmm, in September, admin gets a 20% pay raise. In December, faculty get a 25% increase in work load, because there’s no money. These dots aren’t so far apart, are they?
So, it’s very clear that there’s money available at ASU. If there’s a budget shortfall, it’s because administration is pissing away the money. Maybe I could write someone in the ASU Leadership and ask them to maybe show a little restraint. I suspect the Poo-Bah doesn’t care. ASU has 15 vice presidents, making a quarter of a million or more apiece…somehow I bet they don’t care about the lot of the $32k a year peasants. To put this in context, ASU has some 60,000 customers a year, and 15 vice presidents, in addition to the Poo-Bah. McDonald’s, with, I dunno, a billion customers a year, has ONE MORE vice president and Poo-Bah than ASU.
In addition to having very nearly as many vice presidents as a 100 billion dollar company, ASU has 20 provosts and deans, each making 6 figures, too. Each one of these people has support staff, an assistant and a secretary at the bare minimum, also each making more than the instructors that are being asked for MOAR. Would the 12 member board of regents care? They just approved the Poo-Bah’s pay raise, so I suspect not. It…really doesn’t take much effort to see there are too many administrators in higher education, being paid way too much.
Does anyone else not see what’s really going on in higher education? We’ll look at the comments section next time to see.