Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Another School Plundered

By Professor Doom

     It’s been obvious for a long time that for-profit schools, many of them, exist simply to loot money from the student loan scam. These schools spring up practically overnight, and make no secret about what they’re about. Thus, they don’t have huge endowment funds to loot, and don’t have to engage in real estate shenanigans to transfer money into the administrators’ pockets.

      Non-profit schools might sound like they’re more interested in helping people get an education, but it’s been shown in detail that NYU, a large, old, well-established, non-profit school can still be merely about plundering the system to put money in the pockets of top administrators.

     What of state schools? While trusting in government nowadays is as foolish as depositing money in a Greek bank, could there be enough checks and balances in the system to keep the plundering to a minimum? Har.

     What signs should one look for to tell that a school is being plundered? Well, building construction when it’s clear there’s no need is obvious enough. Skyrocketing Poo-Bah pay is harder to see, but you can usually find it if you access public records. Finally, the adjunctification of the faculty is the hardest to spot, far more challenging to see than “Under Construction” signs. Faculty don’t talk about their pay, and it’s difficult, from the student’s perspective, to tell if your teacher is being treated like an educated professional (you know, like the job you’re supposed to get once you get that education), or a minimum wage temp worker to be discarded at will.

     Sometimes, the adjunctification of a campus is advertised:

     The title is, as is so often the case, just a bit misleading. You might think from the title that, hey, the school is shrinking, merely cutting back on the course offerings. Stuff happens. The reality is in the article:

The other 64 are being asked to reapply as adjuncts, who make about $2,100 per course and have no benefits, according to the college.

     So, the classes are still there, the students are still there, the immense profits are still there. But, profits will be maximized as the faculty are fired, and then re-hired at a much lower pay.

     The college, of course, is claiming that declining support from the state, and declining enrollments, justify screwing the faculty like this. As always, the numbers don’t really add up:

Bergen’s enrollment has declined by more than 1,900 in that time to 15,651 in Fall 2014, according to the numbers.

     1900 students fill about 40 classes. Faculty teach 5 classes a semester at this school, so…8 faculty, maybe, might need to go based on this reduction. Not 64. Of course, since such faculty are getting the “offer” of a rehire with a 70% pay reduction, it’s clear admin knows they’re lying here: they still need the faculty, they just don’t want to pay a fair wage.

      Hey, are administrative positions being closed as well? Nope:

Bergen trustees agreed to hire Lindsay Maurer as executive director of its foundation, which raises private funds for the school, at an annual salary of $160,000.
--do note the money spent on this one administrator could cover 5 faculty positions, closing more than half the gap all by itself.

     Fund-raising is obviously a much better paying job than anything in education. While there are endless courses on sexual deviancy and television shows, there are no college courses on fund raising. Why is it that our administrators tout how critical education is to getting a job, but never have any interest in offering courses that lead to the grotesquely highly paid administrative jobs?

     Since the article fails to include the real details of the plundering, I’m forced to go to the comments section to get actual information.

As a former BCC Adjunct, I'd say that $2,100 per course in just above the minimum wage!

     We really, really, need to start publicizing the simple fact that having an education nowadays means you struggle to get a minimum wage job. Once people realize that’s what education is worth, maybe they’ll stop going ridiculously deep into debt for it. One can hope. The comments section continues:

Ms. Alex needs to ask more questions instead of simply pasting together press releases.

     Ms. Alex is the author of the linked article. Luckily, others are asking questions about what’s really going on with all the money pouring into higher education. Here are some answers:

BCC's President gave herself a raise and drives around in a Lexus while asking others to make cuts. The VP of Student Affairs went on an extended trip to Dubai while cutting funding for student clubs to have snacks such as cookies at their events. To put it into perspective at least a dozen of her executive cabinet (yes it's that big) makes over 6 figures. Please fire the president before BCC becomes a case study in arrogance, stupidity, and mismanagement.

     This school has 15,000 students, and yet the Vice President of Student Affairs has a cabinet of a dozen highly paid staffers, and feels the need to go on long trips halfway around the world. Keep in mind, this is just a small community college here. Looking at the VP’s resume reveals she purchased her doctorate from a for-profit online place, Northcentral (sic) University. Northcentral (sic) is not to be confused with the more legitimate North Central University…honest, it’s a red flag when a new institution picks a name easily confused with an older institution. Good for her, I guess, but I’ve written before of these ridiculous administrative degrees.

     A professor at this community college boldly summarizes the plundering, using his real name, no less (I’ll have to remember to follow up next year and see if he’s still employed):

A couple of points need to be added to this story:

1) The County this year under CE Tedesco restored the $5 million the Donovan administration cut from BCC's budget and added $400-500K to that. One could hardly call that flat funding.

     No matter the school, the ol’ “not enough funding” line is an easily dispelled myth about what’s going on in higher education.

2) The College continues to pay out hundreds of thousands per year to outside contractors, coupled with lucrative "change orders" who have no meaningful supervision, Kalas Plumbing and Redmann Electric among them. To my knowledge there have been no cut-backs in this area and no "pink slips".


3) As I noted before over the tenure of CE Donovan the Schepisi law firm billed the College nearly a million dollars. The head of the BOT's Personnel Committee saw fit to get the BOT to hire a close personal friend to negotiate the bargaining unit contracts and he put all of them in impasse at a cost of $230K.

Again, this sort of shenanigans is not news to readers of my blog.

4) When the faculty voted "No Confidence" in the president in 2014, the BOT responded by renewing her contract for three years and adding generous incentives to her base. 

     I can’t emphasize strongly enough how helpless faculty are to stop the plundering. In decades past, a “no confidence” vote meant the end of the tenure of the administrator. Now, it’s not even a speed bump to the plundering. If anything, such a vote seems to accelerate the looting of the school’s coffers into administrative pockets.

5) As soon as the bargaining units' contracts were settled under a new labor negotiator (who charged $9000 for his services compared to $230K), the BOT saw fit to increase top management's salaries by another 1.25% on top of annual increases received the whole time that the employee contracts were in impasse with no increases.

     Faculty pay has barely changed in the last 30 years (gone down, if you account for adjunct pay), while administrative pay just keeps skyrocketing. Honest, there’s where the money is going. The only way faculty pay can go up is if administration gets enough money for administrators, and their greed is insatiable. It’s so bad now that firing faculty and offering to hire them at steep pay cuts is common practice in higher education. The faculty member continues to shed light:

Yet a new building is going up for health sciences…

     So, we have all the signs of a school in the act of being plundered here. New buildings going up despite falling enrollment, administrative pay skyrocketing, and the adjunctification of the faculty. Administrative control of the system is complete, and the looting will continue until there is absolutely nothing left.

      Why would anyone suspect this college, or the many other institutions in the same circumstances, would be a good place to get an education?

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