Sunday, September 18, 2016

MA Program Cancelled, Stranding Students

By Professor Doom

Parking Minion: “We can’t sell you the parking tag until the semester starts.”
Me: “That’s 4 days from now. Why can’t I get this $250 tag now?”
Parking Minion: “We’ll have them next week, sir.”
Me: “But there’ll be huge crowds next week. Why not plan ahead?”
Parking Minion: “I don’t know, please move along so I can help the next customer.”

--It’s merely funny to have parking on campus cost more than tuition when I was a kid. It’s outright bizarre that campuses can’t plan ahead to prevent long lines.

     It’s so weird how our campuses are ruled by people with degrees in Vision and Leadership, but they can’t seem to look ahead even a little, the better to lead the way. The post before this was the debacle of admin firing all the faculty the day before classes start…none of the administrators felt the responsibility of leaders, to take care of the students who paid for classes that now had no teachers.

     It isn’t just at the undergraduate level that our “leaders” are so clueless how to run things. I’ve covered insane art school shenanigans before, where an entire first year class resigned rather than be cheated by administration. It goes both ways, as administration sees no problem with cancelling a whole program when they wish:

     Pursuing a graduate degree is a major life choice; prospective students had to pack up and move to come to this campus, had to sign rental contracts, and pay other expenses. There should be some integrity here by the campus rulers, some planning so that students don’t hurt themselves.

     Hey, enrollments are falling, and I can see that at some point you might have to close up. But couldn’t the leaders with their degrees in Vision see there weren’t any students from a mile away?

Oliver and Sanders tell artnet News they had recruited a full cohort of 17 students; the school says only five had actually enrolled and made deposits.

     So, the faculty running the program says they had enough students, admin says no…I’m hardly inclined to trust admin, and I suspect regular readers of my blog aren’t, either. Look, 5 students still represents well over $100,000 in tuition, and the school had other programs (and around 500 other students). The smaller program wouldn’t bankrupt the school. In fact, the school was paid in advance to start this program, as well as others:

The CT+CR program, though, was one of no fewer than a half-dozen new graduate programs initiated at PNCA in the last several years. In 2007, the school received a grant of $15 million from the Ford Foundation to found no fewer than six graduate programs.

    Wow, 15 million bucks, and they charge tuition on top of that. Seriously, admin is wetting their beak just a little too much, and I don’t just mean at this school. No matter that the money has been provided, there’s just not enough profit for admin.

“…suspension of the program is all part of a coordinated effort by the school to turn their one-year program, created as such to make it relatively affordable, into a more lucrative two-year program.”

     It was just a 1 year program! But, admin, dollar signs perpetually in their eyes, want to bloat out the program, to increase profits. The professors, of course are protesting, not that it does any good—this is a no-tenure school, and so faculty have no choice but be subservient to administrative whims.

The calls for fiscal responsibility ring hollow to some of the faculty, who feel they have been the ones getting the squeeze. The latest uproar follows protests by students and faculty this past spring, over what they called the abrupt discontinuation of the employment of many adjunct faculty. They complained of rising pay for school executives while adjunct faculty members scrape to get by, and Ellen Lesperance, who teaches at the school and has participated in the protests, points out that adjunct instructors represent about three-quarters of the school’s faculty.

     Now, for your basic undergraduate degree, half or so of the coursework is “general education”; it keeps kids in college a couple of extra years, but that’s the price of education (well, it was the price, before the student loan scam also added “be in debt forever”).

      But graduate school is different, it’s supposed to be focused. So, there’s no reason for grad school programs to take 4 years, or 2 years, or any particular length of time…the program is supposed to train the students in very specific skills, and nothing more. If it only takes a few months to learn the particular skills, then a few months is all the program should take…not years.

     The student loan scam, more accurately the plundering leaders who rule higher education now, don’t like that at all.

     I know, most readers will blow this all off, saying “I’m not getting a graduate art degree anyway, so who cares?” The gentle needs to understand that what’s happening here is happening most everywhere else in higher education: even “specialized” programs are being bloated beyond all reason, to increase profits and growth. Faculty used to be able to stop this behavior, but 75% of the faculty at this school are helpless adjuncts (and over 50% of professors in higher education today are adjuncts) and can do nothing. The helplessness of faculty is a big reason our schools are all too often scams, sucking student in and loading them down with irrelevant coursework until the loan money runs out.

      I again point out how community colleges epitomize this scam, especially the “transfer institution” which focuses just on semi-legitimate at best general education courses, to the exclusion of any degree-related coursework. The majority of students stumble out of those places after years, with no actual knowledge of anything, as I’ve shown so many times.

      So, watch these art students being cheated, and be unconcerned by it if you must, but be fairly warned: all of our kids are getting sucked into this kind of system.

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