From The Nation (by Gabriel Arana), March 31, 2009

In “Higher Education Takes a Hit” Gabriel Arana identifies what she sees as the shifting priorities of American universities. Agree or disagree, it’s a good read.3059084135_66e96ec04e_m

On the rising use of adjuncts . . . .

The percentage of “contingent faculty”–a term that includes part-timers and full-time, non-tenure-track lecturers–on university payrolls has risen from around 43 percent thirty years ago to 70 percent in 2005. The rate of these hires at many colleges has only accelerated amid the economic downturn. To cash-strapped educational institutions increasingly run like corporations, adjuncts and part-timers are cheap labor–stopgaps in university budgets.

On rising tuition fees . . .

But this change has not come about because of the increased cost of educating students: over the past 15 years, tuition at public institutions has risen 2 to 3 percent above inflation, per year; yet the amount of money spent on educational services has remained stagnant. This is due in part to a decline in state support, but also to a shift in priorities. The money, Bousquet says–and the savings reaped by hiring adjunct faculty–has gone toward ballooning administrative costs, positions and salaries; venture partnerships with corporations; and the construction of costly, extravagant facilities that critics say have more show value than instructional utility.”There is a race to market campuses to yuppies with expensive building projects, to increase the leisure value of [a] campus,” Nelson said.

On rising cost of administration . . .

Buoyed by endowment growth and income from tuition hikes, before the recession, private universities across the country undertook massive expansion plans, adding state-of-the-art stadiums, chemical labs and community spaces. Now that these sources of income are strained, administrators say they must trim back elsewhere to proceed with scheduled construction. Many colleges, however, are stopping short of reducing salaries for top-paid administrators, which have risen 35.6 percent in the last five years. Ohio, which announced it would cut overall spending on public higher education by $25 million, is sparing any cuts in salaries of its 154 top administrators, among them the highest-paid university president in the nation, Ohio State’s Gordon Gee, who makes $775,008 per year (before bonus). The median salary for public university presidents in Ohio is $355,000. On top of rising administrator salaries, the number of administrators at many colleges has risen as well, according to the Associated Press.

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