Monday, April 13, 2020

The University As Ponzi Scheme

People on the outside either don't know or don't care how bad things are now at universities:
   Higher education today resembles a massive Ponzi scheme. Colleges desperately recruit ever more marginal students who stand little chance of graduating. Before their inevitable withdrawal, those students’ tuition dollars fuel the growth of the bureaucracy, which creates the need to get an even larger pool of likely dropouts through the door to fund the latest round of administrative expansion. Administrative positions at colleges and universities grew at ten times the rate of tenured faculty positions from 1993 to 2009, according to academic consulting firm ABC Insights. By the 2013 school year, there were slightly more campus administrators nationwide than faculty; spending on the bureaucracy was equal to spending on all educational functions, including faculty. Tuition rose to cover those bureaucratic expenses, regardless of whether families could afford to pay it. Tuition at private four-year colleges grew 250 percent from 1982 to 2012, while the median family income rose about 18 percent, adjusted for inflation, according to ABC Insights. Since the 2008 recession, tuition at four-year public colleges rose 35 percent.
   The coming higher-ed crisis would, in an ideal world, take out the student-services bureaucracy—that dizzying edifice of associate vice chancellors for student engagement and assistant vice presidents for student development—starting with its most destructive component: the diversocrats. Their job is founded on a patently false proposition: that colleges are filled with racists and sexists who impede the advancement of females, blacks, and Hispanics. To the contrary, virtually every college today is trying to admit, hire, and promote as many females, blacks, and Hispanics as possible. Belonging to those identity categories confers a large advantage on the academic job market and in admissions. Nevertheless, the diversity bureaucracy spends its days devising new ways to promote the culture of victimhood, at the cost of millions of dollars in student loans and private tuition.
   The frenzied desire to boost “diversity” creates the pretext for much of the bureaucratic bloat. Colleges admit so-called underrepresented minorities (URMs) with academic qualifications far below their white and Asian peers.

The higher-education establishment will fight tooth and nail to preserve the status quo in the face of the coming economic dislocation. The president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities predicted blandly: “We are likely to see a new world order of higher education—more global, more online, more focus on return on investment, and overall more student-focused”—as if higher ed is not already defined by an anti-intellectual “student-centered” model. The only focus that should matter is on knowledge. Until we see deans of inclusion and belonging on the unemployment lines, we will know that colleges continue to abuse their economic and reputational privileges.
Remember, universities are not exactly universities anymore. They're "social justice" reeducation camps at which some classes are taught. Whereas universities used to be the places where thought and speech were freest, they may now be the places where those things are least free. And outside the sciences and engineering, and a few respectable majors scattered around the humanities, social sciences, and B school, it's not that difficult to graduate without doing or learning much.  What will get you booted is failure to comport yourself in accordance with leftist / politically correct / identity politics / "social justice" fashion. 


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