Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Cost of Attending College is Shockingly High, but the Pay for the Majority of College Teachers is Shockingly Low ... What's Going On?

The cost of attending most colleges today is too high and essentially out of control.

And this very real out-of-control cost situation is the reason why students and their families can't afford to pay the bills on their own and why individual states can't continue their generous subsidies.

And it's also why the student loan mess has become such a huge financial issue. In fact, more than 30% of student loans currently scheduled for regular payments are now delinquent. It's not a pretty picture.

Yes, college is too expensive. But that's not even the biggest problem.

No, the biggest problem is finding out where all the money is going that the colleges receive from students, parents, local, state and federal governments in the form of direct payments, grants, subsidies and loans. Where it's not going is to the teachers doing the majority of the teaching, that's for sure.

In fact, according to a just released study, the compensation for more than 50% of the teachers at colleges (part-time and adjunct college teachers) is shockingly low. And get this --- 25% of those teachers are even receiving government provided benefits intended to aid the poor.

In my view, the biggest cost problem is the out-of-control administrative and overhead bureaucracy. Value for money is a missing part of the equation for too many American institutions of higher education. But then why do colleges even exist, if not to provide a quality educational experience for students by offering them the 'biggest possible bang for the buck?' 

Now let's do a simple math experiment. We'll assume that 27 students are enrolled in each class and that each student takes five classes per semester, or ten classes per year. Each course is worth three hours of credit, or 30 earned credit hours per year. That's a 'full load' and the student will be on track to graduate in four years after having successfully completed a total of 120 hours of academic credits.

So far so good, but now comes the shocker.

The teacher of those students (assuming he or she is an adjunct professor, or part-timer, will be paid a total of only $2,700 per course, or $27,000 per year, for teaching those ten classes.

That represents a cost of $1,000 per student per year for each of the 27 students. But if college costs each student ~$5,000 or $10,000 annually, excluding room and board, where does the other $4,000 or $9,000 go that the student pays to attend? Beats me.

25% of college adjunct faculty get government assistance offers up the gruesome details:

"A quarter of the growing number of part-timers who are teaching college students need some government help to get by, according to a study from the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

Nearly 100,000 of these part-time faculty, generally known as adjuncts, benefit from the earned income tax credit and, to a lesser extent, Medicaid and the CHIP health-care program for children, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, according to the study.

“It’s shocking, but it’s the reality,” said Carol Zabin, research director at the Center for Labor Research and Education. “Universities are depending much more on part-time and adjunct faculty.”

Indeed, the American Association of University Professors reported this week that well over half of the college academic labor force is part time. That includes both graduate teaching assistants, which account for 12.2%, and other part-timers, or adjuncts, which are 46.7% of the total.

Adjuncts can teach a range of courses, but are generally kept to under 30 hours a week and are ineligible for university-provided health insurance. Some are paid by the credit hour, while others are paid by the class or semester, making it hard to collect data on average adjunct pay, said John Barnshaw, senior higher education researcher at the American Association of University Professors.

The Coalition on the Academic Workforce says an adjunct on average is paid $2,700 for teaching a three-credit class.

Of course, other workers rely heavily on food stamps and other government aid, but they tend to be in low-status jobs like fast-food work, which pays closer to the hourly minimum wage."

Summing Up

If the biggest share of the cost of attending college isn't going to pay the teachers, and obviously it isn't, then where is it going?

And if the lion's share of the money being spent for college isn't being used to educate the students, then why spend it?

Isn't government great? And aren't our institutions of higher learning wonderful stewards of the public money and always acting in the best interests of their 'customers,' aka students?

My take is no. Not even close.

Thanks. Bob.

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