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Teaching college is no longer a middle-class job, and everyone should care (guernicamag.com)
311 points by nkurz on June 20, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 273 comments



It is stunning that a public school teacher apparently makes almost 2x what a college teacher makes, at least in California. Mind you, I am not arguing that school teachers should make less, collage profs should make more. This is amazing though, were is the money going.

Anecdotally, I think a lot of the money is spent on outside services through a corrupt bidding process. Back in 2008 I used to run a document scanning company. We did large contracts for the state of California and the Four Seasons Hotel chain. We had glowing recommendations from all of our customers, including a lot of large businesses in San Diego. So, foolishly, we thought we could toss our hat into the ring when UCSD started looking for a company to do their document management. Our bid was (based on what we could find out) roughly 1/2 of the winning bid. We had all the required bonds, same quality, faster turnaround time, and we offered more services. We didn't get the job. So UCSD paid twice as much for the same document scanning service, meanwhile some poor adjunkt professor is eating cat food! Great!


Yes. I worked for a university briefly as a staff member. Our university sung far and wide about how it just raised $400 million for its endowment in its most recent fundraising campaign, and yet, it couldn't afford to pay me more than a $25,000 salary in the IT department. How on earth is this possible? It's probably in all the unseen costs they pay out in contracts to subcontractors. But another clue might be this: during the time of my employment, there were several ongoing, large construction projects.

Universities are obsessed with the rankings of US News. And for some reason, they feel that campus renewal and renovation construction projects are the secret to mastering them. So instead of paying a decent wage to the people who actually comprise the "college experience" for their students, they pay outsized amounts to further improve their already glittering campus so that it looks better on the 15 minute admissions tour that prospective students take.

Somewhere the priorities are out of whack. I think if universities stopped spending so much money gaming the rankings, they might realize that paying their staff more and paying their faculty more would translate into a better, more involved college experience for their students. And that, in turn, would make their students evangelize to other prospective students about how much they love their college...

Improve the product, not the marketing.


Once upon a time, administration was 20% of college budgets. It's now 50% (guess who does budgeting?). You need look no further than that to find your answer.


They also have to spend a lot of money on computer labs, stadiums and gyms and such to boost the reputation and attractiveness of the school. It's much easier to judge how beautiful and modern a school is during a quick visit than it is to judge teaching quality.

Furthermore, 18-year-olds with guaranteed loans don't look at the price tags for those gimmicks rationally. When you're a kid with $300 in the bank the difference between a $50,000 loan and a $80,000 loan is so abstract it might as well not exist.

Combine those two factors and you get runaway spending and debt with little emphasis on teaching quality.


The administration usually consists of former faculty. Deans and Vice Presidents are selected from department heads. These positions are rewards for faculty who have served longest or who are more politically connected. I've even seen Computer Science faculty serve as the head of the IT department.


I imagine that they pay what they have to in order to fill the number of positions they need filled. How could they pay anything less than the market rate and still fill the positions?

I guess a revolving door supply of cheap labor is what lets them fill an IT position while only offering $25k. You said you worked there briefly, I assume you found a better job and moved on.

Clearly the product is not the problem with enrollment meeting quota and certainly no downward pressure on tuition cost... I say that tongue in cheek -- this is the university's (business') perspective.


This thing you point out about construction is what has always struck me as an European. The first American university I visited was Princeton and you'd expect it to look very good and have wonderful facilities (and it did). On the other hand I visited small local university like Curry and Bentley, which have absolutely no academic clout and I really don't should have such nice campuses, when the quality of courses is pretty low.

Your comment really is illuminating to me: news outlets, and possibly parents doing touring when college shopping only really care about the surface.


staff are generally thought of as costs and universities try to pay them as little as possible expecting high turnover. at least that's my assumption based on their actions.

with adjuncts it depends on the major and class. the whole idea is that they are not full time, so if a person chooses JUST to do that , then I am not surprised they have a hard time getting by. I have a full time job and adjunct (the adjunct position pays pretty good), but from what I observed adjuncts make more for their time than joining the reserves.

I dont know how the hours and the workload worked out for the french teacher, but usually a class is either 13 3 hour courses or 26 1.5 hour ones. thats about 40 hours for the semester. the outside of class time really varies on subject, years of teaching the course, the students, etc. I generally expect to spend 1-2x the time of the class with outside of class time.


My wife has taught as an adjunct (music) at a pretty large state school. She had to decline the last couple of offers from them because we self-imposed a rule that she can't lose money by teaching there. That's right, the cost of gas (just 21 miles round-trip) plus her parking pass for the semester would exceed the amount they were willing to pay.


So we need to get the word out to high school students that they should look at a college's budget before applying to it.


> there were several ongoing, large construction projects

This seems obvious to me. When someone donates millions of dollars to a university, they want their name on a building. The Thomas J Somebody Architecture Building. The Susan C Millar Library.

Nobody wants the Frank T Frankhauser IT Department payroll fund.


I saw examples like this over and over when I worked with Government, and it's ultimately what pushed me to embrace libertarianism. Government usually has great intentions, but those intentions are often overwhelmed by the perverse micro incentives of the human beings, driven by basic human nature, who run everything at the ground level.


But it is precisely that inescapable fact --that perverse micro-incentives at the individual level, driven by basic human nature, run everything at the ground level-- that often creates the need for institutions like government in the first place! Whenever there are tragedy-of-the-commons like externalities / collective action problems, in many cases it is provably superior to have even highly deficient government-like institutions than fully unconstrained individual action[1].

Think, for instance, any of today's failed states to see what total lack of basic governance actually looks like.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Logic_of_Collective_Action


Last I checked, most colleges were private institutions, and the public ones (state schools and community colleges) tended, in general, to be a lot more frugal (and cheaper, and more cost-effective) than private ones.


My guess as to why that might be is because there seems to be a trend of expenses of institutions expanding to their budgets, private institutions (especially the glamorous ones) have big budgets. Presumably the perverse incentives problem occurs to all moderately large institutions, but the budgets of less well funded institutions have less room to grow.


Smaller governments (i.e. less power, shallower hierarchies), good voting systems, and an informed public are the answer; not avoiding government altogether.

Libertarianism (i.e. absolute belief in the capitalist market and private property) doesn't work, because the markets don't reflect negative externalities like pollution, over-harvesting, misinformation, or antibiotics misuse. States need to exist to manipulate markets to reflect those things.

There are many industries where the profit motive is contrary to the public interest, like education, health, media, banking, prisons, military, drugs, junk food, gambling, etc. Either [a] the state should be the sole player in the industry (prisons, military), [b] the state should provide a public service in that industry to set a baseline for private competitors (education, health, media), [c] the state should impose regulations/taxation that prevent/discourage activity contrary to the public interest (banking, junk food, drugs), or [d] the state should outlaw the industry entirely (gambling (IMHO)).

There are many "markets" that are inherently monopolistic, or where private competition is nonsensical, like public spaces (parks, lakes, rivers) and public infrastructure (roads, telecoms, trains, airports).

Companies and markets are only good at medium-term thinking (at best). Google employees avoid thinking about the kind of society they're creating for their grandchildren, but that's the job description of elected representatives (in accountable governments).

Finally, but most significantly, there's that whole thing about capital accumulating to the top. Income and capital gains taxation is in the public interest, because equality and a well-financed state is in the public interest.

I feel like many Americans tend towards libertarianism because they feel that their governments are unaccountable, unrepresentative and corrupt. I think the problem in the US is the size and power of its government - not the concept of government itself. I think the federation of the US should be abolished (as in, all federal law). States could sign up to federal institutions/programs (central bank, defense, immigration, ...) when and how they please.

Personally, I think any moderately-populated area should have a single level of government spanning no further than 2-4 km from its parliament (i.e. within walking distance). Each of these states can assume common administration of adjacent sparsely-populated areas. If the states agree to a common legislative process, there's no duplication of effort in passing common legislation, except for each parliament voting on it or amending it as they want, which is democratic!

Libertarianism really grates me, but I enjoy debating it because I see that libertarians want the same things I do: liberty and equality for everyone.


> Smaller governments (i.e. less power, shallower hierarchies), good voting systems, and an informed public are the answer; not avoiding government altogether.

> Libertarianism (i.e. absolute belief in the capitalist market and private property) doesn't work, [...]

For the vast majority of (US) libertarians, libertarianism is the first sentence, not the second. Only a small group of libertarians are free-market anarchists.


The second also tend to call themselves Anarcho-Capitalists, much to the annoyance of actual Anarchists whom are more related to Marxists.


Sure, but libertarian socialists (mostly European) have the same annoyance with US libertarians over the term "libertarian". Also, like Baptists, ten US libertarians and free-market anarchists in a room can easily produce a dozen heartfelt and mutually exclusive opinions on a single topic.


"and an informed public are the answer; not avoiding government altogether."

One small edit - an informed AND ENGAGED public.

We now have a perfect cycle in the US. - Government isn't working, so people believe government can't work. - Government can't work in the future because very few participate.

Wash, rinse, repeat - and remove funding for education while you're going along to make sure people are not getting informed or engaged.


> Government can't work in the future because very few participate.

Also, it feels to me that "participate" has lost half its meaning: people think voting is enough. IMHO, the other half of participation is running for office. Many people complain about all candidates presented before them, but wouldn't put in the work to run themselves.


That also speaks to the standard of who qualifies as an acceptable political candidate, these days. There used to be more elite offices, for which one required a good-old boys network, and more populist ones, for which qualifications were more open. Nowadays, the media rage-circus gets set off by so many different things that even the so-called "populist" offices only support the electability of a very narrow, conformist range of candidates.

See, for example, the electoral loss of Eric Cantor.


Yup, very true. I just wrote this in a comment down another branch:

> The key point for smaller states, in my opinion, is that their constituents care. I feel like people are more apathetic in larger states, because they have less power individually, and their responsibility to keep their government accountable is further absolved. When you get people to care, and give them power collectively, everything else follows.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7925738


>Libertarianism (i.e. absolute belief in the capitalist market and private property).

I espouse libertarianism more under the following: freedom financially and freedom socially. So the former is generally a conservative ideal while the latter is usually a liberal ideal. A practical example is: I believe in small government (freedom from government financially) and I also believe same-sex marriage should be legal (freedom from government in sociall policy). This is my libertarianism.


I apologize: I was using libertarianism in the modern American sense to refer to anarcho-capitalism.


This is not your libertarianism, it's the standard definition of it.


Ironically, what you're describing would be considered libertarianism by most people outside of the US.


> negative externalities like pollution, over-harvesting, misinformation, or antibiotics misuse.

Not disagreeing, because the point is true. However solutions for most of these have been found

a) over-harvesting : only a problem in a non-fully-privatized situation (in other words, the more government involvement, the more you have this problem). This one is actually an argument FOR capitalism.

b) pollution is also a tragedy of the commons thing, and could be solved by privatisation. Of course, in the real world that presents some challenges.

c) misinformation : this is not a problem of capitalism at all. Or rather, it's a problem that solves itself under capitalism (though not necessarily to people's liking). For example, insurance can fix this. Under central planning systems, every one I've ever seen, the problem is not so much misinformation, but the total lack of relevant information at all (e.g. employing the mayor's daughter in your management structure gets you the contract for city IT, good luck finding that info. Oh and if you're an idealist : good luck preventing that from happening).

d) antibiotics misuse : well, on one hand this is happening partly due to misuse. However, where do you have any data whatsoever that it wouldn't happen without misuse ? As far as I can tell antibiotics resistance happened even before WWII, when we were definitely not wasting antibiotics. At any rate, the ship has sailed and it's a sunk cost at this point. We should not waste money and resources fighting it, as even massive effort can only slightly reduce the rate here, it can't fix it.

(one theory I found is that what's happening is simply that we are effectively raising the price of new and therefore working antibiotics, dampening their use, until a balance with nature is found. Sadly, it is blatantly obvious that in order for this to actually happen, the vast majority of the sick would need to go untreated, so there simply isn't a good solution, capitalist or government)


Can you please explain how markets address overharvesting and pollution, and examples of that happening? If your point is that states can overharvest and pollute too, sure - of course they can. They probably will if they're corrupt. My point was that only states can stop it: see the legislation on whaling, fishing, poaching, emissions regulations and taxation, ...

On misinformation, you made the (unrelated) point that states are corruptible. Yes, they are; so are markets (e.g. LIBOR) and companies (i.e. employees acting contrary to the company's interest).

Corruption occurs when the people involved are undesirable, and the reward outweighs the risk of being caught. In states where the electorate cares and is informed, undesirables are less likely to be elected, and there's a higher risk of being caught. Ideally, the bureaucrats involved in choosing who to give the contract to (the bureaucrats being directly affected by the decision, because the government is smaller) would tip off the local broadcaster that the decision was rigged, and they would investigate.

I think it's more likely for corruption to be unveiled in states than there is in markets or companies. The larger the company, the smaller the chance - and free markets tend towards multinational monopolies anyway ("efficiency" and all that).

My mention of misinformation was referring to things like: the media reporting on celebrities rather than legislation, or misleading advertising, or the media being paid to report a certain way or avoid a certain story. These actions have negative externalities, and the markets won't stop them. What the market wants (more celebrity stories, or fewer oil spill stories) isn't always what the market should get.

It should be illegal to use antibiotics in agriculture, yet the markets love them. That was my point.


> overharvesting

If I own the land, and I mean own and am responsible for - no taxpayer subsidized safety net if I go too badshit crazy with the nutrient depletion or chemical baths - then it is in my best interests not to ruin the property so that it remains valuable if and or when I want to sell it.

Either I intend to sell the land, thus making it worthwhile not to destroy it, or I intend to continue using the land for an extended period of time, and I wouldn't want to destroy it. I only really don't care if I have guaranteed payouts no matter what I do, and no responsibility or reason to care to take care of the land anyway.

> pollution

In the modern anarchist mindset, pollution is a violence against, depending on scope, either the local community that is negatively impacted by the polluter or the entire world in how that pollution negatively contributes to the environment.

In either case, any sane libertarian or anarchist joint arbiter would in the commons consider major polluters as causing property damage, and thus any company that wants to pollute would need to seek permission from the entire area around where they want to set up shop. And when remote injunctions start coming in about how their pollution is damaging the planet as a whole, the reparations would need to be either removing an equal amount of pollution that they put in or contributing in some way to projects that do, else they are being violent upon pretty much everyone in a way that any sane society would see they only operate when everyone is consenting.

> only states can stop it

More like only states can enable it - because in modern states you never own your land, and never consent to your neighbors, and never have contracts with them about mutual conduct agreements and recourse for violation you depend on the state to provide some fictitious encompassing control effect on those that perform the kinds of violence I outlined earlier. Except the state is itself inherently violent and amoral, and is easily corrupted because of the centralization, so it is much easier for the coal company to bribe the local town council than the entire town.

> so are markets and companies

And all your interactions with markets and companies are voluntary. If they are not, you aren't really operating in a free market. If they are not inflicting violence upon you or others, you really have nothing to complain about, really. And if they are, it is your duty and the duty of your peers to cease dealings with the violent aggressor and either economically deprive them of resources until they recant or defend yourselves appropriately as a last resort.

> corruption in states than there is in markets

The problem is that corruption is inefficient. In the absence of states, nothing restricts you from directly competing with anyone over anything, so if they are acting in a corrupt way, then there would be avenues for capitalization by competitors to exploit it. It is the same reason why in the short term it makes no fiscal sense for a business to try to raise a private militia to take over the town - the militia is an immediate huge competitive disadvantage, and you would cripple your growth potential to whoever you could subjugate because no sane external market would interact with you, and would likely do anything they can to boycott you into failure.

> What the market wants

Modern mainstream media is anything but a competitive market. The major networks would always take advantage of their IP and state resources to crush any upstarts who tried to provide real journalism and news anymore. And they would certainly get the full support of the US government in doing so.

In a real information market, people would seek what they are actually interested in. A lot of anarchist arguments about the collective psyche of most modern western democracies relates the whole distraction circus back to the implicit discontinuity in the brain about the organization of society in the first place and the amorality of it all. It also probably has a lot to do with how most people were abused as children - your brain will develop differently and you will always seek escapism. Confronting the reality of your circumstance is hard, and it requires enlightened rational individuals to do so. That is mainly why, while I morally agree completely with anarchist mindsets, I don't really advocate it in the modern world. It really wouldn't work with the current crop of humanity - it would require enough transitional generations to get to the point where we stop predominantly abusing our children, either through neglect or violence.


> If I own the land, and I mean own and am responsible for - no taxpayer subsidized safety net if I go too badshit crazy with the nutrient depletion or chemical baths - then it is in my best interests not to ruin the property so that it remains valuable if and or when I want to sell it.

Realistically, most people would want to extract as much from the land as they can in their lifetime. This means, while they may not necessarily destroy the land with in their own lifetime, they will bleed it dry by the end of their lifetime, leaving nothing to the future generations. This, of course, also presupposes that most people are rational, smart, and sane individuals. The truth is quite the opposite, and if you have doubts about the latter, just read YouTube comments of any video :)


Nothing is ever mentioned about the process by which a society converts itself into a libertarian utopia. That makes all the difference in terms of the configuration of ownership. According to my purely idle speculation, here are a couple of possibilities:

1. Worldwide adoption of libertarian society at some fixed point in time (e.g., by magic), meaning that the largest land holders would soon absorb their neighbors and form estates of a size equivalent to US states or small countries. These people would presumably be responsible for families or even entire clans, forcing them to take a long term outlook. But "selling" might be problematic if there is no reliable store of wealth other than land.

2. Adoption limited to a geographic region (e.g., through a political process), with the commercial economy dependent a foreign currency. In this case, the rational strategy for a small land holder (less than 100 square miles) might be to extract foreign money from the land by selling crops, ores, etc., and then abandon the land.

I'm guessing that the optimal size of land holder that is big enough to be efficient, but small enough to saddle some larger entity with their externalities such as the cost of protecting them from the territorial ambitions of their neighbors. The bigger the estate, the bigger the cost of absorbing one's own pollution, crime, etc.


>If I own the land, and I mean own and am responsible for - no taxpayer subsidized safety net if I go too badshit crazy with the nutrient depletion or chemical baths - then it is in my best interests not to ruin the property so that it remains valuable if and or when I want to sell it.

No, it's in your interest to fool some sucker into buying it on false pretenses. Don't pretend to moralities you don't actually hold, capitalist.


To whoever downvoted this: I challenge you to explain why he's wrong.


I downvoted the comment, but not because of the viewpoint. I only downvote when I believe that a comment is detracting from the discussion.

eli_gottlieb said: "Don't pretend to moralities you don't actually hold, capitalist". eli was implying that zanny was immoral (or at least amoral), which is something that cannot be deduced from one or two comments; moreover, pointless ad hominem attacks do not advance the discussion.

I regularly downvote comments which espouse views that I agree or disagree with, when they resort to irrelevancies and personal attacks, as was the case here.

edit: quote from HN's comment guide

"What we especially discourage are comments that are empty and negative—comments that are mere name-calling.

Which brings us to the most important principle on HN: civility. Since long before the web, the anonymity of online conversation has lured people into being much ruder than they'd dare to be in person. So the principle here is: don't say anything you wouldn't say face to face. This doesn't mean you can't disagree. But disagree without calling the other person names. If you're right, your argument will be more convincing without them. "


>eli_gottlieb said: "Don't pretend to moralities you don't actually hold, capitalist". eli was implying that zanny was immoral (or at least amoral), which is something that cannot be deduced from one or two comments; moreover, pointless ad hominem attacks do not advance the discussion.

Immoral by my definition, sure. But his espoused morality is "whatever the market will bear". All I'm demanding is that he doesn't pretend "whatever the market will bear", which is what he's explicitly proposing and endorsing, in any way matches what the rest of us think of as desirable.

If he wants to be an ideologue, he needs to come out and say it: "Yes, privatizing all the commons will result in sales that approach as close to fraud as the law allows, rather than actual environmental protection, but that's a good thing!"


I have to insist that your references to anarchism are really references to anarcho-capitalism. I approximate my beliefs to anarcho-communism, and I take issue with your presumption of an anarchist's respect for private property. All anarchism refers to is the advocation of stateless society.

In these comments, my advocation of a "state" is an advocation of small (<4km in radius), democratic governments. This is my interpretation of a "stateless society" [0]. I don't want readers to think I'm defending most modern states; the smaller the state, the more responsible and democratic it tends to be. This is by definition: less people -> more representation.

A capitalist's idea of "ruining the land" is not Gaia's idea of "ruining the land". If a logging company owns a rainforest, it will want to plant more trees when it's destroyed everything else there. The company has no financial incentive to care about the ecosystem it's destroying by logging in the first place, nor the collateral effects of that elsewhere. Your retort may be that the logging company has to acquire the rainforest first - yes, but logging is probably the most profitable activity for a rainforest, so logging companies will tend to acquire such land. I feel sick typing this...

Another major example of markets encouraging overharvesting is when the harvesting occurs on land/water that no one owns (or can reasonably own). Then, the harvesters have no regard for the replenishment of the resource; they just want to make money. In unrestricted capitalism, a herd of bison or a pod of whales is a goldmine at market. A puerile defense to this may be that no one would whale if no one wanted to eat it. You may also say that we'd "cease our dealings" with anyone who ate whale - how would we know? Why would a capitalist care what this other guy eats on weekends if this guy's company is giving him a better deal?

Capitalism has little regard for Gaia. Individuals are mostly selfish, and capitalism runs on individuality and selfishness, so Gaia gets no consideration. We need states to ensure that companies don't act contrary to our long term interests.

You made the point that in modern states, neighbors never consent to one another's conduct, and they rely on the state for control and mediation. Yes, I agree, this is a failing of modern statist societies. But, in my view, if states were significantly smaller, those governing would be your neighbors too, and so legislation would effectively be a "mutual conduct agreement" anyway.

Sure, a state's governing may not please everyone - but if everyone is within walking and living distance, the society would be more able to resolve its differences, or come to a compromise. Thanks to this quality, I think smaller states could function with requiring more than the majority in parliament to pass legislation: e.g. 66% or 75%. Either way, at worst, you can move to a nearby state that aligns more with your beliefs. In this way, "governing" would become a market for ideas that work.

Governments are not violent nor amoral if they have the consent of the governed. If you want to live by your own rules, move somewhere that isn't governed. If you want to live in a town, you have to follow that town's law as determined by popular will.

On your remaining points:

- No, the actions of markets and companies can affect me without my deciding to interact with them, and to say otherwise is laughable and offensive. Capitalism is destroying our planet. Companies can lowers working standards, salaries and social welfare across the industry - especially when they collude.

- The whole non-aggression principle of libertarianism is tiring. Libertarians have to contort their beliefs around the NAP because the philosophy requires an absolutist principle for organizing society. Here are the contortions I see libertarians make: private property is not aggression, corruption is not aggression, market manipulation is not aggression, theft when necessary is aggression, governing-by-consent is aggression, etc. Other political philosophies take a more nuanced view of organizing society, and rightly so.

- Policing by economic deprivation doesn't work, because it's less immoral to deal with someone who committed an immoral action, than it is to commit that immoral action. Say Alice hunts whales (which are endangered), and Bob sells Alice her ships. Bob is viewed as less immoral, because he didn't actually kill the whales, and so it's less likely that others would stop dealing with him. The only reason Bob wouldn't sell Alice ships is if the whales are more important to him than the profit of selling the ships. You would require every {shipbuilder, oil company, ...} in the world to believe this, for whaling to be prohibited - and even then, you can sometimes whale from shore.

- Over the last 100 years, we've learned that consumers act selfishly, and so relying on the consumers to police doesn't work either. If you put whale in a market, consumers will buy it. If a company from a locality abuses people elsewhere, local consumers don't care.

- Your point on corruption is unrelated to mine. If we define "company corruption" as employees acting contrary to the company's interest for their own personal gain, and "market corruption" as companies acting contrary to public interest for their own profit, then only company corruption is inefficient. Market corruption is certainly "efficient", and there's little to stop it in anarcho-capitalism.

- Free markets tend towards complete monopoly; the more "freedom" companies have, the quicker they will conglomerate. There's a startup in this city? The incumbent(s) will price them out. As an example, the American media conglomerates are just the result of market forces (and physical realities). The sprawling, centralized US government helps them along, but they would've got to where they are now sooner or later.

- In an ideal world, with people who could make an anarchist society function well, what then would be your objection to a state (by my definition), or to abolition of private property (noting respect for personal property)? And hence, what base is there for anarcho-capitalism?

My belief in anarcho-communism is predicated on the idea that power is bad, as is my disbelief in capitalism and large-statism. Unfortunately, this is also why anarcho-communism is unlikely to ever be implemented successfully: you need power to usurp power, and power attained is unlikely to be forfeited.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stateless_society


On a completely unrelated note, I just wanted to point out that not that many people in Japan actually eat whale meat anymore. They tried to get school children to eat and like whale meat, but it didn't happen. The majority of the whale meat actually was used for pet food in the recent years.

http://eia-international.org/iceland-is-killing-fin-whales-f...


> Your retort may be that the logging company has to acquire the rainforest first - yes, but logging is probably the most profitable activity for a rainforest, so logging companies will tend to acquire such land. I feel sick typing this...

Not necessarily. Several highly lucrative drugs came from bio research conducted in the rainforest. The pharmaceutical industry is far more profitable than the logging industry. Of course, it takes a significant foresight to do research in the rain forest, rather than cut it down for timber.

> Another major example of markets encouraging overharvesting is when the harvesting occurs on land/water that no one owns (or can reasonably own). Then, the harvesters have no regard for the replenishment of the resource; they just want to make money.

This is true if you follow the first capture rule of ownership for resources located in public domain (not owned by anyone in particular due to their nature). However, an alternative would be to argue that all resources in public domain actually belong to everyone, rather than no one. So, if you were to capture a whale in the ocean, you would actually be violating the rights of every other person on the planet to that whale. Thus, you would be obliged to compensate everyone on the planet for the fair market value (minus the cost of capture) of that whale. This means, the best you could do is brake even on your whaling activity. All of the sudden, it's no longer such an attractive economic activity.

> Sure, a state's governing may not please everyone - but if everyone is within walking and living distance, the society would be more able to resolve its differences, or come to a compromise. Thanks to this quality, I think smaller states could function with requiring more than the majority in parliament to pass legislation: e.g. 66% or 75%. Either way, at worst, you can move to a nearby state that aligns more with your beliefs. In this way, "governing" would become a market for ideas that work.

I was actually just writing how much I agree with you, and how in the past I thought that the states in US should have a lot more power, and the Federal government should have a lot less. But than I remembered the state I grew up in, IL, and how incredibly, unflinchingly, and stunningly corrupt that state, and more specifically, the city of Chicago is. Given that example, I wonder if small governments can really avoid being corrupt. That's of course not to say that large governments aren't crazy corrupt as well.


> Several highly lucrative drugs came from bio research conducted in the rainforest.

That research was probably conducted in rainforests protected as a national park, right? At least, I highly doubt that the pharmaceutical companies actually acquired the land before conducting research, or that they would bother buying entire rainforests (to protect the ecosystem) if there wasn't a state to protect them.

An anarcho-capitalist may suggest that the pharmaceutical companies could create a fund with other people who care about preserving the rainforests, to acquire and protect the rainforests. But then, that fund would have to raise as much money as the potential profit to be made by cutting it all down - which is terribly perverted, I think. Still, such a fund would unlikely be universal enough to protect all rainforests and other important ecological centers. The point stands that whatever land a logging company acquires, it will want to destroy.

Logging is far too prevalent as it is - with all the regulation and restrictions imposed on it by modern states. I'm not sure how the argument could be made that logging would be less prevalent if there weren't any states to stop it.

> an alternative would be to argue that all resources in public domain actually belong to everyone, rather than no one

This is a nice idea in theory (and is semi-applicable in anarcho-communism too), but it can't realistically be determined what to share (e.g. these bison were on my property), how to enforce it (e.g. knowing who's harvesting what), or how to handle it (e.g. how to allocate compensation for killing a whale).

I'm not sure why we have to go through these economic gymnastics just to avoid the concept of having an association of democratic governments banning whaling or deforesting. What's so wrong with that?

> the state I grew up in, IL, and how incredibly, unflinchingly, and stunningly corrupt that state, and more specifically, the city of Chicago is

I have connections to Chicago, and can relate :-)

In my ideal world, Chicago would be broken up into governments even smaller than the City of Chicago today, which spans about 15km x 40km it seems.

I think many city councils are "optimized" for administration, and not for representation. If each of these small states were completely autonomous, and had to legislate their entire body of law, the citizens would care more, and they would develop more representative and accountable voting systems and institutions, due to the extent of the government's responsibilities.

Also, to make the point again, if a certain state is known to be corrupt, and does nothing to address it, it will probably lose business and residents to nearby states that aren't. Similarly, neighboring states would have an interest in supporting one another, and would try to discourage corruption (e.g. avoiding companies that bribe officials elsewhere).

The key point for smaller states, in my opinion, is that their constituents care. I feel like people are more apathetic in larger states, because they have less power individually, and their responsibility to keep their government accountable is further absolved. When you get people to care, and give them power collectively, everything else follows.


> If each of these small states were completely autonomous, and had to legislate their entire body of law, the citizens would care more, and they would develop more representative and accountable voting systems and institutions, due to the extent of the government's responsibilities.

I see several possible problems with this approach. I had similar thoughts in the years past, an I was wondering what your opinions were as to the following issues:

1. Inconsistent laws in a small geographical area. As a real world example, take a look at the car window tint law in the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago. In Illinois you can have up to 60% tint on your windows, while in Chicago, the local rule is that you can only have up to 30% tint. Don't quote me on those figures, last I looked into it was 10 years ago. But the point is, you can live outside Chicago, have a perfectly legal 50% tint, and than, as soon as you drive into Chicago, your car is all of the sudden in violation of one of the local laws. And they do ticket you for it. In your proposed system you would have all kinds of inconsistent laws. This is a problem for automotive laws, food safety, building codes, etc. The only solution I see would be for all of the small governments to gather together and agree on some standard set of laws that they will all implement. But than you are more or less back to square one.

2. Large infrastructure projects. Large projects require a lot of capital and a lot of cooperation from people in a large geographical area. Things like highway construction, rails, bridges, aqueducts, pipelines, all of those would require cooperation of dozens, if not hundreds of individual governments in your system. And you would always have holdouts, townships that would demand an extra something for their cooperation.

3. Research projects. Currently the united states government sponsors significant amount of research. If we were to switch to the township system, than that research would not be sponsored any more. Alternatively, maybe a bunch of townships could unite in a consortium to pay for research. But then you run into problems with division of profits from that research. Say 6 out of 10 townships paid for the research which resulted in development of a cancer cure. Would they then be able to deny the benefits of that cure to the other 4 townships?

There are a bunch of examples that I can think of in addition to this. In the past after thinking about this idea, the Jefferson Township model of government, I decided that I could not think of a way to make it work. However, a State system might work. A state system would largely eliminate the Federal Government and programs like the Social Security, ACA, Medicare, and all of the other social programs. It would also eliminate the Federal Income tax. The Federal Government would be responsible for national defense (military), borders, interstate transportation, and the interstate laws and treaties. The interstate laws would be a set of laws that 3/4 of the states would agree on. Things like food labeling, minimal vehicle safety requirements, etc.

To pay for the Federal Government each state would pay a yearly membership fee based on the number of people in that state and the GDP of the state, or some other kind of matrix. It would be up to each state to organize their own Social Security, health program, and other social programs. Each state would also be free to decide how to govern it self, would have the power to collect income tax, etc. The main key to the system would be free travel. This means that no person could be prevented from leaving one state or moving to another. This would allow each state to experiment with all kinds of government models, and would allow people to vote with their feet.

Any way, my idea is as unlikely to ever come true as the Jefersonian system.


> 1. Inconsistent laws in a small geographical area.

Having different window tinting laws is a good example of the kind of baseless legal inconsistency that could harm a region's competitiveness. If the states of a region could not come to an agreement on window tinting, it would probably damage their reputation elsewhere.

> In your proposed system you would have all kinds of inconsistent laws.

Although there's little reason to differ on window tinting laws, I can imagine reasonable states having different opinions on, say, engine noise limits. This leads to the same kind of inconvenience, but yet is more understandable. Nonetheless, if the people of a (small) state don't want loud engines (or perhaps they want to ban driving altogether) in their neighborhood, isn't that their right?

> The only solution I see would be for all of the small governments to gather together and agree on some standard set of laws that they will all implement.

Right, so for any matter that calls for it, you would hope that neighboring states would be able to agree to pass identical pieces of legislation. The Australian states do this all the time (when the pre-existing law wasn't federal).

> But than you are more or less back to square one.

No, there's a very significant difference between a collection of autonomous states agreeing to a certain piece of legislation, and a collection of states being forced to abide by a piece of legislation passed by a federal parliament.

In the former, if a company wants to coerce the entire country on some political issue, it has to coerce the politicians of every single state: in a federation, it need only coerce the federal politicians.

If an independent state thinks a law is bad (e.g. wants to legalize marijuana), it can remove it without being beholden to outside forces. If the law was made by a federal parliament, it can only be undone by the federal parliament.

If an independent state thinks a program is bad (e.g. a war, a department, currency devaluation), it can remove itself (personnel/funding) on its own volition.

Regional agreements are very different to regional parliaments.

> This is a problem for automotive laws, food safety, building codes, etc

Buildings don't tend to get up and walk into a different neighborhood. I think that if the people of a state want certain building codes (or none at all!), that's their right. I don't think it's a big ask of construction companies to abide by the codes of the state they're building in: they do that all the time today.

I think regional agreements could be justified for things that are inherently mobile, or that make sense to operate at scale: automotive laws, food safety laws, airport administration, public health insurance, extradition, public broadcaster funding, university funding (maybe), infrastructure (telecoms, roads, train tracks), park administration, military, ...

The difference here is that if some state doesn't want to contribute to a regional health insurance fund, it doesn't have to.

> 2. Large infrastructure projects

Right, this is harder when you have many autonomous states, but they're still certainly doable. If there's an imperative to do something, the states will come to agreement.

States that contribute to interstate highways could sell permits to their citizens as part of their car registration. There could be toll booths to sell temporary permits to non-citizens. This way, if states A, B and C want to build highways between each other, but state D, adjacent to A and B, doesn't want to contribute, then A, B and C can fairly bill the citizens of D that end up using that highway anyway.

> If we were to switch to the township system, than that research would not be sponsored any more.

Why not? Research would only stop being sponsored by a state if the people of that state didn't want to sponsor it. And if they don't want to, they shouldn't be forced to.

If your point is that something like the Cold War would never happen in small-state anarchy, then I concede that. But, for all the merits of the space race, it was not worth the risk of the Cold War.

By the way, check your thens and thans :)

> However, a State system might work. The Federal Government would be responsible for...

Again, it seems like you're confounding the differences between having many independent states, and having a federation of states. My points above stand against federations (as in, federated parliaments). Federations should not exist: they are a remnant of a bygone era of imperialism and war-mongering. If by "federal government" you're referring to agreements between most states to pass some legislation (e.g. open borders), then sure, I'm with you. But if you're talking about having a legally-usurping federal parliament that is in command of the military, then I'm not.

Your post basically makes the point that cooperation is harder when you have more autonomous states. I agree, but I think (1) states will cooperate when there is an imperative to do so, (2) if a state doesn't want to cooperate, then that's their democratic right, and (3) by having the choice of cooperation, states can experiment, and better ideas will flourish.


Pollution: Expand private property rights (air, ocean, etc).


Here's how this goes:

1. Person X buys land because they need to live.

2. X asks real estate broker, "Don't I need air rights too?" Broker says "nah, the air's clean around here". (It is.)

3. Industry Y decides to move into town. Buys up all the unsold air rights from the broker (maybe with a little kickback). (Industry Y sells widgets, of which everyone needs an endless supply.)

4. Industry Y does what industries do and pollutes the air. Person X is out of luck, gets cancer and dies. (Person Z, who was smart and kept his air rights, is out of luck too, because everyone else sold out and it turns out particulate matter doesn't respect property law.)

Don't believe me? This is exactly what's happened with fracking. Affected homeowners are told they can't sue because they don't own the water/mineral rights around their land.

Anyway the end of this story in anarcho-capitalist-libertarian land is:

5. Person X gangs up with other townsfolk to pay their private police force to strongarm industry Y into selling their air rights to a collective trust.

6. Townsfolk look at their combined police-and-regulatory trust, see that it is good, and decide to name it "government".


1. Air rights needn't be tied to land. A proportional share could be automatically inherited by each citizen upon birth.

2. Existing water rights in the US have as much to do with free markets as they did in the USSR.


How do you enforce these air rights when they've been violated by a polluter?


Exactly the same way that you enforce all property rights when they've been violated: You sue them.


>b) pollution is also a tragedy of the commons thing, and could be solved by privatisation. Of course, in the real world that presents some challenges.

Sure. Let's just privatize the entire fucking atmosphere! We can all pay rent for being made of carbon atoms, too! Those belong to an owner, after all!

Excuse me, I'm going to go do something else before I fully rage out.


Any sufficiently sized human institution has those problems.


Question: Is a typical adjunct professor qualified to teach in a public school? And related, would they want to if they could?

I teach overseas, and I would never qualify to teach in an American school -- I have a college degree, and some teaching experience (from when I was in college), but no teaching credential.


Yes and no.

An adjunct typically has a PhD or a masters degree combined with real-world experience.

Public school only require a bachelor's degree, but technically, teaching public school in most states also requires a teaching credential (especially with the No Child Left Behind law's "highly qualified standard), which is not part of most content (that is, non-teaching) programs. However, many districts are purportedly willing to hire a masters/PhD candidate and then back-fill coursework necessary for a credential (e.g., curriculum design, classroom management) as well as guide toward content certifications. These additional courses and certification exams are paid by the teach out-of-pocket, of course.

So, as with many things, YMMV.


〉Is a typical adjunct professor qualified to teach in a public school? And related, would they want to if they could?

No more than you are. If they don't have an M.Ed. or B.Ed. they're unqualified. Assuming you have those you may also need to do a certain number of teaching hours post qualification to get a teaching licence/QTS.

The typical adjunct almost certainly doesn't want to teach public school. Even in the crappiest community college discipline issues are minimal compared to teaching in high school or middle school and you have way more autonomy than a public school teacher.


You can teach at an American school, depending on the current teacher demand. The US, as have many other countries, have in the past been easy on people with degrees and allowed them to teach while they were in the process of getting their M.Ed. or B.Ed.

With a masters you could teach in an American university, I believe the minimum requirement is a masters degree.


All of those bids and the result along with the findings should be public, as in published.


Teaching adults who are there voluntarily is a far lower level of responsibility than teaching kids who have no choice. Each child in a public school has, generally, one shot at each year's worth of curriculum, and if they don't get it it could set them back for a lifetime. Grade school teachers are being paid to contribute to the upbringing of the kids in their charge; college teachers' responsibilities basically amount to telling some people about some things they know.


>>meanwhile some poor adjunkt professor is eating cat food!

The median income in Mexico is around $10k (PPP adjusted). I wonder how much cat food they eat?


Slightly ironic, but Guernica Magazine has a "jobs" page on their site: http://www.guernicamag.com/jobs/

If you click through, you'll find that all of their positions are unpaid. It seems that magazine editor is no longer a middle-class job, either. You have to be rich enough to be able to work for free.


So the cost of college is skyrocketing and teachers are getting paid less and less. Where is the money going??


It's very clear where it's going. The number of administrative staff at colleges and universities have skyrocketed in the past 30 years.

Just like in the corporate world, corruption and the proliferation of unnecessary management have sucked revenue to the top.

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/08/colleges_are_full_of_it_behi...


Just to point out what may not be so obvious... a lot of the administrative and non instructional staff are not what many of us would consider to be "management".

For instance, at the University of Wisconsin, there is an VERY large, extremely expensive bureaucracy called DoIT. It stands for "Division of Information Technology". Basically... it is the department for all of the IT people at the University. It is enormously expensive because of the nature of the work they do. And that is just one of the operations level bureaucracies that the University needs. There is Facilities. There is Campus Police, which are very important at a place like UW. Student Housing. Health Services. The list goes on and on.

These sorts of costs are not cheap, but they are necessary. Be that as it may, honest people CAN debate whether or not operational arms like DoIT are functioning as efficiently as they could be. My main point here was only to shed light on operational costs that many universities have which tend to be overlooked in conversations like these. Especially as those expenses are most likely the key contributors to the cost rises being discussed.

[Edited for grammar]


In my day, campus police were unarmed and called on actual police to work actual crimes, versus random disorder that did not rise to the level of crime.

Are today's college students such thugs that we need fully equipped police departments on campuses? Police departments are usually the second most expensive part of a municipal budget. How many of the "neccessary" bureaucracies did we do without a generation ago?

Universities below the elite level are headed for a massive crash. They better start the rethink soon.


As far as I know, most state universities have real police departments. The officers are effectively state police officers. I'm not sure how long this has been the case, but it is at least 20 or so years, if not quite a bit more.

Safety is a big issue, especially for parents (who pay many of the bills), so universities view law enforcement and safety spending as a competitive advantage.

It is also the case that many universities are located in small, rural communities that might not have the police resources to handle the campus population (for instance, I went to a school that had about as many students as there were non-student residents of the town).


I worked at DoIT before graduating and moving out to the Bay Area. And your characterization regarding its bureaucracy and efficiency are pretty spot on.


I worked at another Big Ten IT division. The amount of productive work per salary dollar would shock anyone in the start-up or corporate sector. Staff would roll in from 9:00 to 10:00AM, surf the web or fool around with some toys for a couple of hours, take a 90 minute lunch, go to a few meetings, and be out the door at 4:30 or 5:00PM. A lot of these people making 6 figures or close to it in a town where that is a VERY good salary. On top of that, 6 weeks of PTO and pretty generous benefits.

Every few years there would be a reorganization to create a bunch of new job titles and new useless layers of bureaucracy, since that's the only way to give people more than a cost-of-living raise.

You could fire half of them, hold the other half accountable to a reasonable level of productivity, and notice no difference. There might be a net gain.


In all of Europe 4 weeks of paid holidays and a regular 8-hour workday are the norm. And university is free or very affordable. What I'm saying is that poor working conditions and crippling student debt is a policy choice.


I agree, except that people in Europe aren't paid for their holidays, but for their work. Companies are simply mandated to give you 4 weeks+ off per year - that money is of course deducted from what they would pay you otherwise.

Not saying that is a bad thing; actually, it probably improves overall productivity vs the US model. But it's not a free lunch, and it's not the employer's charity - it's the money people actually worked for, equally distributed over working days and holi-days.


I don't know where you got this idea, but it is just wrong. Of course, employers are free to do whatever back of the envelope calculation they want to decide your salary, but the law in France, the UK, and most other countries is about "paid leave" and that's exactly how it works.


Yes, that's the part you SEE. But I'm pretty sure your boss doesn't pay your "paid vacation" out of his own money - it's part of the calculation of the total package they have to pay you (including your desk, the money they might have to pay to headhunters to acquire you, ...), mandatory state "insurances" or fees.

They only pay the value of the package - you can calculate your hourly rate on total yearly pay / yearly hours worked, or are free to imagine you get paid total yearly pay / total hours of the year, and then boom, you're also paid for the vacations, for weekends, for the nights and so on. But in fact you're only paid because your boss knows what value you provide and how many hours you'll be there that year.


I worked in the IT department of a college while I was a student and this matches my experience of the full time staff. They couldn't even be terminated because they were unionized employees. I recall one terrible employee in particular who just sat at his desk and watched Star Trek Next Gen episodes all day, working his way through the series. What a waste of money.

The student employees weren't much better, because it wasn't ever established what their behavior should be. I remember a lot of time spent torrenting, watching movies, and playing games -- occasionally breaking to reimage a computer.


It's funny that DoIT comes up because I happen to work in the same building. I generally leave around 5:00 and without fail when I open my office door the lights are out because people rolled out so long ago that the system shut them off due to lack of activity. Either everyone gets to work at about 7:30am or nobody has ever worked an eight hour day this year.


I took a look at CMU's financials and it definitely looks like the money is going towards salaries. They don't offer a breakdown between the different kinds of salaries, naturally. Does anyone know of a representative dataset (by "representative" I mean "not the UC system, not an ivy with >$10b endowment, etc") that would include this information?

https://www.cmu.edu/finance/reporting-and-incoming-funds/fin...


There's a bunch of relevant data in this paper, albeit from 2008 (starting on 21): http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2153122

Here's a summary of the conclusions

A recent study by two professors of economics attempts to arrive at the ideal ratio of tenured and tenure-track faculty to administrators in order to operate effectively. Analyzing data from 137 public universities from 1987 through 2008, they found that on average the ratio was two administrators to one full-time faculty member when the most cost-effective ratio is one administrator for every three full-time faculty members. They found that an imbalance between administrators and faculty where administrators outnumber faculty is what accounts for the rise in costs. Administrators and non-instructional staff have continued to rise despite less state funding. Furthermore, more part-time faculty are being hired at very low wages to offset the costs of administrators whose salaries tend to be much higher than faculty. Critics argue that the ratio should not be applied universally, as different types of universities have different needs when it comes to instructional vs. supervisory staff. But many agree that the goal of higher education is to focus on those who are in the classroom and not those pursuing an agenda of business development.


Put the administrators on a living wage and send them home.


Here are numbers for Duke and Barnard. I have no idea if they are representative, but they have respectively 10% and 5% of their total budget going to administration. The Barnard link has quite a depth of information.

Duke: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/02/14/277015271/duke-60-...

Barnard: https://barnard.edu/sites/default/files/inline/2012_data_boo...


That's not really true. Duke includes finical aid as a cost but that's not actual spending. So from the chart, 10/.76 = ~13% is administrative costs.

Though the Text says out of 90k in spending $14,000 goes to pay a share of administrative and academic support salaries which puts just salary's for administration at 15.5 not including their share of the building etc.

So, a reasonable estimate ~25-40% of each dollar actually spent goes to administration depending on where you draw the line. AKA is a dean Administration or Faculty.

PS: Not that facility get to actually spend anywhere close to 100% of there time on teaching.


Barnard is a special case for the following reasons:

0) It is one of Columbia University's affiliated undergraduate schools, so facilities/athletics/administration/some budgets are tightly coupled to the mothership, which has approximately more money than god and subsidizes many things

1) It is in NYC, so the cost structure is not representative of the rest of America

2)) It is a Women's college, which probably changes some stuff (though I don't know what)


Points 0 and 1 are (mostly) correct, though I don't think point 2 really has any appreciable impact on the costs.

To clarify one thing: Columbia doesn't exactly "subsidize" Barnard - in fact, Barnard maintains its own independent endowment and board of trustees. Columbia and Barnard "partner" together to provide a number of joint services (for example, Columbia students majoring in theater take their classes at Barnard, and vice versa for some other departments, but many departments exist independently at each school). Barnard retains its own independent administration for most positions; there is very little sharing of administrative roles.

Student organizations are joint-funded through student fees, and almost all are open to both Columbia and Barnard students. In fact, there was some debate a few years back about the Barnard group overseeing student organizations not contributing its fair share towards Greek life[0], which was soon rectified. It is important that fund transfers between (e.g) Columbia College and Barnard are generally not considered internal transfers the way (e.g.) Columbia College and SEAS (the engineering school) would be.

This is not unlike the situation at certain other schools like Harvard and MIT, which sometimes allow cross-enrollment, or other schools which pool resources for student activities. The main difference is that Barnard professors are awarded tenure from Columbia University, not from Barnard (which cannot grant tenure independently).

That said, I agree that Barnard's expenses are not indicative, but that's more because they share many resources with another school (Columbia) and reap efficiencies that way, not because Columbia "subsidizes" their costs. Columbia saves a lot of money from these partnerships as well, and I doubt that they would keep the current setup if they didn't feel that they benefited from it financially as well.

[0] http://columbiaspectator.com/2011/04/26/inter-greek-council-...


>Does anyone know of a representative dataset (by "representative" I mean "not the UC system, not an ivy with >$10b endowment, etc") that would include this information?

All government employee salaries in the state of Texas are public info [0], I used to check out how much my professors made. And how much my dad made. You can see salaries by employer as well. I'm not sure where to find historical salary data but it has to exist somewhere.

[0] http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/government-employee...


Here's [1] data for all the public universities in IL.

[1] http://www.ibhe.state.il.us/PA96266/search.aspx


And don't forget sports teams. Almost all football programs, for instance, actually cost the university more money than they bring in. This includes revenue from sports memorabilia. Source: friend worked in athletics at my uni and they were extremely proud when they started breaking even.


sounds like education in Mexico


The problem is simple. Teachers teach because they want to teach, administrators "administrate" for the money. And that's where it goes.

The market won't work right for teachers because some of them would do it for free if they had some other way to eat. To fix it will take more than administration. It will take leadership.


> because some of them would do it for free if they had some other way to eat.

Then I fail to see what the problem is. Obviously, there is an oversupply of teaching staff, or else wages would be higher since good professors would be a scarce commodity.

That obviously is not the case, thus wages fall. I guess when you have an excess of a generation going to college on false debt, you get an excess of teachers too. I'd imagine of the college going populace instructors make up a significant fraction.


>Then I fail to see what the problem is.

That's because you're thinking like a market rather than a human being.


Wow. HN really IS the reddit of a few years ago... You can have your opinion, but if you can't behave in public, please bury your ad-hominem s___ in someone else's backyard.


It's not really an ad hominem. I took it more as the reasoning in "What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets."


Ok. It sounded pretty harsh over here.

Regarding markets: they are only the sum of the people that constitute them. Not all reasons or incentives for actions in a market have to be monetary. IOW: if something is of value to people, it will usually be done. If that doesn't happen, usually people say they want something, but do not really care that much.


I don't really get what you are saying. The book I mentioned has some interesting arguments and anecdotes.

One is also in Predictably Irrational: in short parents were always late picking up the kids from day care. The day care decided to issue a fine for late parents. The unintended consequences of this were that the parents were way more late on average because they felt they were paying for it. It switched the system from one based on social norms to market norms.

At ball games everyone used to be forced into the same shitty seats. Now the well to do get a pass and have luxury seats with better food and views. Instead of fostering community it further alienates the rich and the poor. This leads to a filter bubble of sorts that prevents both groups from empathizing with each other.

Same with courts and the legal system, fasttrak lanes, free shows put on that have secondary markets.


I didn't get that you were talking about a book, sorry.

If you say that basing all interactions around money or segregating people into different groups that get different service can be a bad idea, I agree.


>Regarding markets: they are only the sum of the people that constitute them.

No, they're the sum of the constitutive people, minus all the parts that don't deal with property, trade, contracts, and debt, plus distortions added by institutional arrangements.


I'd say if there is a distortion or limiting arrangement, it's not a free market, and thus its participants behave differently, because they can't freely take their decisions.

If people take their decisions freely, quite often money is not the top priority, but more traditional - and human - values may be.


>I'd say if there is a distortion or limiting arrangement, it's not a free market,

Then the term "free market" is an oxymoron. By conjuring a market, which deals with money, property, and profit therein, you have already made it unfree.


And why is that? If you make a profit, you sell something for more than the sum of its parts. You add value and get something in return. Property is just stuff you kept after an exchange. Money is a medium of exchange. Where is the unfree part?

IRL, there are lots of problems (in general), most of them not from markets, but lots also because people make bad decisions in markets. I think those are communication problems, though - people not agreeing on values. So many people scream "market failure", but nobody ever screams "voter/election failure", when people make bad decisions there that cause problems.


>HN really IS the reddit of a few years ago...

I would say the same damn thing regarding the knee-jerk right-wing proprietarianism, except that rich Bay Area techies have had a tendency towards the less-well-considered forms of "wannabe ubermensch" libertarianism for a long time now.

If you pointed out that leftists cluster on Reddit you <i>wouldn't even be correct</i>, as Reddit was pretty unambiguously rooting for Ron Paul in the past couple of elections.


I was talking about the tone, which sounded like a personal attack to me. HN used to have a more civil conversational tone.

Reddit always seemed divided to me, lots of leftists and lots of libertarians. Maybe the Paulians were noisier and more visible. HN seems a bit more libertarian to me, maybe because people here have higher incomes.


The tone was, I admit it, meant to be harsh. The reason for that is precisely because the high-income techno-libertarians feel entitled to be blithe about it. There's something irritatingly privileged about ideologies with lots of money behind them, that by some wondrous magic they are allowed to utter assertions where others (with less money them) are required to set out extensive proofs, and the most unpopular (who have basically no money) are required to display conclusive empirical evidence.


> The tone was, I admit it, meant to be harsh. The reason for that is precisely because the high-income techno-libertarians feel entitled to be blithe about it.

Please don't. Being harsh is not a good way to argue against blithe nonsense. It's a way to corrode the discourse and ruin the community [1]. If you're patient and reasonable, there's at least a small chance that you'll evoke that quality in others. If you're harsh, the chance of provoking the same and worse is high.

1. That particular comment was actually relatively mild. This is a personal appeal to drop the harsh tone on HN in general.


This is anecdotal only. I used to be a full-time college instructor, and I still teach there occasionally part-time and interact with my former colleagues. Since I've left, the college has added a number of full-time staff to media and eLearning (e.g. maintain the LMS, setup video recording and conferencing systems, etc) and, for every dean, there is now an assistant dean to help with administrative workload.

Meanwhile, whole programs at the college are being shutdown or targeted for shutdown, with the corresponding faculty laid off.


Meanwhile, Coursera has 677 courses available for free, many of them excellent. You don't get the diploma, but if the diploma is backed by lower-quality classes and grade inflation, that's going to matter less and less.


Thatks where I see huge potential for disruption to higher ed; I think some trusted or recognized source will make a lot of money by offering credentialing... I saw something about 'nanodegrees' from Udacity (or one of those). When the situation reaches the tipping point where it's a signal of mental paucity that you decided to take on 200k of debt for something you could have gotten for a lot less, I wonder what will happen...or how close we are to that point.


So we could have a startup that administers 3 day quals and hands out a degree based on passing our rigorous tests? Like passing the bar but from a private firm giving a certification, the education is on your own.


There's a bunch of testing centers owned by companies like Sylvan or Prometric and used for professional certification courses by companies like Microsoft and Oracle.


Udacity Nano Degrees: https://www.udacity.com/nanodegrees


It's looking like the kind of pilot program we need to get more enterprising self-taught people into dev interviews: backed by big companies to instill faith in the smaller companies, teaching new/relevant skills, capstone project to show off and discuss in an interview.

It does cost though ($200/month), which can be significant out-of-pocket if you're in a low-paying job, and you may not need whatever service that $200 buys you. It's unclear what that goes to, but I'm assuming it's to the coaches.

Still better than American university prices


Wrap a tutor contact service - sort of Uber for teaching - so that when candidates need a bit of one to one or to have a small group seminar about an especially tricky part of a given online course they can.

You then have something close to the original Universities around 1100 ad or so!


Coursera + the CLEP exams = real, tested learning, and college credit on the cheap. (Not that you can get a full degree just on the basis of CLEP tests, unfortunately...)


And we don't have to pay any teachers.


Why should paying teachers be considered good in itself? Are you familiar with the First and Second Welfare Theorem in economics?


One the one hand it shouldn't.

On their other hand it is bizarre to come into a thread about how teachers aren't getting paid despite school costs rising and present as an alternative paying teachers even less.

On the gripping hand I'm not entirely sure what you think the welfare theorems have to do with this but its worth remember that they do not and quite likely cannot actually describe reality.


The article wasn't just about the poor teachers. It also complained that students aren't getting value for their money.

But my main point is this: given that good competition exists, if colleges don't fix this quality issue, enrollment will drop and the situation for their teachers will keep getting worse.

(But professors at Coursera could get paid well for their efforts, if Coursera ends up with an effective business model.)


It takes a lot of administrators to figure out how to keep contingent lecturers at just under full time employment.


University administrators, mostly. They outnumber faculty at many universities, and their salaries are rising fast.


I think another problem (though probably minor compared to the bloated bureaucracies everyone else is mentioning) is that the teaching quality doesn't matter as much to students these days.

This is a UK source, but I think it reflects the view of most students in the West:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14616788

I feel bad for saying something like "kids these days" (I'm one of them, admittedly) but "fun" seems to be a big factor in a student's choice of a school today. Admittedly, this is mostly based on anecdote and stereotypes (I think there's a reason why "college life" is commonly associated with parties and frats). I won't say that the social aspect of education is unimportant, but it seems that rather than making the education itself more "fun", universities in the last few decades have gradually increased funding for recreational buildings, big events, frats, and sports [1], etc. Of course, I don't know how significant these costs actually are, and I'm happy to be convinced by some budgetary data if this is actually a non-issue.

[1] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/15/athleti...


> Wealth does not pass three generations.

- Chinese proverb

(Disclaimer: I'm one of them darned kids too.) I've only become aware of recently [1][2], but I've started to get the feeling that this "fun phenomenon" is something endemic to Generation Y.

[1] http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/09/why-generation-y-yuppies-are-u...

[2] http://ejmas.com/pt/2012pt/ptart_tong_teacher24-1210.html

tl;dr = Generation 1 builds wealth from scratch, Gen 2 is inspired by the raw dedication of the first, but Gen 3 never meets Gen 1 and feels entitled and lazy and squanders everything.

I haven't really investigated this theory in detail. But it agrees with my anecdotal experience and has a lot of explanatory power.


> Wealth does not pass three generations. - Chinese proverb

Not true. Gregory Clark has an awesome book on this, The Son Also Rises. Social status has a heritability of 0.7ish in every society he measured it in. That's almost as high as the upper bound estimate for IQ. To give an idea of how powerful heritability of social status/roles is consider this: Norman surnames are over represented among the battlefield casualties of WW1 and 2 for the UK. Nearly a thousand years later a prospensity for organised violence lives on. And despite the Cultural Revolution and 30 years of Communism, the same surnames that were over represented among the Mandarins of Qing China are over represented among the upper echelons of today's Communist Party.

〉tl;dr = Generation 1 builds wealth from scratch, Gen 2 is inspired by the raw dedication of the first, but Gen 3 never meets Gen 1 and feels entitled and lazy and squanders everything.

Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers. -- Socrates


[I've revised this comment several times now, but I don't actually know where we disagree. I'm just leaving it as is for now.]

> Gregory Clark has an awesome book on this, The Son Also Rises.

I haven't read Clark's book personally. But a passage via SSC [1] (a link which I cited for you to follow and actually read):

> efforts to democratise education and eliminate discrimination over the past century appear to have had no discernible effect on mobility

which is, uh, sort of better relates to the toppish-level discussion.

SSC cited how Georgia raffled off the land they stole from the Cherokee. The white lotto-winning descendants weren't appreciably better off. This exemplifies how dynastic wealth can diminish because of a lack of some intangible value (work ethic? genes?), which incidentally Gen Y may not have inherited from Gen X and the Baby Boomers. I.e. I see no issues with my theory so far.

Also your Socrates quote is off point. The Greeks had this notion that civilization had descended from a Golden Age to a Silver Age, and from there a Bronze Age. They also believed civilization would continue to decline linearly. This is obviously silly since the Western World's economy has appreciated a wazzilion fold since the Renaissance. But the point of the Chinese Proverb was more consistent with the "Mandate of Heaven/Dynastic Cycle" meme. I.e. dynastic wealth ebbs and flows like a business cycle. This idea is incompatible with neither dynastic long-term growth nor societal long-term growth.

[1] http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/26/compound-interest-is-th...


I would say education quality dosn't matter because, in my experience, it's universally bad. Why should you care if your useless years spent buying an accreditation is 98% useless or 99% useless? You have to self-educate either way.


It's going to pay for things that the state used to pay for.

The cost (to the school) of education at a state school has not gone up a lot versus inflation, but fraction of it paid for by the state has gone way down.


To the taxpayers. The share of state and federal funding (both direct and through grants) has been declining steadily over the last twenty years. Your student loan debt may be crippling but aren't you glad that you get to pay lower taxes?


http://www.scpr.org/blogs/education/2013/07/31/14406/three-c...

In America, an institution of higher learning is not respected until they have a few sports teams with coaches, athletic directors, supporting staff, facilities staff and subsidies in the form of athletic scholarships.


Generally, the cost of college tracks inflation. It's where the funding that is changing that makes it appear to increase. 40 years ago state funds paid for most state college costs (hence the name, "state" college"). Now, most states are broke and rapidly withdrawing most of the funding support from their universities, shifting costs to the students.

Administrative staff costs are rising as well, but the tenure track professors are expected to do less and less administrative work, theoretically allowing them to teach more classes. I don't know how much this works though.


A lot of it is going to rising labor costs — while wages have largely been stagnant, health care, facilities, and insurance costs have not.


People do not get paid based on how much money the business makes. On the other hand they get paid based on how much value they add.

Someone whose skill is French Language is surely is not much worth compared to someone who knows how to make pancakes. I will not be surprised that a lot of college teachers teaching skills of no use are finding it hard to make enough money.


> On the other hand they get paid based on how much value they add.

Nope. That only happens if they're scarce. If they aren't scarce (or are otherwise deleveraged) they get paid minimum wage regardless of the value they create.

> Someone whose skill is French Language is surely is not much worth compared to someone who knows how to make pancakes.

You seem to be awfully certain of that. Unless you meant to assume what you set out to prove (French lecturer is poorly paid => there isn't demand => poor pay is justified) I don't understand your argument. Clearly there is demand: sum up the price paid for the French credit by all the students in the class. There's just a middle man that skims a tremendous amount from the tuition paid for those credit hours before the money reaches the teacher / support staff.


> Nope. That only happens if they're scarce. If they aren't scarce (or are otherwise deleveraged) they get paid minimum wage regardless of the value they create.

That is rubbish, mostly the left liberal hippy logic. If a person is valuable there is always another competitor who will hire him for a higher pay to get the competitive advantage.


Well, there is a huge surplus of PhD's in every field, and there is less industry demand for certain fields (French Lit, for example). This seems like a classic situation where certification in a professional association should be required to teach college, so there can be better collective bargaining at a national scale.


Obviously if they are not scarce means they are indeed cheaper and makes perfect sense to give them just a minimum wage.


Administration - top admins make orders of magnitude more than lecturers.


Wall Street?


Research, Sports, executive salaries. There are a lot of costs besides teacher's salaries.


I doubt executive salaries make up a significant portion of any school's budget. Overpaid non-executive administrators are a much larger cost in aggregate, because there are so many of them.


That's not quite true: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/06/higher-eds-for-profit-fut...

"compensation of a single person like Zimmer now approaches the reported inflation-adjusted $3 million annual operating deficit that ended a community resource benefiting both medical students and trauma patients."


UChicago spent $446M on academic salaries, $889M on staff salaries and $338M on benefits (not broken out into academic vs non-academic) in the the 2011-2012 fiscal year that Zimmer's compensation temporarily spiked to $3M. It is safe to say that over $1B was spent on non-academic salary and benefits (administration), which dwarfs both Zimmer's compensation and the $3M operating deficit.

http://finserv.uchicago.edu/pdf/2012FinState.pdf


Yes, you're correct that Zimmer's compensation is less than the total salaries of every other person employed by the university.

I guess we can argue about the meaning of the word "significant" now.


I thought research was funded through grants and sports was self funding?


Research is typically a profit center for the university. The standard cut (known as "overhead" in the biz) is 30% of research grants. Capital equipment (typically defined as stuff costing more than X dollars) is taxed at a lower rate (usually 10%). Research assistantships are also charged 30%. Also, any modification to lab facilities (electrical or carpentry for example) is usually required to be performed by university staff at a cost (to the grant) of around 2 to 3 times union rates.


In the private university I work for (in research) the University keeps all patent revenue, keeps a portion of all grants, and requires the lab to pay for space- I was really surprised to find out how much went towards that. There's also a lot of really annoying charges, like costing $180 to reactivate ethernet jacks that they deactivate when a device hasn't been plugged into a port for three months.


Isn't "research" mainly professor and grad student salaries? What's the difference?


I thought sports were mainly profit centers.



Only for the major unis.

For everyone else... I'm pretty sure sports COSTS money.

That said... keeping a few young ladies running track can't possibly be the cause of the imbalance people are talking about. I'm pretty sure the money is sucked up by administrative and non instructional staff. But without the spreadsheets it is difficult to say anything with certainty.


Only for certain, usually large, schools


Not usually. Most colleges don't have popular enough teams to turn a profit. And at the ones that do most of the profit ends up being spent on the sports teams (popular teams need big, modern, expensive stadiums). Almost no money flows from sports to education. At best there's an argument that sports helps drive enrollment and helps drive alumni donations. Though even then because of the cost of most sports programs it's questionable whether or not they break even on average.


The latter two are the one's that should be most limited.


Isn't this the same as most businesses? The price of good is going up, salaries are stagnant or falling. Where is all of this extra profit going?


Good point on how the pay problem for adjunct faculty is intertwined with the "everyone gets a trophy" problem for students:

> “I knew the instructor was an adjunct, and that she taught at several places to cobble together a living. I told the students that she was an adjunct, and that the class was easy because she was afraid of losing her job.” Adjuncts are often evaluated solely based on student evaluations. As Rebecca Schuman put it in her Slate article “Confessions of a Grade Inflator,” “popularity is the only thing keeping them employed.”


Saw that happen.

Adjunct instructors went out of their way to be friendly, and non-confrontational. They would let stuff slide, exam do-overs, class meetings held at coffee shops etc etc.

Tenured professor not giving a damn about teaching, or being at least socially cordial. Some are just complete assholes.

Even saw the the behavior change when a professor got tenure. It was a pretty sharp switch to "don't give a fuck about anything" in a matter of a semester.

I am saying this as an average pattern I noticed, at one particular place, there are exceptions of course...


Interestingly, I saw more than one fantastic teacher get denied tenure in my graduate department (a top research university), and there was always a rumor floating around that it was because they spent effort on teaching that could have instead gone to research. (One of them had written a textbook, and was told pretty explicitly that doing so had been a major mistake.) I've never heard of anyone getting denied tenure there or in any similar program for mediocre teaching evaluations.

Meanwhile, at the private liberal arts college where I teach, most of my senior colleagues are just as committed to good teaching as my junior colleagues are. (The younger folks may be more innovative, but by and large they don't care more.) I've never seen someone's teaching go downhill when they get tenure; if anything, the research pressure eases up a bit at that point and they feel free to focus a bit more on the classroom.

So maybe what you've observed about tenure is accurate in some places, but it's at odds with the places I've been.


I'd up-vote you twice if I could.

Students may pay for the privilege to receive a higher education, but the real customer is society. The product is competent graduates that will keep society moving forwards.

Once you start asking the opinion of the raw materials in your assembly line, everything goes downhill.


Your third paragraph implies a model of education and preparation for leadership that will actively work against the goal articulated in the last sentence of your second paragraph.

PS: what meaning are you attaching to the word 'society' here?


Ok, let me please elaborate, I know "assembly line" and "raw materials" sound awful, and I appreciate that you did not simply down-voted, btw.

The way I see it, Education (at any level) is a process of self transformation. You cannot really purchase Education, you just pay for the opportunity to be part of that process. In this sense, your self at the time of admission is the raw material, your actualized self at the time of graduation is the final product, while the body of students can be considered the total inventory of product in process.

Second, every process of self actualization is Hard with capital H. It requires lots of work, and can be stressful (or even painful) at times. There are no shortcuts. It requires diligence to push through all that work, and perseverance in times when you feel like crap because it seems that you are never going to make it. Professors are guides and mentors, but ultimately you educate yourself. And because of this, no outcomes can be guaranteed.

Traditionally, Universities were modeled after medieval guilds. Professors, as guild masters before them, accepted candidates and teach them the art of the guild. They did not do so because they were not nice guys, but for a profit motive (Universities nowadays directly in the fees they charge, Guilds in the past indirectly through apprentices' free labor).

If the apprentice/student persevered for a fixed number of years, they received the social recognition of being competent in the art of the guild. In the Guild, apprentices became journey-man which gave them the right to practice their art in the territory controlled by the Guild and to receive a salary for it. In University, the undergraduate is considered a knowledgeable person in their major and (though we like to pretend that higher education is not job training) eligible for jobs that require specialized qualifications. In neither case does this imply that the student is now considered equals with the teacher.

For the undergraduate/journeyman to be considered equals with their professor/master, they have to pursue more self directed, advanced education for an undefined number of years. In both cases, the candidate must present a proof of competence in the art beyond what is expected from mere practitioners: For the journeyman it's called "master piece", for the graduate student "PhD thesis". This proof is presented to a group of masters including but not limited to your mentor, and they measure, debate and maybe approve it. If that last is the case, you are considered now to be a peer of them.

None of this fact seem to be common knowledge among undergraduate students, and Universities make no effort to disabuse them of their ignorance. Instead, they are now following a service industry model where every customer receives a standardized, repeatable service, and customer satisfaction is paramount. Until the day that we invent machines such as those in the first "Matrix" movie - where specific information and skills can be downloaded to your brain by direct manipulation of your neuronal patterns using electromagnetic impulses inside your skull - this model will only mess up with the older model of apprentice/master transfer of knowledge through the hard but proven self actualization process.


I don't silently downvote ever.

"It requires diligence to push through all that work, and perseverance in times when you feel like crap because it seems that you are never going to make it. Professors are guides and mentors, but ultimately you educate yourself."

This is a much richer view than the original comment, but I'll need to work through your later paragraphs. Thanks for taking the time needed to formulate the response.


Let's change the terminology a bit here. A professor is someone with tenure is on a tenure track. A lecturer is someone who is not. The article isn't talking about professors, which in the USA relies on research, publishing, obtaining grants, and tenure. Yes, a lecturer teaching a low demand subject is going to have a hard time. Just like most positions, there exists a hierarchy. The reason why this doesn't exist for primary and secondary educators is because of unions and that can be argued either way.


I think this is a natural result of having so many kids that have no idea of what to do in life.

Take a snapshot of the labor force of a country. Then try to figure out how many of those professions a high school kid understands. Do they know what those people find rewarding about their job? What they don't? Do they have any idea of how an entire career might look like? They don't. So when you ask one of those kids what they'll want to do when they stop formal education, they'll go back to the few things that they are taught are desirable, and the few other occupations that are close to them. One of which, for every single kid, is to teach, since they've been surrounded by them all their lives.

Keeping studying after getting a Bachelor's is also a very tempting option for kids that are afraid of change. Think of something very different from college, or get a master's? Go look for a job, or get a Ph.D? Inertia makes some people go for advanced degrees, even though they don't really understand the road they are getting into.

I know plenty of people who finished a Ph.D, started doing post docs, then realized that now their options had narrowed significantly, that the tenure track was not going to happen any time soon, so their options were to become adjuncts, study even more to consider teaching at a high school, or accept that 5-10 years worth of education was completely wasted. This leads to a major glut of qualified people, which then get paid very little.

I believe we should spend a whole lot of effort teaching kids what odds they are actually facing when they make their career choices. I still meet interns that are doing post graduate education at the same time that don't realize how terrible the odds really are, and that's with them working in a company that is one of the few industry outlets out there for people that went into Ph.Ds and then saw how scary the teaching market was, so it's not like they cannot hear plenty of stories.

Bad information just leads to bad resource allocation for all of us. We should help with that.


Passion is a weird thing. If a prospective adjunct walks up to you and says "I'm passionate about teaching in higher education," or "I derive what I judge to be a large amount of utility from the prospect of teaching in higher education," is it bad resource allocation for him or her to enter that market, because you think that if they had had a different set of inputs (information) earlier in their life, they may have become passionate about something else, or had a different weighting on their utility function? Who are we to say our ideas for what they should do are better?

By all means, we as a society should discourage people who don't know what they want to do from taking post-graduate education as a default choice, and we should discourage people who don't derive utility from teaching from being in the adjunct labor market. But I think that the majority of people in the adjunct labor market would actually say quotes like the ones above - they're not just "kids" without agency or passion for the work. And they would probably find it demeaning for the top post here to deign to "help" them to choose "rewarding... career choices." I'm pretty sure they've already chosen.

If we're going to spread information, let's focus on spreading transparency about hiring practices at universities to the students and grant-givers who fund their budgets.


I was once offered an adjunct position to teach a class at my alma mater. They were excited to let me know I'd be paid $3,000 for teaching the class.

I had to turn them down, as I was already doing private corporate trainings, where we charged $3,000/day.

I didn't get paid that much, obviously, but I thought it was really amusing that the amounts lined up.


These basal, fundamental flaws in the educational system give me pause to awe, and a gut feeling the US is gonna get trampled many times over by the likes of China within some decades. So little regulation and such harsh capitalism is eating its heart out bit by bit. I guess what keeps America bright at this point is a legacy from the past century, that's slowly eroding, and the brain drain sucked chiefly out of Asia and Eastern Europe--at least the same hands-off market attracts those people with today a stronger educational background than the average educated American, but how sustainable is it to keep importing talent? Is the power of capital enough to keep the american infrastructure and investment momentum on american grounds indefinitely?


Such little regulation? Harsh capitalism?

Our education system is propped up chiefly because of government. Most of the US goes to public schools, controlled by the government. Most university students go to public schools. Students get ridiculous loans they can't default on, courtesy of the government.

Harsh capitalism would be harsh on the universities who cling to a dying lecture/exam model that hasn't evolved for centuries. It would punish universities who don't produce results, instead of giving them students with free loans from the taxpayers. Harsh capitalism would see universities that can't evolve disappear.

I feel like blaming things on capitalism and lack of regulation is so overplayed and fashionable that people can't take a second to think that maybe regulation and government caused the problem in the first place. Everything the government does right is lauded while everything it does wrong is blamed on "corporate interests" and capitalism.


> 'cling to a dying lecture/exam model that hasn't evolved for centuries'

It dawned on me this week that Y Combinator itself is structured more like this 'dying lecture/exam model', set in a physical place where 'students' and 'instructors' can interact directly rather than being intermediated by some app, screen or paper. If there is any group in any place who would be more likely to disrupt education by the application of high tech, I'd be surprised. That they adopt a model you say is dying suggests that there may be more life in it that might be expected.


Indeed. Proximity facilitates our communication and judgement faculties in a way that is hard to replicate online (although it is a very interesting problem to contemplate). Is it possible to replicate the experience of following a professor out of a classroom and getting a summer research position from the ensuing conversation? The subtle cues and trust-building of both direct and group conversation? Video chat helps, but it's not the same. One small aspect: it seems easier to "turn off" a digital interaction.


Lectures till aren't helpful most of the time though compared to practically any other form of instruction.

I'd also wager that Y combinator has much smaller class sizes and is more like a tutorial then lectures.


> Our education system is propped up chiefly because of government.

Obviously not propped enough if this professor died in poverty and students need 6 figure loans to graduate.

> Most of the US goes to public schools, controlled by the government.

As opposed to what? Controlled by Coca-Cola? Starbucks? -- "Do you have a degree?" -- "I sure do, I graduated with MS in coffee arts (MsCA) from Starbucks University, Phoenix". Or just got a "PhD in applied lobbying from Lockheed".

> Students get ridiculous loans they can't default on, courtesy of the government.

The problem is not to just stop giving loans, but let people go to universities without needing loans. If Universities are public, they should admit based on merit. And instead of cycling money through govt to student to university, just subsidize the university and make sure it doesn't spend money on admin assistants, triple layers of bureaucracy, new gyms with lazy rivers and other crap that is not needed. Maybe if it is too hard, just increase % of admitted students based on merit, some that couldn't quite make it and are rich perhaps could buy their way in.

> maybe regulation and government caused the problem in the first place.

Can you point to an example of an attested and well functioning higher learning system not regulated and propped by a government?


>As opposed to what? Controlled by Coca-Cola? Starbucks? -- "Do you have a degree?" -- "I sure do, I graduated with MS in coffee arts (MsCA) from Starbucks University, Phoenix". Or just got a "PhD in applied lobbying from Lockheed".

False dichotomy. There are plenty of things that fit in between "rapacious megacorporations" and "government cronies". Like, for example, unsubsidized nonprofit educational institutes. You know, like you might have found in the 19th - first half of the 20th century.


> You know, like you might have found in the 19th - first half of the 20th century.

19th century? So it is easier to imagine going back to 19th century than a system with an accessible public university system without student loans.


No, 'going back to the 19th century (-first half of the 20th century)' is equivalent to imagining a higher education system without student loans. Don't see what the big deal is.


The point I was trying to make was that somehow it was easier to imagine time travelling than just looking "across the pond", oh to say Sweden. Or probably other civilised countries.


In the 19th century and the pre-social-democratic 20th century, most universities had no student loans because they charged steep fees in cold cash. If you want to eliminate student debt without eliminating students, you need to look at the social-democratic universities of the post-WW2 era.


that's not true; the pre-interest cost of universities has outstripped inflation many many fold in the last 30 years. The pre-WW2 era colleges were almost certainly less expensive in real purchasing power terms than they are now.


> Obviously not propped enough if this professor died in poverty and students need 6 figure loans to graduate.

I argue that it is precisely because of government intervention that these things happen.

> As opposed to what? Controlled by Coca-Cola? Starbucks? -- "Do you have a degree?" -- "I sure do, I graduated with MS in coffee arts (MsCA) from Starbucks University, Phoenix". Or just got a "PhD in applied lobbying from Lockheed".

Are you implying that without government, we as a society would be unable to educate people?

> The problem is not to just stop giving loans, but let people go to universities without needing loans.

That will make universities even more inefficient. Do you know what will ensure "make sure it doesn't spend money on admin assistants, triple layers of bureaucracy, new gyms with lazy rivers and other crap that is not needed?" The fear of failure that universities don't experience now. The fear that if you don't do your job, students will not willingly give you money. "Harsh capitalism" solves that problem.


> Are you implying that without government, we as a society would be unable to educate people?

Well I don't have to imply you just have to show a few example of a successful world renown university run completely outside the control of a government. There are example of successful higher education institutions controlled and sponsored by governments. Western Europe has those example.

> The fear of failure that universities don't experience now.

Again, can you show one single example of a university outside the control of government that accomplishes and is driven by this mythical fear.

> "Harsh capitalism" solves that problem

Be honest now, have you been reading some Ayn Rand? That is fiction you know that, right?


> I argue that it is precisely because of government intervention that these things happen.

It may very well be that the various 20th-century post-war G.I. Bills started the college bubble in the first place, by democratizing the expectation of higher education to the lower classes for the first time in history.


> As opposed to what? Controlled by Coca-Cola? Starbucks? -- "Do you have a degree?" -- "I sure do, I graduated with MS in coffee arts (MsCA) from Starbucks University, Phoenix". Or just got a "PhD in applied lobbying from Lockheed"

School vouchers are a great alternative to public schools http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_voucher


> School vouchers are a great alternative to public schools http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_voucher

Are there universities on the voucher system?


My primary issue with school vouchers is the poor state of private schools, at least here in GA (outside of the major cities like Atlanta and Savannah). The Catholic schools are decent to good, but often are only K-8. There are few private secular schools. The rest of the private schools are very conservative "Christian Academy" types whose education leaves their students complete morons in some fields (math, science, history, civics; I guess, really, everything).


I bet that if we switched to vouchers then you'd see a lot of new private schools catering to a wider audience. It also might be reasonable to exclude private schools with religious instruction from the voucher program.


I'd like to be that optimistic, and maybe it'd happen, but the politics around here would make it unlikely.

Also, wrt the exclusion of religious schools, that'd be a non-starter in the southern states at least. It'd probably make more sense to mandate some minimum curricula or require that inspectors be able to attend the school unannounced if the school is receiving public moneys via vouchers. There'd likely be a tantrum about religious oppression, but, really, man and dinosaurs, contrary to the teachings at many of the churches and Christian academies around here, really didn't live together [1].

[1] Ok, in the conventional sense of dinosaurs, not the XKCD sense of birds as living dinosaurs. http://xkcd.com/1211/


You are not a betting man.


Wow, most other places in the US it is the opposite. Private schools are considered superior. They have to be, because there is otherwise no reason to both pay property taxes and also pay tution.


Around here it's largely politics and religion, not the quality of the school. There's one catholic school with a good academic reputation. The other two I know of are ok. The rest of the private schools are bad to mediocre. They may be better in some ways than the public schools, but not enough (IMO) for the tuition costs.


> "Do you have a degree?" -- "I sure do, I graduated with MS in coffee arts (MsCA) from Starbucks University, Phoenix". Or just got a "PhD in applied lobbying from Lockheed".

Not arguing against public funding of education, but you're making a nice point about the inherent BS of degrees that exist merely on paper.

Nobody actually cares about that piece of paper - employers want to know what you DID and what you're CAPABLE of.

A college degree used to be reasonable proof of peoples' abilities, but today conflating the two usually doesn't help. Thus post-college unemployment, or idiots running companies from nice positions.


Is it actually better for students that they can't default on their loans? I usually hear it the opposite way, that even after bankruptcy proceedings you still have your student loan debt following you around.


Students do default on student loans, even though they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. 14.7% of students who started repayment in 2010 defaulted within 3 years. (Source: http://www2.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/defaultmanagement/cdr.html)

If the government did not guarantee and subsidize the loans, interest rates would be higher and/or banks would be more careful which students they lent to.


Which is fine, because as it stands the feedback loop is broken.

Look at what you can spend yourself into at the University of Phoenix.

Many are not much better.


non-dischargeability was probably a 'good intention' gone horribly wrong. Because on the plus side, the student's APRs are lower because the lender can be guaranteed to own a portion of the student's labor for the specified term unless they die. And because the higher educational institutes really ought to be entitled to continue extracting their students' value.


the problem is that higher education is the only product aside from used cars in the US which can be sold without an implied warranty of merchantability.


how would you suggest structuring this warranty?


Cobalt Phd.


what, exactly, is better than lectures and exams?


I don't know about US grading schemes, but here in Australia, pretty much every course has some form of assignments or series thereof. The assignments can be a small or substantial part of the final mark, or even the total final mark, depending on the kind of course.

I suspect the same is true in US tertiary institutions, and that railing against exams is just a tired old trope. It's hard to believe that it would be the general standard in the US to have the entirety of the final mark attributable to exams. But, like I said, I'm not familiar with their curricula.


My experience is from SUNY Stony Brook (a university run by the state of New York). What goes into the grade, is pretty much entirely up to the professor. I have had very few classes where the whole of the grade was an exam; but there were a few. More often, the homework is some portion of the grade, but it could be minimal (e.g., 10%). For computer science classes and some humanities classes, it was more likely there would be larger projects or term papers. For things like math, the homework was usually a smaller part of the grade. The real advantage of doing the assignments was that you could practice for what would potentially be on the test, and there would be a TA to grade it and give you feedback.


Government (university) administrators can be (forced to be) heartless capitalists too, you know.


or maybe capitalism isn't the only "heartless" economic system. Central planning bureaucrats have been responsible for far more suffering globally than any capitalist ever has.


fair point - how about we call bad people bad people for doing bad things, whatever their political misconceptions?

There are plenty of examples of humans being mean to each other in pretty much every setting. America's allergic reaction to public healthcare is an example of a systemic/cultural cause of significant unnecessary suffering[1]. Sure historically communists have done much worse, and indeed still are in North Korea, but that's not much of a target to beat.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/17/nhs-health


Are you sure this is the defense you want to muster? Universities are basically where liberalism/progressivism comes from. It is where it is in its strongest power. Government money everywhere; tuition, research grants, special projects, tax breaks. Administrative staff benevolently administrating massive diversity programs of every kind. 90%+ of the staff are progressives/liberals. Not being progressive/liberal can be pretty much reason to be drummed out. It is the very beating heart of the anti-"capitalist" regime, the blueprint by which they would remake the rest of the world.

And it's still under assault by "little regulation" and "harsh capitalism"? If it's so frail in the real world, then pack it in; the philosophy has no hope of success. It will never find any more fertile ground than it has there. If you don't like the result of decades of liberalism/progressivism's control, perhaps it's time to find a new governing philosophy.


There is a lot of government involvement in American universities, but in weird pseudo-market ways, like grant programs (to institutions) and subsidized loans (to students). They're not a good example of the non-market model, which is much simpler: public universities, funded by tax money, staffed by civil servants, charging no tuition. Some U.S. states had this model through the 1970s, and it worked fine. Parts of Europe still have it, and it works fine, too.

I've been at both American and Danish universities, and the American universities today really do not seem progressive to me. Many professors will claim to be left-ish, sure, but structurally the universities are not run according to a traditional public-service model, and are not internally egalitarian. Their structure, with tons of administrators, large pay differences, odd systems of performance reviews, people job-hopping for pay raises, administrators desperately looking for revenue, etc., reminds me of American corporations more than it reminds me of public service. Just the pay inequality in itself is shocking, more like corporate levels than civil-service levels. An American Dean's salary might be twenty times or more what a PhD student is paid, and professors' salaries might differ by 2-4x even within just the tenure-track segment. In Denmark the entire range from "highest paid professor" to "lowest paid PhD student" is maybe 2.5x, and professors' salaries are on a boring civil-service scale with about 30% variation. This already makes the American environment much more like a company: competitive, hierarchical, not really egalitarian, big focus on revenues (for the institution) and salary/advancement (for the employee).

There are admittedly things the American university model does do well; it's well regarded in research, for example. But one thing it is not, is a straightforward public system along the lines of what a social-democratic government might run. (One might say the same about the healthcare system, for that matter.)


>It is the very beating heart of the anti-"capitalist" regime, the blueprint by which they would remake the rest of the world.

I have never heard any self-proclaimed socialist ever utter these words. Do you get your entire concept of the Left from right-wing strawmen?


It's obviously true that, say, UC Berkley has more socialists per captia than the public at large.


But that doesn't mean UC Berkeley is actually run in a socialist way, particularly if most of the power rests with a Board of Trustees, with the state government, or with administrators rather than with a Faculty Senate.


Such little regulation? What about Common Core, and the long history of ineffective state mandates to "improve" the education system? The education system is highly regulated, and nearly entirely state-run (not counting those few who are able to afford private school tuition on top of school taxes or the time to homeschool). Many, if not most, schools in the U.S. resemble prisons. Top-down. Hierarchical. Rigid. Compulsory.

And if you look at the history of the state education system, it was largely modeled after the Prussian education system, set up by the king, which "attempted to instill social obedience in the citizens through indoctrination [...] The purpose of the system was to instill loyalty to the Crown and to train young men for the military and the bureaucracy." [1] And I would argue that the school system serves a similar function today.

Based on the goals of social obedience and instilling loyalty to the state... Well, I think in those terms our education system is doing quite well.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prussian_education_system


Just amazing that you and goldfeld are both right - the US education system is at once inadequately designed, and also being sieged by corporate interests as well. Doesn't hurt that some school administrators don't reasonably respond/engage with parents except those who have lawyers, which parents unfortunately engage without trying to engage the school first.

Ultimately though, I think the sad state of schools in this country is a (big) symptom of society's greater ills. Rampant corporatism, anti-intellectualism, and creeping authoritarianism from a runaway security industrial complex have been happening for decades... and schools are just one aspect of the decay of the social fabric.


On one side we have wealth consolidating much faster than the economy is growing, and on the other side we have the military industrial complex sucking up any increase in taxation to bloat its own oppressive bureaucracy, to say nothing of the resolving door between them.

I can't help but get the feeling that a dystopia is congealing around us with no way out politically. A lot of intellectuals have foreseen the ills of unbounded capitalism that are really starting to set in now, but I don't think anyone has proposed a credible solution.


Well, I think if we want to start thinking about these, it needs to become publicly acceptable to say that capitalism is an evil vampire squid trying to suck your blood rather than a cuddly huggable teddy-bear that solves all your problems.

See: this entire thread, in which the solution to corporatization of the university is almost automatically assumed to be adding more capitalism.


That's because every variant of Marxism that's been tried in the world has led to widespread violence and misery. People are understandably reluctant to try it again.


How is Common Core, a set of standards that can voluntarily be adopted by states, equivalent to regulation?


Sorry, I was thinking about No Child Left Behind, which was an Act of Congress. You're right -- Common Core is implemented differently. From what I know, it was mainly drafted up by testing corporations, but has the support of the Obama administration. Since the federal government has levers and dials it can use (i.e. fines, penalties, withholding grants, etc.) then it seems to me like the end result will be the same.


Common Core was one standard that states could adopt, and they could also develop their own, that would satisfy requirements to gain additional funding. Essentially, the Feds said: Improve your curricula because what's out there sucks, if you do, we'll give you a bonus.

Texas and others developed their own standards, for example.


No Child Left Behind is anti-productive. How anyone could believe an education initiative by a president who thinks captain crunch discovered america in 1975 could be of any value is beyond me.


> Based on the goals of social obedience and instilling loyalty to the state... Well, I think in those terms our education system is doing quite well.

Teacher wages approaching subsistence level is just the next step in the McDonaldization of education. Even the teachers are just another brick in the wall.


Agree with this. Perhaps the silver lining is that it could incentivize educators to opt-out of the state education system in favor of more entrepreneurial avenues? Like, private tutoring, teaching online classes, workshops, apprenticeships, etc.


A lot of good educators do this. And that's part of the problem. Private tutoring and online classes don't reach the masses of students. I mean, if we want to deliberately exclude the majority of the population from being able to receive an education, then sure, let's go this way.


If you think college teachers should be well paid, it means you think college education is worth a lot. If you think it's worth a lot, then it means it is expensive. If it is expensive, it makes sense that lots of people can't afford it. You can't pay teachers a lot if you have them teach poor people. Otherwise where is the money supposed to come from?


Taxes.


The problem with that is that eventually you run out of other people's money. See: Europe


Reducing the Eurozone crisis to "taxes" is a non-argument. Especially considering that Scandinavia is doing pretty well, and the local tax rate, speaking from personal experience, is one of the highest in the world.


Not sure which country you're talking about exactly, but don't countries in Scandinavia benefit from large resources of oil and natural gaz in the North Sea? That sure eases welfare.


I'm a French expat living in Denmark, which is definitely not blessed by large amounts of resources of any kind. But you could take Germany as another example of a country who is not about to run out of other people's money any time soon.

Or to take examples in a different way: Spain and Ireland's issues were mostly caused by a housing bubble.


« Denmark has considerably large deposits of oil and natural gas in the North Sea and ranks as number 32 in the world among net exporters of crude oil[101] and was producing 259,980 barrels of crude oil a day in 2009 »

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denmark


It seems I have underestimated the Danish oil reserves. However, oil export is a small fraction of its economy. I haven't been able to find an accurate figure, but according to Danmark statistik [1], it was about 8.17% of Danish exports in April 2014, which is very far from making Denmark into an oil-based economy like Norway is.

1: http://www.dst.dk/pukora/epub/Nyt/2014/NR300.pdf (in Danish, but it would go under the "Brændsels -og smørestoffer o.l." category)


Funny, because teachers were the titular bricks in the wall of the original song.


So our lack of regulation will leave us susceptible to... China's notorious lack of regulation and corruption? Most of China's "advantages" in the last decades have been thanks to e.g. their ability to pay slave labor wages (vs our minimum wage laws), their ability to have horrible work conditions (vs our regulations), etc etc. We may "lose" to China, but I assure you it won't be because we're less regulated of more capitalistic.


Your ideology is getting in the way of clear thinking. Good luck on your prediction on China's future prowess in the education of non-Chinese students. Lack of government regulation (and financing) is probably the opposite of the problem in the US (do you realize that most US colleges are run by state governments?).

Ideological blindness aside there is something wrong when education costs more and more but the instructors are paid less and less.


I disagree, while there are glaring problems within U.S. educational systems there are two significant factors mitigating how crippling they are long term.

1. Opportunities, there are tons of opportunities in U.S., if you want to learn you will find a way to despite all the flaws.

2. Immigration, there are a lot of highly educated people immigrating into U.S.

Additionally we still cannot anticipate how whole MOOCs business will turn out.

So yes the are problems and they are very bad, but not as crippling as you might expect.


The very reason US education (higher education) is better is because government has kept its dirty nose out of it. American Public schools are pathetic.


The education meat grinder destroys adjuncts, it saddles many students with crushing, non-self-liquidating debt and it outpaces inflation faster than any other major cost category:

http://media2.s-nbcnews.com/j/streams/2013/April/130430/6C71...

A bad product, the employees and customers are treated poorly, and prices are skyrocketing. Hmmm.


It begs the question "where the hell is my tuition going?"

I was taking at a private "degree mill" part time classes at $180 per credit hour. The school required 7 students to teach a 4 credit class during normal hours. So at the minimum number of students the school was just making enough money for overhead... Most clases were 10-15 students. It was a private school, so tuition covered almost all their bills, no state funding.

Now ask where sutdents in State Funded Colleges money is going when there are 50 students (and more!) in a class? Where the hell is the undergrad tuition money going if the school only pays "minimum wage" for adjunct or grad school staff?? Where is State and Federal dinging going if Undergrads are paying more than their share of the university bills? It's not gping to TEACHING... And it's not going to "student contact" professors either, and its not "healthcare" or "retirement"... There's a giant money hole in the system.


You sound like you're trying to justify a bad decision...

Outside of the top-ranked flagship state schools -- which carry as much prestige as an ivy in some fields (e.g. in CS uiuc, u.w., austin, etc.) -- state schools are actually by far the best bang for the buck around.

For example, $180/cr is actually not far off from what most non-flagship state schools cost. In fact, there are schools in my state that cost within $10 or so of that. Crucially, all these institutions have quite good reputations in the region, no one perceives them as diploma mills, and they all have great CS departments with a sense of continuity.


I did some reading about the subject when I was still in college, and I gathered that tuition was used to pay the interest on loans the university system took out to fund expansion (e.g. buildings & development) in order to attract more students.


This doesn't invalidate the OP's message in a meaningful way, but if you're interested in the opening anecdote, a reporter from Slate delved deep into the circumstances of Ms. Vojtko and found a more complex story than one just of woe: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/education/20...


There's a deeply-established credentialing systems that would blend very well with MOOCs and the like. That said, it's not the US undergrad one, and there's a worldwide belief that US university credentials are a big deal.

I don't know what things are like now, but in my grandfather's day European universities had a very different credentialing system from US undergrad institutions. In lieu of course credit, course-based grades, etc., they simply had a battery of (oral) examinations at the end.

US grad schools can be much like that. In essence, there were no course requirements for a PhD in mathematics at Harvard, but rather a three-day Qualifying Examination, a Minor Thesis (don't ask), and a traditional dissertation. Much the same was true of a physics PhD at Princeton then (the 1970s), except that there was an experiment in the mix (even for theoreticians). And in the Princeton math department, the joke was that students were asked the first day "Does anybody wish to submit his thesis?", and the record was 3 months.


The first issue I'd like addressed is the outright fraud that is going on here: schools are hiring adjunct professors to teach class, and then don't pay them to grade papers or meat with students?

The other issue is the potential for market dynamics to correct these problems with college, if they exist: spending too much on admins, and skimping terribly on the teaching. Essentially kids are getting stiffed, and then employers are getting sub-par employees. If kids are going to college to get a better job, then these decisions on the part of schools are hurting them.

That said, if the economy really is all "bullshit jobs" (a sentiment that has floated around here recently) then the college admins know it won't matter how badly they educate the kids, and they'll never be found out. If that's the case, then I'd argue our larger concern is the fact that so many jobs are bullshit.


This is a direct and entirely predictable result of the publicly-administered, nondischargeable-through-bankruptcy student loans. We can't have everyone going to college and also have all colleges be nice workplaces. Society has recently taken the former option, but one can imagine that decision changing.


This just means that college teachers in certain cases are in high supply.


One of the callout quotes from the article:

    Of course it’s possible to love what one does, be good at it, and still be exploited.
A job that people love, with a glut of qualified people. "I always dreamed of being a professor."


The left liberals put themselves in high seats and decide who is being exploited and who is not. This is absolute thuggery. A Job and salary is the contract between two parties and everyone else should stay out of it.


>“The caseworker paused and asked with incredulity, ‘She was a professor?’ I said yes. The caseworker was shocked; this was not the usual type of person for whom she was called in to help.”

So it is unusual now, but it is going to become more common in the future?

> So adjuncting is decidedly not a middle-class job. But it does sound like one, probably because, before the adjunct bubble, it was.

..."Professor" sounds like a middle-class job. I'm not in academia, but when I was in college in the 90's, adjunct sounded like a grad student on a stipend.


> I'm not in academia, but when I was in college in the 90's, adjunct sounded like a grad student on a stipend.

This attitude was perhaps more appropriate a decade ago, before adjunct faculty were covering a significant portion of the course load and students could reasonably expect most of their courses to be taught by people with the word "professor" in their job title.


It is stunning to me that such well educated and hard working people would want to work in such a corrupt system instead of striking out on their own for the betterment of society.


A poverty wage is more livable than no wage at all; most adjunct faculty don't have the financial security to do some sort of revolutionary startup, and there are also only so many "radical" ideas that would attract investment from moneyed interests / hold the promise of huge profit.


Do college rankings take the percentage of classes taught by tenure track professors into account? US News should dock schools with greater than X% of courses taught by adjuncts.


From a student's perspective that doesn't necessarily make sense. Tenure track professors could be great researchers, but that doesn't mean they are great teachers. Instructors, adjuncts, or graduate students can all teach well, oftentimes as well as a tenure track professor.


You would think with so many colleges in existence, that some of them would resist this sort of policy -- are there counter-examples to the trend towards increasing 'adjunctization'?

Also, if the cause of adjunctization is rising administrative costs in colleges -- are there any universities that have figured out that problem? That is, how to prevent a bloated bureaucracy of overpaid administrators?


I knew a professor who was an adjunct. She was nice, taught the class well, was very intelligent, and even wrote a textbook used by other universities. She still had trouble finding steady teaching work.


Teachers would probably have bigger problems.

According to clay christensen , the guy behind "the innovator's dillema" , more than 50% of colleges will go bankrupt soon(until 2020/2024).


I found that pretty startling, so I googled and found this article:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-14/small-u-s-colleges-...


>Some of these contingent employees are full-time lecturers, and many are adjunct instructors: part-time employees, paid per class, often without health insurance or retirement benefits. This is a relatively new phenomenon: in 1969, 78 percent of professors held tenure-track positions. By 2009 this percentage had shrunk to 33.5.

Would be interesting to know if college prices began rising at a higher ratio to the CPI around this time.


And college is viewed by some as having dubious value. I know plenty of kids who racked up $200k in loans and can't find a job for the life of them.


American education is such a mess. First, it feels like the majority of American college students graduate from college after spending four years on material that makes them no more appealing to employers. Second, there seems to be a thick layer of insulation between market signals and students, so that students can't even figure out what they should be learning, even if they were motivated to do so.

Third, colleges seem to teach whatever garbage they feel like, slap a "major" label on it, and charge a ridiculous amount for it. As institutions you would be hard pressed to find more inefficient organizations in the economy. I can't for the life of me understand where all the money is going. It shouldn't cost $100,000 to turn a bright high school student into a programmer in four years. In some European countries they do a better job in two years, with one third the budget, even though labor costs are higher (see Sweden).

We have to face the fact that a lot of college lecturers are zero value-add to their pupils. This is a big problem underlying the salary issue that is hardly ever discussed. Moving outwards, many college programs are zero value add too ... outside the stamp of a degree which they confer. Which if you think about it, you could get cheaper abroad.

Only a matter of time before India or some Baltic state makes cheap degrees available to US citizenship holders at cut-rate prices. I don't think American employers care much where your degree is from ... at least for engineers ... so long as you have the right to work in America ... which a citizen would have.


I don't think American employers care much where your degree is from ... at least for engineers ... so long as you have the right to work in America ... which a citizen would have.

Sure they do. Try getting a job at Google without a degree from MIT/Stanford. The name is more important than even graduating, even "Harvard dropout" has a certain cachet.


> Try getting a job at Google without a degree from MIT/Stanford.

I know a lot of people working at Google who don't even have degrees. There are over 5,000 Engineers in Google's American HQ. Thinking that everyone of them works there purely because of the brand name of whatever college they went to seems to be a rather self-limiting belief.


Eh, I got a lot of attention from Google as did several friends and we are all from crappy state schools.


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