Thursday, January 06, 2011

Every Professor an Entrepeneur?

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Every Professor an Entrepeneur?

    • What if all college professors were forced to be higher-education entrepreneurs, with salaries pegged to the number of students they attract to their classes? That's the model recently proposed by a Texas professor
      • All professors and lecturers would receive a base "living wage" of $30,000 plus benefits. Beyond that it would be up to the professors themselves to generate a "tuition-based bonus" for themselves consisting of 50 percent of the tuition income generated by students enrolled in their classes, "up to a maximum of 320 students (960 student hours)." All instructors would be allowed to teach up to eight classes a year.
        • Professors with ultra-large classes could hire teaching assistants---but the money would again have to come out of their salary bonuses
          • a strict grading curve
            • Professors whose grades deviated from the curve would lose their bonus for every student whose grade exceeded the curve
              • some college instructors would make out very well
                • allow professors to keep whatever externally funded research grants
                  • Not so fortunate would be most humanities instructors---but hey, isn't that what most of us want?
                    • undergraduates---who would flee those classes even faster if they didn't satisfy distribution requirements that would be eliminated under the Publius model.
                      • tenure would also be gone
                        • overpaid and underworked faculty are not the sole reason---or even a significant reason--for the ever-escalating college costs that have generated a tuition inflation rate that over the past three decades has outstripped general inflation rate by a ratio of up to 2-1
                          • there are a few problems with Publius' analysis.
                            • the real culprit is bloated campus administration
                              • over the last two decades colleges and universities "doubled their full-time support staff while enrollment increased only 40 percent,"
                                • Even the 50 percent increase in the net number of full-time faculty over the past 20 years is somewhat misleading
                                  • according to an analysis of Education Department data by the American Association of University Professors, adjunct professors both part-time and full-time accounted for 43 percent of college and university teaching staffs 20 years ago; today they account for nearly 70 percent
                                    • colleges themselves have already figured out on their own how to lower instruction costs drastically, and have done so quite ruthlessly
                                      • without trimming their ever-escalating overall costs one whit.
                                        • tenure as a two-edged shield that often protects conservative faculty members
                                          • Second, the entrepreneurial professor model, with its rewards for attracting large numbers of students to successful entrepreneurs' classes, could very well backfire as an effort to encourage an infusion of conservative thought
                                            • into campuses along with the free-market ethos
                                              • The strongest objection to Publius' model, however, is its cynical (perhaps understandably so) implicit assumption that the humanities are irredeemable and that all humanities scholarship is worthless
                                                • In short, there wouldn't have been a classics department
                                                  • much of what passes for humanities scholarship these days is jargon-saturated junk---but some of it isn't.
                                                    • universities aren't meant to be entrepreneurial entities, even if some free-market thinking can help them operate more efficiently. They're more like opera companies or museums: entities that cater to niche interests in learning. They sponsor scholarly research that is valuable but could not exist if they had to pitch themselves on a purely commercial basis to a wide swathe of people. This was something that Leland Stanford understood, for he declined to run his university in the way that he ran his railroad.
                                                      • One place to start would be getting rid of the administrative frills that have turned college into a lifestyle, not a place of learning. Now that would save some money.

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