Ax Grinding Article of the Year [political personality test]

Interesting article on a tenured professor struggling financially.

What’s interesting to me about it is just that I can see how this article would quicken the political pulse of just about everyone that reads it. There’s so much material! I’m almost suspicious of it being some kind of hoax designed to drive the entire political spectrum insane with fury.

I’ll briefly mention and skip the irony of a religion professor as a single mother raising her kid alone and messing around with bad boys who lie and cheat (sorry, couldn’t resist).

I’ll try again: her stated complaint in the article is that the brewing attack on the welfare state would be catastrophic to her counter-factual life (ie she’d have had to get a job with which she would be able to pay the bills).

But she isn’t an unbiased observer, folks. She works for a private university in a field where the median wage is probably set by public institutions, who have been giving it (in a bad way) to teachers for a while now:

Overall, if we exclude for-profit schools, which were a tiny part of the landscape in 1999, we have seen tuition fees rise by 32% between 1999 and 2009. Over the same period, instruction costs rose just 5.6% — the lowest rate of inflation of any of the components of education services. (“Student services costs” and “operations and maintenance costs” saw the greatest inflation, at 15.2% and 18.1% respectively, but even that is only half the rate that tuition increased.)

The real reason why tuition has been rising so much has nothing to do with Baumol, and everything to do with the government. Page 31 of the report is quite clear: “except for private research institutions,” it says, “tuitions were increasing almost exclusively to replace losses from state revenues or other private revenue sources.”

In other words, tuition costs are going up just because state subsidies are going down. Every time there’s a state fiscal crisis, subsidies get cut; once cut, they never get reinstated. And so the proportion of the cost of college which is borne by the student has been rising steadily for decades.

Her skills aren’t worth much and her job is to teach other people those same skills. For 35 Gs plus room and board?

Yeah friggen’ right.

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