12 01 2011

Today’s Denver Post offers another illustration of things on public university campuses that states should be paying for that are being sloughed off onto people who shouldn’t be paying for them:

As state money dries up for colleges, schools are asking students to shoulder the burden for construction funding — and students are approving.

Despite constantly rising tuition costs, students have, in recent college elections across the state, voted to approve student fee hikes to fund projects they know their schools need.

Across the country, students have essentially taxed themselves to pay for everything from new student housing at Western State College in Gunnison to greater use of renewable energy at Middle Tennessee State University.

In Colorado, where a prolonged budget crunch has forced the state to reduce taxpayer contributions for operating expenses at universities, students have for the most part approved increases to pay for tangible, capital improvements that benefit themselves, such as new housing, laboratories and classrooms.

Simultaneously, the Washington Monthly College Guide blog informs me that “academic salaries and benefits make up 60 percent of noncapital costs” in American higher education. While I’m not entirely sure I buy that figure, it does raise the question of how public universities will pay for professors’ salaries in an era of declining state funding. Perhaps they’ll replace everyone with adjuncts or with poorly designed software programs (which may or may not be the Devil), but I think I have an idea that makes more sense.

It’s called Adopt-a-Professor. We’ll market it like they do animal shelters: “For just a few cents a day, you can save this distinguished scholar from abject poverty.” Since many of us are no longer cute and cuddly, we can send out pictures of ourselves with our pets to our sponsors. [My dog Sizzles is depicted above. My wife is responsible for the Santa hat. Honest.]

Of course, contingent faculty will be first in line for adoption, but then again perhaps signed copies of our low-selling books would turn the corner for people in my position. Maybe we could all do chores around potential sponsor’s houses in order to improve morale at our financial orphanage. It’ll be just like “Annie.”

I can’t wait.



One response

12 01 2011
Thane Doss

I suspect that 60% includes academic administrators’ salaries under the general term “academic.” Thereby a college can spend 25% of its income on teaching and research and yet claim that by far its biggest expense is “academic salaries,” which most people will assume means paying classroom and laboratory teachers.

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