Highlights: Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, 3rd National Meeting (May 18-20, 2012)

Report from the Third National Meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE)  

Teri Yamada, Prof. Asian Studies, posting from Phnom Penh

APSCUF March 2012 campaign against state budget cuts to public higher ed.

CFHE, May 20, 2012, Joint Statement on Federal Financial Aid  

Demand for college is at an all-­‐time high and student debt has reached a devastating one trillion dollars. Despite this, Congress is debating whether to cut student aid.

This kind of cut would further close off college access, particularly for lower income students and students of color, the growth demographic of traditional age students.

Proposals to reduce eligibility and the size of Pell Grants and to increase interest rates on student loans, if adapted, would be a tragic and short-­‐sighted slamming of the door on our nation’s future.

We need a strong Pell Grant program that does not reduce either eligibility or the size of the grant. We also need the lowest possible interest rates on federally subsidized student loans.

This is not the time to curtail the prospects for students to attend colleges and universities.

We need a national discussion about how ensure that higher education is affordable, available and accessible to everyone who can benefit from it. 


The third national meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) was held under beautiful blue skies in Ypsilanti, Michigan, May 18-20, 2012 (1).   More than 60 faculty and professional staff, including members of the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions, participated in a grassroots assessment of the challenges facing public higher education.

The event began with short reports on challenges and successes.   A noteworthy success since the last CFHE  (Boston: December 2011) was a formal meeting with U.S Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter.  The CFHE contingent was able to correct some misinformation, such as the belief that increasing costs in public higher education are due to high faculty salaries rather than dramatically higher administrative costs and expensive building projects that are unrelated to direct instructional needs. Other topics  included problems facing the contingent faculty workforce. Over the past 40 years, institutions have shifted away from tenured faculty to 70% of the workforce being underpaid, contingent or “adjunct faculty with no health and other benefits” (2).    CFHE will schedule a follow-up meeting with the U.S. Department of Education to continue this discussion.

Other successes reported on opening night include UFF-Florida International University’s contract gains; Rutgers AUP-AFT advance of Non Tenture-Track (NTT) faculty issues using a caucus model and its successful negotiation of the first promotion pathway for NTT faculty; the Inter Faculty Organization of Minnesota, which successfully negotiated a restoration of Professional Improvement Funds.

In an age of shock-doctrine capitalism, many states—Pennsylavania, New Jersey, and California, for example—are still experiencing dramatic budget cuts to public higher education, while other states like New York have revenue streams that have stabilized.  New York’s CUNY now has other restructuring challenges, however, with the imposition of mandated Pathways.  The upper midwestern region—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin—is facing an onslaught of antiunion legislation promoted by ALEC and funded by the Koch brothers.

Over 80 pieces of antiunion legislation have been introduced in Michigan, attempting to change it to a “right-to-work” state. One plan attempts to divide the state by a patchwork of “right-to-work zones” that would be locally implemented in more conservative areas of the state. In response, Michigan-AAUP has organized the Protect Our Jobs campaign, which includes advocating for a state constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining rights. It succeeded in gathering enough signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot. Ohio faculty unions are working on a similar initiative.  The Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculties (APSCUF) is facing another 20% state reduction to higher education in Pennsylvania.  In response they initiated the United we Stand, Underfunded we Fail campaign in March 2012.   APSCUF is confronting both Governor Corbett’s higher education task force, which narrowly focuses on “technical experience, distance learning and job training”  and the specter of right-to-work legislation.

Discussion on contingent faculty.

Also discussed over the weekend were the poor working conditions of contingent faculty who face at-whim employment and poverty level wages.  The New Faculty Majority (NFM) has contributed to a recent publication on these issues: Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty: Changing Campuses for the New Faculty Majority.  As part of its coalition building campaign, NFM convened a national summit in Washington, DC on January 28, 2012: Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Facing the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education.”  This summit focused on improving communications among stakeholders, identifying broad-based reform goals along with strategies for their implementation.

The reduction in state spending for public education is still a common trend across states.  As Rudy Fichtenbaum and Howard Bunsis stressed in their presentation on university budgets—“Taking on the administration’s ‘We’re broke’ argument”—a state’s fiscal crisis is being used by many institutions as an excuse to restructure. Restructuring is imposed irrespective of the hefty unrestricted reserves which institution’s refuse to allocate to instructional support.  This restructuring conforms to the current trend to vocationalize and standardize pubic higher education while weakening faculty governance.  To track our institution’s actual financial health, we need to examine its audited financial statements.

Several ideas for funding public higher education were brought forth for discussion with the understanding that states alone cannot solve the public higher education funding problem.   A menu of solutions could be used across states depending on their specific situation.  Some funding ideas at the federal level were a “pay it forward” plan that includes doubling the size of PELL grants while increasing the scope of eligibility and providing maintenance of effort provisions at the state level; other ideas involved various taxes including a financial speculation tax.

Gary Rhoades, Head of CFHE Virtual Think Tank

CFHE’s Virtual Think Tank was established to introduce a faculty voice in the national discussion of higher education policies, currently dominated by executives, consultants, and philanthropic foundations.  Gary Rhoades provided an update on CFHE’s first two policy reports.   “Closing the Door, Increasing the Gap: Who’s not going to (community) college?” (April 2012) analyzes recent problematic enrollment and policy trends at the nation’s community colleges. As caps on community college enrollment are expanding, the scope of educational programs is narrowing; as quality is undermined, access is denied to large numbers of lower-income students and students of color.  The second policy report, forthcoming shortly, “Who is professor staff and how can s/he teach so many classes?” is based on New Faculty Majority research regarding contingent faculty working conditions and their affect on student learning. Just-in-time hiring practices do not allow any faculty adequate time to develop a course.  Also, the demographics of contingent faculty models complex racial inequities.

CFHE plans its next meeting, Sacramento, January 2013.

Some Shared Resources:

  • Profs. Douglas Carr (carr@oakland.edu) and Roger Larocca (larocca@oakland.edu).  In response to the advocates of performance funding in higher eduction, including Lumina Foundation and the National Governors Association, and the fact that “many states have adopted performance-funding programs in spite of the weak evidence of their effectiveness” (Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas, for example), Professors Carr and Larocca have co-authored “The Effects of Performance Funding on Higher Education Outcomes” (26 March 2012).

Abstract: “We study the effects of performance funding metrics for graduation and retention on actual graduation and retention rates at all 4-year and 2-year public universities…. We find no significant effect of graduation metrics on graduation rates at 4-year or 2-year institutions, and no significant effect of retention measures on retention rates at 4-year institutions.  We do find that retention measures are significantly associated with higher retention rates at 2-year institutions, but only for 2-year institutions that receive a relatively large share of their funding from state appropriations.”

  • AAUP-Connecticut State University.  Academic Year in Review: 2011-2012. Vol. 3.13 (May 3, 2012).  This report contains information on major administrative restructuring a new Board of Regents for Higher Education imposed on the Connecticut State University System (CSUS), a seventeen-campus system, to prepare “students for productive and satisfying futures.” Restructuring eliminated twenty-four top administrative positions from CSU and CTC. It consolidated higher-Ed into ConnSCU (Connecticut State Colleges & Universities) a merger of CSU, Community/Technical Colleges, and Charter Oak State College.  The legislature was also busy, passing HB 5030 that established a “general education core of courses.”
  • PSC-CUNY.org. (PSC-CUNYORG@PSC.CUNY) “What is Pathways?” In June 2011, CUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution to establish a new, uniform General Education Framework, called “Pathways” “…ostensibly created to facilitate student transfer throughout CUNY.”  This mandate requires a 30-credit common core for CUNY colleges: 12-credit “required core” and 18-credit “flexible core.”  All Common Core courses must fulfill learning objectives established by the Chancellor’s office. This resolution was passed over the objections of the University Faculty Senate, Professional Staff Conference, among others. Pathways is aligned with the national reform agenda, funded by Lumina and the Gates foundations, that stresses ‘college completion’ above all else.  PSC-CUNY considers this reform an assault on faculty governance and a further corporatization of the university system.  As a form of austerity education it establishes an impoverished curriculum “that will prepare CUNY students for low expectations in an austerity economy,” one that accommodates to rather than challenges underfunding of the system.  See also the CUNY Community College financial analysis report “Invest in Opportunity: Invest in CUNY Community Colleges” prepared by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC).  In fall 2012, tuition will have increased by 212% since 1990-91. “In 2011-12 CUNY community college tuition and fees ($3,946) were 33% higher than the national average tuition and fees at 2-year public colleges ($2,963).”
  • Bruce Nissen and Yue Zhang. Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy.  “How FIU Spends Its Money: FIU Expenditures on Faculty and Higher Level Administration with special emphasis on the two years between 2008-09 to 2010-11.”  The United Faculty of Florida at Florida International University (UFF-FIU) commissioned this report to establish creditable data on the number and salary of administrators compared to faculty as well as data on increased faculty workload.  Information in this report reflects patterns across the United States: administration is diverting resources away from faculty and instruction to administrative personnel and salaries.  Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators at America’s leading universities grew by 39%, while the number of faculty and service employees grew by 18%.  At FIU during this period, the number of administrators per 100 students grew by 79.5% while the number of faculty decreased by 29.2% as instate undergraduate tuition grew by 40.3% and FIU enrollment rose 57%. During the past two years covered by the study, the pace of administrative growth has slowed to 10.2%; yet the growth in faculty numbers has increased only 4.2% as the growth in students increased 10.7%.  Average annual faculty workload increased 3.5% per year at a rate consistent with the previous 13 year period, when the teaching load grew 56%.  The number of faculty tenure track positions at all levels declined over the past two years by 11.25% as the total salaries for these positions decreased by 5.27%.  The top 40 highest paid administrators at FIU have salaries that range between $522.750 and $217,508.  The average salary of $198,643 for the second tier of top paid administrators, when adjusted to faculty, is $41,789 more than the average salary for full professors.
  • Prof. Rudy Fichtenbaum (President-elect AAUP). “How to Invest in Higher Education” proposes the idea of a “financial speculation tax.”  According to a study published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “A financial speculation tax would generate $176.9 to $353.8 billion in revenue per year.” Some federal legislators have proposed bills based on this idea, which is supported by a number of prominent economists including Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.
NOTES
  1. Special thanks to Michael Bailey and others of the MI-AAUP (Michigan Conference American Association of University Professors) for hosting this conference.  Twelve CFHE affiliates also assisted with funding for this event.
  2. For further information, see the New Faculty Majority.

2 Comments on “Highlights: Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, 3rd National Meeting (May 18-20, 2012)”

  1. [...] Teri Yamada has an excellent, but somewhat unexcerptable, roundup of news from the third national meeting of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education. [...]

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