Saturday, July 18, 2009

Obama's Community College Initiative gives hope but needs change

Gabriel Arana at The American Prospect gets what's wrong with the community college system:
Obama’s plan for community colleges is not broad enough in scope to address all these concerns, but it can still be designed so it does not perpetuate the problem. Washington, D.C.-based higher education expert Ben Miller suggests limiting what portion of the federal grants to community colleges can go to administrative costs; the fact that the money is dispersed through program-specific grants as opposed to blanket, TARP-like disbursements, he also points out, will prevent the sort of waste and lack of transparency we have seen with the economic stimulus. But this initiative is a drop in the bucket: a lot more needs to be done to stop the corporatizing trend that has steadily transformed our colleges and universities.

One piece of the solution lies in adjunct and faculty unionization. Non-unionized adjuncts do most of the instructional work in higher education, yet they generally have little job security, rarely receive health and retirement benefits, and are paid about a quarter as much per course as tenured faculty. Many dart from campus to campus to try to earn a living. But those at schools with an adjunct union fare much better: adjuncts at NYU, who unionized in 2004, have been able to negotiate some of the highest salaries for adjuncts and contracts that guarantee continued teaching assignments.
His solution of more unionization is great, but legislation is required to end the worst abuses of adjunct faculty. Such legislation should include:
  • every college or university have at least three-fourths of their faculty members be full time, tenure track
  • that part time faculty get the same pay per class as their full time peers with the same qualifications and length of service
  • that part time non-tenure track faculty be offered at least proportionate benefits compared to their full time tenure track peers
These are necessary not only for the welfare of the faculty but of students. Faculty who are racing around from campus to campus to make ends meet are less likely to be available to students outside of class.

Further, while unions are the best way to raise workers' income, no one should have to negotiate their way out of discrimination and unequal compensation. That should be a matter of law. It is also difficult to negotiate when two classes of workers have been created because the employer can always say that giving to one takes away from another.

Here's my comment I posted on Arana's article:
Thanks for mentioning the abuse of adjunct faculty.

It's ironic that for all our society's bluster about valuing education, we treat those who dedicate their lives to providing it as fools and patsies.

I have to patch together two community college teaching jobs to make a living, and worked eight years before one of my schools offered me health insurance. It took about as long before I could make payments on the student loans for the degrees required to do the job. And my story is not unique.

It is time for this system of abuse to change.

The author's point on the corporatizing of higher ed is also dead on. Wall Street just came close to destroying the world economy--why exactly should we apply that not just failed but deadly toxic model to higher education?




1 comment:

flash said...

wow this is great !!! nice to know the obama's planning ... thankx for sharing.....

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