Home / General / Where has all the money gone? The decline in faculty salaries at American colleges and universities over the past 40 years

Where has all the money gone? The decline in faculty salaries at American colleges and universities over the past 40 years

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Once upon a time, I began to look at the financing of law school education in America, and was amazed by what I found. Recently, I’ve been researching the economic structure of American higher education in general. My amazement is growing . . .

Everyone is aware that the cost of going to college has skyrocketed since [fill in any date going back to the middle of the last century]. Why has this happened? This post is about one possible explanation, that turns out not to have any validity at all: increases in faculty salaries. In fact, over the past 40+ years, average salaries for college and university faculty have dropped dramatically.

Salaries have increased, sometimes substantially, for a tiny favored slice of academia, made up of tenured professors at elite institutions, some professional school faculty (business, law, medicine), and most especially faculty who have moved into the higher echelons of university administration. Such examples merely emphasize the extent to which the economics of the New Gilded Age have infiltrated the academic world: the one percent are doing fabulously well, and the ten percenters are doing fine, while the wretched refuse of our teeming shores will adjunct for food.

Numbers:

Average salary for all full-time faculty in degree-granting post-secondary institutions (this category includes instructors and lecturers, as well as all ranks of professors) in constant 2012-13 dollars:

1970: $74,019

2012: $77,301

These figures, of course, give a very incomplete picture of the economic circumstances of the actual teaching faculty in America’s institutions of higher education.

One of the more astonishing statistics regarding the economics of our colleges and universities is that, despite the fantastic increase in the cost of attending them, there are now on a per-student basis far fewer full-time faculty employed by these institutions than was the case 40 years ago. Specifically, in 1970 nearly 80% of all faculty were full-time; by 2011, more part-time than full-time faculty were employed by American institutions of higher learning (note that the former category does not include graduate students who teach).

While comprehensive salary figures for part-time faculty aren’t available, it’s clear that their salaries are on average vastly lower than those of full-time faculty (and of course when it comes to who does the bulk of the actual teaching at many schools, the designations “full-time” and “part-time” have a distinctly Orwellian flavor). If we assume that “pat-time” faculty earn one-third as much as their full-time counterparts — and this seems improbably optimistic, given that the average compensation for part-time faculty for teaching a three-credit course is around $2,700 — that would mean that in 1970 average salaries for college and university faculty were nearly 30% higher, in real dollars, than they are today.

This an astonishing figure, given that, in the last 40 years, tuition at private colleges has more than tripled, while resident tuition at public institutions has nearly quadrupled.

So where has all that money gone? Here are a couple of plausible-sounding answers, often cited by university administrators, which turn out to have little or nothing to do with soaring college costs:

(1) Faculty benefits. While it’s true that the amount universities spent on benefits for full-time faculty members nearly doubled between 1977 and 2011, going from $11,832 to $22,754 (2012$), the vast majority of this per capita cost increase was ameliorated by the replacement of full-time faculty with “part-time” faculty, who of course are almost never eligible for any faculty benefits. (BTW, 70% of the increase in the cost of benefits for full-time faculty was accounted for by employer contributions to the cost of medical insurance plans, meaning that most of this nominal increase in total compensation for full-time faculty went straight into the pockets of third parties, i.e., insurance companies and health care providers).

(2) Back-filling cuts in state support for higher education. Total state support for higher ed in America increased from approximately $42 billion (2014$) to $80 billion between 1970 and 2014, while total enrollment in public institutions of higher education increased from 6.43 million to 14.88 million. This means state support decreased from about $6,550 to $5,375 per student. This is not a trivial decrease, but on the other hand, federal Pell Grants, which didn’t exist in 1970, totaled $33.7 billion in 2012-13. Roughly 70% of this amount went to students enrolled in public schools, meaning that total tax subsidies to public higher education are actually higher now per student than they were in 1970.

In addition, another consequence of the New Gilded Age is that college endowments have exploded: while 18 institutions had endowments of at least one billion dollars (in 2014$) in 1987, 91 had reached that level last last year, while hundreds of others had endowments in the hundreds of millions. (A particularly extreme example is provided by my alma mater. When I graduated in 1982, the University of Michigan’s total endowment was $115 million. As of last June, it was $9.7 billion, which represents a 34-fold increase in constant dollars. Over this same time, undergraduate resident tuition has more than tripled in real terms, from less than $5,000 (2014$) to nearly $15,000.)

It’s clear that, over the past few decades, American higher education has turned into a veritable money-printing machine. What’s also clear is that, with few exceptions, this massive increase in revenue isn’t going to the people who do the teaching in these institutions.

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  • Unemployed_Northeastern

    “U.S. universities employed more than 230,000 administrators in 2009, up 60 percent from 1993, or 10 times the rate of growth of the tenured faculty, those with permanent positions and job security, according to U.S. Education Department data.

    Spending on administration has been rising faster than funds for instruction and research at 198 leading U.S. research universities, concluded a 2010 study by Jay Greene, an education professor at the University of Arkansas.”

    “In the past decade, the number of administrative employees [at Purdue] jumped 54 percent, almost eight times the growth of tenured and tenure-track faculty. Purdue has a $313,000-a-year acting provost and six vice and associate vice provosts, including a $198,000 chief diversity officer. It employs 16 deans and 11 vice presidents, among them a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief.”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-11-14/bureaucrats-paid-250-000-feed-outcry-over-college-costs

    Also, depending on what study one goes by, between 8% and 10% of tuition goes straight to paying for employee health care.

    And while I don’t have the cite handy, colleges and universities themselves owe somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 billion. You’d be shocked (or not) at how many of those gleaming new college buildings all over the country were built with debt instruments…

    • advocatethis

      You covered most of what I was thinking of, so let me just comment on how a couple of your points are interrelated. All those new buildings have to be maintained, so in addition to the cost of constructing them you have to hire more BSEs, custodial employees, and even gardening specialists and landscapers (as well as more managers to direct them). Even though those last few groups are paid very meagerly, they may also get sick, vacation, health, and retirement benefits that can equal up to 2/3 of their salary.

      • JustRuss

        The custodial duties at the state university I work at are outsourced to private contractors, so no benefits for them.

    • MacK

      It used to be that the bulk of administration in universities was done by the academics themselves – the deans and provosts were elected from amongst their number. This is still the case in most of Europe.

      When did US colleges and universities switch from academics running the administration to a class of professional deans and administrators? Why? How did the academics conclude that this was in their interest?

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        I really don’t know when/how/why administrators “took over” control of colleges and universities from professors, though I imagine that books like “Steal This University” and “Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University” give some perspective on it.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        The UK and a number of British inspired systems in former colonies have been moving towards the current US model. It seems to be linked to making the universities self financing and even turning a profit rather than being part of state funded infrastructure. I am not exactly sure when it started, but I am pretty sure it was already well under way when I started college in the late 1980s during the Reagan administration. I don’t think anybody asked academics whether it was in their interests. Rather I think the administration grew to fit the business model and make up for lost state revenue without much consultation with faculty. But, it would be interesting to read an historical treatment of how the current situation arose.

        • MacK

          Well sort of – they are not moving towards million dollar pay checks and armies of administrators though. One aspect of state financing is that the state gets to say what it is reasonable to pay.

          • J. Otto Pohl

            We are indeed moving towards armies of administrators and extremely high salaries relative to faculty in the former Gold Coast. I am pretty sure Connor Cruise O’Brien who was VC here during Nkrumah’s reign made nowhere near the current one.

            • MacK

              Conor made more money I think from his column in the Observer. He was by no means rich and the family financial problems that followed his retirement and death have been somewhat acute and rather sad for his widow

          • ExpatJK

            That has been the case for some universities in the Commonwealth. I don’t think it’s all of them, but certainly quite a few. It’s definitely a model that is growing.

          • MAJeff

            Well sort of – they are not moving towards million dollar pay checks and armies of administrators though.

            I give you Gordon Gee.

            • postmodulator

              Thing about Gee is that [REDACTED] [REDACTED] REDACTED] previous two [REDACTED] [REDACTED] REDACTED] at least at this [REDACTED].

          • wca

            Well sort of – they are not moving towards million dollar pay checks and armies of administrators though.

            At my community college, we may not be moving towards million-dollar administrative salaries, but we are definitely moving towards armies of administrators. Our college has fewer full-time faculty members now than it had fifteen years ago (due to some frozen positions), but we are in the midst of splitting our academic divisions to add on additional “vice president” positions along with their own small armies of administrative assistants. And that’s not counting that we’ve created about ten administrative positions this year that weren’t there last.

            How about “six figure paychecks and armies of administrators, even at small community colleges”?

            • MAJeff

              Ours just created three new vice presidential positions and is undertaking a managerial reorganization at the same time we’re beginning our accreditation self-study.

              In a union meeting last week, we were chatting and we’re down something like 100 full-time faculty positions over the past 15 years. (At least our bargaining unit is that much smaller)

      • Barry_D

        “When did US colleges and universities switch from academics running the administration to a class of professional deans and administrators? Why? How did the academics conclude that this was in their interest?”

        The tenured professors saw this as removing an extra set of unwanted duties. The professional administrators saw this as getting a set of amateurs out of the way, justifying hiring professional staffs, and establishing the idea that university executives were not faculty ‘slumming’, but a breed of professionals.

      • CSI

        I would think the impulse of senior administrators to build little empires of sub-administrators personally loyal to them would play a big part. And academics would happily go along with this as it means less work for them.

        Also, depending on what study one goes by, between 8% and 10% of tuition goes straight to paying for employee health care.

        This peculiar American institution of having employers provide health cover has a lot to answer for.

        • Lee Rudolph

          And academics would happily go along with this as it means less work for them.

          The problem is, at least in my experience at a Small Research University, that there is not in fact “less work for the academics: the faculty committees, department chairs, etc., end up having more (albeit different) work, since every new (sub-)administrator needs to have some paper all his/her own coming across the desk. (I could give examples, but just thinking about them, much less typing them out, is making me very very stabby.)

          • J. Otto Pohl

            Yes, what has happened here is that administration has completely taken over some important responsibilities once had by faculties such as promotion. They have also completely abandoned some of the responsibilities they used to have like sanitation. Our chair paid out of her own pocket for the department to get new toilets last year, because the administration has abandoned its role in maintaining sanitation. But, the VC still has 100% control over all promotions in the university based solely on his subjective judgement. Finally, the administration now require all of the things that used to be solely the responsibility of the faculty be reported to them regularly. We have to submit our syllabi to administration every single semester, get written permission from them to leave the country, and submit a list of all new publications to them every single year. So we have a lot more work due to expanded administration including hiring our own plumbers, gardners, landscapers, and painters.

            • CSI

              Ugh so even as the number of administrators has grown, they have used their increasing power to abandon roles considered non-glamorous?

              • wca

                Think of administration as a class rather than as a job and it’ll make more sense.

    • Downpuppy

      In California, the fight continues, but Senior Administrators now outnumber Faculty by 10%.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Wow. Just, wow.

      • Mike G

        My campus IT department went through a corporate-style “reorganization” that has featured all ills of MBA culture — mindless adherence to the generic-corporate-template recommendations of expensive consultants, deliberately hiring in managers with corporate backgrounds instead of university experience, demolition of an open, collaborative and egalitarian working culture for one of heirarchy and intimidation, arrogant disregard for customers and frontline staff, and a massive proliferation of management layers and positions with bloated salaries and byzantine titles. The whole organization has become focused around managers talking to managers.

        • MAJeff

          This sounds like the direction our whole community college is moving.

          • Ahuitzotl

            This sounds like the direction our whole community college is moving.

        • DrDick

          I think this gets at the heart of the problem. All of this is a consequence of the move to “run the university like a business” in the 80s or 90s. Top down management and focusing resources on management and marketing rather than on productive workers.

          • MAJeff

            All of this is a consequence of the move to “run the university like a business” in the 80s or 90s.

            Ah, memories of Total Quality Management in the res halls..

        • MacK

          “She who must” has an MBA (which she described in many instances as a Masters in Bullshit and Arrogance) and does mostly IT systems consulting. It is by all accounts really quite scary how dysfunctional so many IT departments are, or the degree to which consultants are hired to do what those departments should be able to do for themselves. IT departments are also typically management heavy, with limited numbers of people who can actually do the work.

          Having worked in computers and IT (as a GC) it was an accepted rule that 20% of the staff did 90% of the work, 20% did a little, 40% took up space and the remaining 20% were sabotaging either through incompetence or actual malice. Getting rid of the latter 20% was always the priority.

          But when it comes to “an open, collaborative and egalitarian working culture” yikes, I knew university IT in the 80s, it never existed; the superusers hogged their rights, time was rationed unless you were a favorite – and mainframes were used to run a huge D&D tournament.

          Still when I was a GC there was the time we had a huge room full of programmers creating an OS – the civil war between the neatniks and the slobs (all compulsive BTW), mice running from slob desk through the carefully aligned pencils of a neatnik could cause war – that or a request to a slob to take a shower.

          Or the IT manager who threatened to defenestrate himself if they: (a) did not stop playing massive multiplayer games over the fastest corporate network in western Europe; (b) stop reading Microsoft manuals and fixing the system to match the manual (he was Iraqi, over a pint he would moan “do they know how long we spent unfixing it – Microsoft is sheet, the thing is up, they fix stuff it goes down, the manuals are wrong, all wrong.” He taught me the reality that IT managers are very conservative (“anything MS is held up with spit, hope and kludge. Don’t remove the workarounds and patches” cue string of arabic profanities and “I need another pint”))

      • ThrottleJockey

        What are these administrators doing? The article on Purdue says it pays its Chief Diversity Officer $200K a year. I don’t know if that’s a reasonable salary or not, but I do think Diversity is something schools need to invest in. Do we know if other administration activities are likewise good endeavors, or otherwise required by federal law?

        For instance someone here once said that the IT Dept are all classified as “administration”. Well I can’t imagine running a modern university without Information Technology professionals, and damn good ones at that.

        • advocatethis

          This is an area where schools are severely disadvantaged. An IT manager in my system last week was telling me that his department is just a training ground for the public sector and that even hiring him near the top of our wage scale he is lucky to retain people for as much as a year. Police services is another area where universities have a hard time matching pay for municipalities and state forces.

          • sparks

            It used to be that university police were the people who couldn’t get on a regular police force. You can imagine what they were like.

            • ThrottleJockey

              Mine were laid back and quite nice for the most part–Barney Fife, if not Andy Griffith. We did have some racial profiling incidents but we got those improved.

              • sparks

                There was a bit of Barney Fife from one I knew, he kept putting his gun in places where it had no place being (top of a refrigerator, bathroom) and leaving it unattended.

            • Rob in CT

              We used to deride our campus safety guys, and there was some basis. They were almost all out of shape rent-a-cop types. But they were mostly decent as far as I saw, and the one time I saw somebody trip one of those “holy shit I’m under attack” light pole thingies, the response was gratifyingly quick (they were probably happy to have something to do).

              • Buckeye623

                We used to call the campus cops 2.4’s.. Because they’re less than half of a real cop.

                Context: I went to undergrad before campus cops had guns. That wasn’t long ago..

                • Linnaeus

                  I think it was my sophomore year in college, back in the early 1990s, when my undergrad university decided to have deputized officers (which would, among other things, enable them to carry and use firearms). A few protests ensued, but the university went ahead with the policy and they’ve been there ever since.

          • postmodulator

            I was not working at my institution in the late 90s, but I was given to understand that its IT department was pillaged at that time by dot-com boom companies, leaving only the stupidest employees behind, and a small number who were close to being vested in the pension. Even today, in certain specialized areas, we’ll spend a year training someone and be rewarded with his or her two weeks’ notice.

        • MacK

          Used to be the IT managers were students and graduate students. A professor in the math department in my undergrad did £150,000 worth of damage by wiring his own plug (millions in 2015 money), he managed to blow up the main department computer. Of course later a student society had a pillow fight with a couple of beanbags and, after the tiny styrofoam beads migrated into the system, it was cooked for a second time.

          • JustRuss

            I’ve been in campus IT for 20 years, and have cleaned up some very scary networking installed by academics. Fun times.

            It’s worth noting that 40 years ago IT barely existed in universities, outside a mainframe or two. Now it’s ubiquitous, and it ain’t cheap. So there’s one of your cost-drivers.

        • JL

          I think this is a valid point – lumping in all administrators together makes it hard to tell what’s going on. I want universities to have LGBTQ centers and programs that provide services to and recruitment of underrepresented students, even if that means that new admins are being hired. And I want them to have a decently compensated IT department, obviously. For the most part, though, I’m rather skeptical that this is where the money is going. All the universities that I’ve been a student at appeared to be expanding at the mid-to-upper levels of administration, and also spending quite a lot of money on construction of shiny new buildings with varying levels of usefulness.

  • MacK

    This is interesting because it is a question I sometimes ask about the DC Public Schools, which manages, depending on how you count, to spend $29-31,000 per enrolled pupil, somewhere around three times the US national average and pretty well 50% more than the next highest school system. DC claims the best student-teacher ratios of any school system, but it does not seem to be apparent in class rooms where there are large class sizes and subjects like music and languages are being cut (where are these teachers?) It does not show in the buildings which are, well, dilapidated at best. The teachers are paid about 15-16% over the national average, which hardly explains the difference (and is too low in light of the DC cost of living.) So here you have a school system that is the best funded by a huge margin in the United States, and yet boasts results that embarrass Mississippi. Where is the money going – and Michelle Rhee needs to answer that question too – because this was happening under her tenure as well.

  • J. Otto Pohl

    Somewhere along the line administrators forgot that universities really are just a collection of three things. These things are students, faculty, and books. The fancy buildings are just to house these things. If you have students, faculty, and books then you the basis of a university even if you don’t have anything else. Think of the Flying Universities run by the Polish underground during the Nazi occupation. But, now it seems administrators see fancy buildings as more important than faculty and who needs books? Students are still important because they pay tuition, but if there is a way to collect it without exposing them to faculty or books I am sure some enterprising administrator will discover it.

    • Unemployed_Northeastern

      “Students are still important because they pay tuition, but if there is a way to collect it without exposing them to faculty or books I am sure some enterprising administrator will discover it.”

      Funnily enough, that’s pretty much the long-term plan for MOOCs. Get them eligible for Title IV federal student loans, use them to supplant lecture halls for intro level classes, and Podunk U. gets to say that its students are taught by Harvard/Yale/Stanford professors. Note also that two of the three big MOOC providers, Coursera and Udacity, were set up as for-profit corporations.

      • AcademicLurker

        It’s pretty clear that the reason the higher education managerial class went collectively completely crazy over MOOCS was because they promised to achieve the longstanding dream of universities without any pesky faculty or students, just administrators and money.

        It didn’t work out, but I’m sure administrators throughout the country are struggling valiantly to keep the dream alive.

        • postmodulator

          I’m sort of astonished at how completely the MOOC dream collapsed.

          • AcademicLurker

            MOOC mania was certainly one of the starkest examples of pure hype that I’ve ever seen. I too am surprised at how quickly the bubble burst.

          • Unemployed_Northeastern

            I fear it is just re-tooling and lying in wait. The DOE is Title IV-ing all sorts of baloney competency-based degrees; MOOCs are the logical next step.

    • Lee Rudolph

      These things are students, faculty, and books.

      You really do need laboratories if your university is to teach (most of) the sciences and (some of) the social sciences at all well, or any engineering at all (although as we have recently seen, you can get a good start on that with Legos and aluminum foil). Of course engineering (and even science and mathematics) could be left to institutes of technology.

      Mind you, I got through a university and an institute of technology without ever taking a class that used a laboratory. But I have come to believe it was my loss.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        Well, labs would fall in the same class as books I suppose. But, for the humanities there isn’t anything that can replace a good library. Good being defined by having lots of relevant and current books.

        • Lee Rudolph

          I entirely agree. It used also to be that for mathematics a good library was essential; that’s much less so now, in parts of the world with good access to the web—although (of course) the rent-seeking academic publishers are doing their worst, (1) mathematics has a much longer shelf-life than any of the sciences (so even a 5- or 10-year paywall isn’t an enormous deprivation), (2) many of the best mathematical journals have always been published by scholarly societies many of which have no paywall at all, and (3) official and informal pre-print servers (like the arXiv), not to mention a widespread culture of copyright violation, take up a lot of the slack.

          The situation with books isn’t quite as good, but it’s not too bad.

        • gmack

          Which reminds me of the rage I feel every time I hear our local Dean of librarians talk about the innovative new library design, which will create a new “incubator” for entrepreneurial activities while moving up to 1/3 of the stacks off-site. Grrrr.

          • wca

            which will create a new “incubator” for entrepreneurial activities while moving up to 1/3 of the stacks off-site.

            We did that here, except it was a whole new building. Prediction: It’ll be empty except for a couple folks who are basically given the space to make it look like someone is in there.

            • gmack

              Right. That outcome is nearly inevitable. I mean, as the innovators never tire of telling us, the high tech equipment will all be out of date in a few years anyway. And then what we’ll be left with is a weird-looking Apple store knock off (seriously, the artist mock-ups of the proposal basically make it look like a “Genius Bar”) whose only use is that it will become the subject of some historian’s dissertation about “conceptions of futurity on the 2010s” (assuming history as a discipline–or civilization itself–lasts that long).

          • MAJeff

            Oh look! He’s not only innovative, but also disruptive! A consultant just got paid!

            • gmack

              Indeed. The dean in question has quite explicitly explained that the “Izone” innovation hub is likely to be the first part of the renovation plan implemented because so far it is the only part of the plan that has funding.

            • Ahuitzotl

              everytime you hear a cash register sound, a consultant just got his bat wings and tail

      • The problem with LEGOs and foil is that the plastic blocks dig into your scalp when you make your hat.

  • BruceFromOhio

    My college junior offspring was lamenting how the football coach is paid more than the school president, and what message that sends about the committment to quality education.

    • ChrisS

      I wouldn’t cry for school presidents either.

      The ones I’m privy to are ridiculously overpaid.

      • Vance Maverick

        Put another way, how many times greater than a professor’s salary should the president’s be?

        • NonyNony

          What’s the president’s course load?

          • rea

            The president has to be rich enough that the donors think he’s human

            • MAJeff

              I’d really like to see a university develop a “donor biofuels” research program.

            • Thom

              If he or she is that rich, no salary is needed.

    • NonyNony

      what message that sends about the committment to quality education

      Eh. College presidents these days are more like Chief Fundraising Officers than anything else. The head coach probably does more to bring in alumni dollars than most university presidents do, so moving money to the college president would IMO be a step down in showing a commitment to quality education.

      The disparity in pay between both of those guys’ salaries and the average faculty member’s salary does quite a bit to send a message about the commitment to quality education, though.

  • ChrisS

    All these administrators and ancillary staff have get tuition for their dependents – shouldn’t that be enough!?

  • Linnaeus

    One thing to keep in mind is that colleges and universities are doing a lot more than they once did (although this increase in services may not fully account for tuition increases) – think of IT infrastructure, student services (academic, health, financial), etc. You do need to pay staff to carry these functions out, and they’ve become woven deeply into the fabric of colleges and universities to the point where removing them as a “back to basics” move would likely generate a lot of objections from students, parents, etc.

    • Paul Campos

      Hard to see why IT shouldn’t lead to net cost reduction, given that it constantly drives the cost of information transmission and storage downwards.

      Where’s the evidence that higher ed provides more in the way of health and financial services than it did a generation ago? What sort of “financial services” do universities provide anyway?

      Certainly more money is being spent on academic remediation, which could be seen as a symptom of the need to constantly expand the pool of potential college students.

      • ThrottleJockey

        IT Depts never decline in size or cost over time. They always increase. That’s as true of universities as it is of business and government. The cost per unit declines, sure, but IT keeps shoveling more units at you. Also as IT grows, complexity grows even faster, and complexity drives greater administrative needs…Also, Universities are providing IT services not even dreamed of 30 years ago.

        • postmodulator

          Also, Universities are providing IT services not even dreamed of 30 years ago.

          This gets tricky, yeah. You know, university IT departments spend far more on maintaining their WiFi networks than they did even twenty years ago, etc., etc. But I think the question of whether WiFi is necessary to the educational mission or whether it’s just another rock-climbing wall is an open one. Or take course registration: I think moving all that to the web has made things more convenient for students, but if there’s been a reduction in manpower in registrars’ offices, it’s a modest one.

          There’s a balance here between saying that universities do more than they did in 1968 and sounding like those libertarian assholes who are always sneering that we’re better off now than we used to be because no one has to pay a farrier any more.

          • wca

            But I think the question of whether WiFi is necessary to the educational mission or whether it’s just another rock-climbing wall is an open one.

            There are actually academic uses for wifi in classrooms, at least. Think “clickers”, but with tablets and phones instead of expensive proprietary remotes for students. Streaming video in class, etc. While the climbing wall is just a wall …

            • postmodulator

              There are all those uses. But about a third of the people in the last big freshman course I took were using it for Facebook. (I’m guessing it’d be Snapchat now.) The other two-thirds weren’t using it at all.

              • wca

                To be fair, you could say the same about the seats in a typical big freshman course.

          • Many academics (like myself) use wifi pretty exclusively for connectivity. We very much appreciate it and use it (I hope) well.

            You’re absolutely right about the shift in mix but overall growth. We finally got rid of our departmentally maintained email (for central uni managed…I lobbied for gmail),
            but our website is fairly complex. We have all sorts of web apps for different things.

            • postmodulator

              Gmail’s privacy stuff is problematic. There are university lawyers who claim that it’s basically incompatible with FERPA. (There are other university lawyers who say it’s fine.)

              Even if you could get by without WiFi, I’d think that some kind of Internet connection is a necessary component of academic work in this era.

              • wca

                I think a big part of the problem is that FERPA itself is problematic and hard to interpret.

              • Yeah, even though we don’t have FERPA per se in the UK, I’m pretty sure similar considerations drive it.

                If we’re talking shielding from Google then sure. If we’re talking security in general, well, probably better google than us. People will and do use it anyway.

          • Hogan

            Or take course registration: I think moving all that to the web has made things more convenient for students, but if there’s been a reduction in manpower in registrars’ offices, it’s a modest one.

            Back when I was a grad student during the War of the Bavarian Succession, one of the ways I made extra money was to work undergrad registration at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. I imagine other departments did something similar. It was entirely seasonal work, two weeks or so twice a year, and it was never going to be reflected in the number of FTEs in the central registrar’s office.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Thanks for looking at the larger picture, Paul. Its been a huge question for me the last few years as I look at my alma mater explode in price. I’ve had so many questions.

      • Linnaeus

        Where’s the evidence that higher ed provides more in the way of health and financial services than it did a generation ago? What sort of “financial services” do universities provide anyway?

        I thought about that as I was typing my comment. That’s why I said that these things may not account for the increase in costs, tuition, etc. because the difference between what universities did in 1995 and now may not be all that great, whereas the difference between now and say, 1985 is more significant. I put it out there because I think it’s something to at least consider and not dismiss out of hand.

        As for your second question, as an example, I had in mind financial aid offices.

        • Snarki, Child of Loki

          Do not assume for one minute, that the increase in college PRICE is indicative of the increase in college OPERATING COST.

          Price is what they can get away with charging and maintain enrollment. It’s connection to operating cost is (currently) simply that “somehow all this money must be spent!”

          • Linnaeus

            Point taken, although I wasn’t arguing that the increase in price could be wholly attributed to an increase in costs. But even then, I may be overestimating real costs.

            Put another way, what I was trying to point out is that things like administrative and staff costs can be pretty broad categories and it’s worth examining what we mean by these things in more detail to separate the superfluous from the not-so-superfluous. And I certainly don’t doubt that there’s a lot of superfluous going on.

  • Rob in CT

    Unemployed Northeastern covered this better than I can, but my assumption for quite some time has been that the vast majority of the money has gone to:

    1) Administrators; and
    2) Fancy buildings (including upkeep, as advocatethis points out).

    There’s been some mission creep too, I guess (doing more, though I’m unclear as to whether the additional stuff is of real value to students).

    I went to college 1994-1998. Tuition + room&board, already high, has since doubled. I noticed, when I was there, that they were building a lot of fancy new facilities (it’s actually amazing when I consider how much was paid to send me there to live in tiny* and/or dilapidated rooms). That trend continued after my graduation. I don’t have the figures, but the building they did from ~1995-present had to cost a shitload of money.

    * tiny by today’s standards. My freshman dorm room was probably tiny by any standard, but after that things got more spacious. The newer stuff they were building at the time, though, blows away any of the rooms I had.

    • AcademicLurker

      It’s one of the mysteries of higher education that there always seems to be money available for yet another new building.

      With the NIH budget collapse, laboratories are closing down left and right for lack of funding, and yet another big new research building is going up across the street. What exactly is going to go on in that building once it’s finished? There’s not enough money to maintain the research groups we have already.

      • Rob in CT

        Yikes.

        I just looked up my alma matter’s cost figures (they have a fancy calculator too, yay): tuition, room & board plus books and other incidentals = $63k. Slightly over double the price 20 years ago.

        It’s a good (not great) liberal arts college. Fucking hell.

      • MAJeff

        What exactly is going to go on in that building once it’s finished?

        Who cares what happens inside if it’s got a rich person’s name on the outside? [/development office]

        • Lee Rudolph

          The problem (Mr. Development Office; I’m sure Jeff knows this) is that it’s the rare rich person indeed who pays for the name on the outside at anything like the rate that is needed for such inglorious activities as maintenance and upkeep (even on the outside, nitpicker).

      • mds

        What exactly is going to go on in that building once it’s finished?

        A few “superstar” researchers will get a floor each, and populate it with middling-pay research techs and a succession of perpetual postdocs. At least if institutions like the University of Rochester are any indication.

      • gmack

        What exactly is going to go on in that building once it’s finished?

        Just think of the awesome receptions we’ll have in that gorgeous atrium!

  • NewishLawyer

    1. Is there also an adjuncting crisis in undergrad business departments? All the adjunct hell stories I hear come from the sciences (I have friends on what seem like never-ending postdocs), the arts, and the humanities. I have yet to here about someone in adjunct hell in the business department.

    2. In Paying for the Party (I know I bring this book up constantly), there was a story about a young woman who was very good at Classics. She was also the first person in her family to graduate from college (her stepdad had some college education). Her professors encouraged her to apply to grad school but she only got into one program (and not necessarily a great one) and not with any substantial financial aid because excellent grades from Indiana University unfortunately can’t compete with excellent grades from elite colleges and universities.

    3. I’ve discussed the above with people and there are some who felt like the professors were being wrong and getting said students hopes up. There is a fine line in saying “You probably won’t get into a great grad program despite your grades because you attended Indiana University” and saying “You should probably major in Supply Side Management or Business or Accounting instead of Classics.”

    4. There is still a long and unsolved debate about the purpose of college education in the United States. The public universities were more often founded with being more practical than anything else and just building better farmers, engineers, and the like. In the novel Stoner, the protagonist came from a poor farming family and his parents sent him to university (the University of Missouri) to learn better farming techniques. It was only by accident that he decided to become an academic in English Literature and he spent his entire academic and professional career at Missouri.

    5. Though number 3 is a fictional example, I feel like it is true enough. I sometimes attend young Jewish professional events in the city and I am amazed by the sheer practicality of most people I meet there. Most of them just seemed to have studied accounting, business, marketing subject or some other practical major (there are also lots of STEM folks) and they all seemed to get some sort of memo at 18 about what to major in to get a job after college. They are often kind of amazed when I said I majored in theatre as an undergrad. And by amazed it ranges from “Why did your parents let you major in theatre?” to “Why would you do something like that? How can you get a good job by majoring in theatre?”

    6. If most people see the purpose of college as being able to get a good job than I wonder if the adjunct crisis is just a natural conclusion of such thoughts. Meaning is there a kind of anti-Intellectualism in the adjunct crisis if almost everyone is just picking practical majors?

    • ThrottleJockey

      I think most people are very practical when it comes to college education–at least outside of elite academic institutions (even there it can be a mixed bag though). I like the philosophy that any smart person can major in classics but then go on to do marketing, but in my experience that’s a small subset of people. I know someone who majored in Classics and is now a senior executive at at one of the largest retailers in the country, but he’s the exception that proves the rule.

      • NewishLawyer

        I went to an elite undergrad institution and the kind that did not have much in terms of practical majors. We didn’t even have an engineering department. Economics was a close as we got to a business major.

        So I know people who majored in art history, English, etc and are now selling real estate, doing marketing, etc. Though it may have taken them a bit of time to get there and I don’t know anyone who went from my elite undergrad to doing something like payroll at a company.

        • ThrottleJockey

          I have a couple of friends who majored in Art. One is now an IT consultant, writing code and project managing, and the other is, like you said, selling real estate. And quite good at it from what I hear (I’m surprised she’s alive considering all the drugs she did but that’s another story ;-)

          I, myself, don’t know that I’d be able to jump between subjects like they were able to do. Certainly not from art to coding. My hate of coding is why I dropped engineering! :-)

    • Morse Code for J

      What’s wrong with the story in #2 isn’t the elitism, although it is wrong. What’s wrong is that she stands little chance of being hired as a tenure-track professor, coming from a non-elite program, and her Ph.D won’t be of much help in finding other work commensurate with her investment of time and talent.

      • Rob in CT

        My best friend is a professor, and has a tenure track position (history). He’s one of the lucky (and hard-working too) few. When he was considering going this route, he did some research. I’ll never forget his conclusion:

        “Rob, either I get into one of these 8-10 schools, or there is no point. I’ll do something else.” He backed this up by suggesting I go to our alma matter’s website and look at where all the professors got their PhDs. Then go to other comparable colleges and do the same. I did, and it was just as he said.

        Slate ran an article last week on this.

        • postmodulator

          Isn’t the logical followup question “Why is IU (or other comparable institution) granting history PhDs?”

          • NewishLawyer

            I suppose because it was always the definition of a university to have PhD programs and there are exceptions to the rule.

            The reason I worry about your questioning is because you can take it far and say “Why should we have a French or Italian undergrad department because our students are not going to become professors….”

            • Crusty

              I’m not sure why you think anyone wants to take it that far? There are too many people out there telling everyone there are lots of things you can do with a [fill in useless degree here] degree.

              • NewishLawyer
                • Crusty

                  The schools mentioned in that article are a far cry from Indiana- the flagship state university in the state of Indiana.

              • postmodulator

                I am in fact willing to take it that far.

                If a university grants a degree, but that degree is completely worthless as either a credential for employment or as a gateway to further education, then the degree-granting program is just a workfare program for educators and administrators. Which I wouldn’t oppose in principle, but we can’t fund that by making students borrow money.

                If we want to say lofty things about the value of people with liberal arts educations to society, I can get behind that, but society has to pay for that.

        • Linnaeus

          Yeah, it’s interesting that my Ph.D. (when I do get it) probably wouldn’t be enough to get me a job at the very university (or a comparable one) where I’ll be getting it.

          • altofront

            Yeah, it’s interesting that my Ph.D. (when I do get it) probably wouldn’t be enough to get me a job at the very university (or a comparable one) where I’ll be getting it.

            But this is almost universally true. Okay, some smallish fraction of Ivy-League grads do end up teaching at Ivy-League schools, and some smaller fraction of non-Ivy grads end up at a place comparable to their alma mater, and some extremely small fraction end up at a place that’s substantially more prestigious just because they’re bona fide geniuses who are also very lucky. But anyone attending grad school should understand going in that they’ll have to take a step down in prestige (or many steps) when they’re looking for work.

            • Linnaeus

              Sure, although I’d say the ceiling is higher for graduates for some programs compared to others.

              But anyone attending grad school should understand going in that they’ll have to take a step down in prestige (or many steps) when they’re looking for work.

              I suspect that’s one of those things that a lot of folks who go to graduate school understand in the abstract, but that they more or less put out of mind until they are looking for work.

              • ThrottleJockey

                Kind of like being a rock star, no? If you thought about the miserable chances you actually have of being a professional success in your avocation you’d probably not even consider it. That’s how my friends thought about it at least.

                • Hogan

                  “Our intention was to the the Beatles of the early eighties, but we got much better financial and legal advice than the Beatles ever did, which was basically ‘Don’t bother,’ so we didn’t.”

        • Lurking Canadian

          The obsession with “top departments” has made me physically ill ever since I first found out about it. (As somebody else has said, it was in the context of learning that the degree I was getting did not qualify me to teach at the institution where I was getting it.) Actually, making me queasy right now as I type.

          The notion that Smith, who got his PhD at Harvard and has two articles published in the top journal in the field is necessarily a better candidate than Jones, who got his PhD at Compass Point U, but has published six articles in the same journal is completely ridiculous, but that is the world we live in.

          • Linnaeus

            And, of course, dissertation advisors carry not a little weight with hiring committees searching for junior faculty. So not only did Smith go to Harvard, but she/he studied with Distinguished Professor X, whereas Jones didn’t.

        • Woodrowfan

          I just served on my first search committee. We did NOT look at candidates who went to the really prestigious R1s. There’s too much danger they’ll get an offer someone else and leave. Moreover, some of them really cop an attitude (I went to Princevardale, so you are lucky I am here.) The persons that made the final cut each went to good state school programs..

          but then, our department is made of up folks who largely went to good state programs, so we’re biased, although our chair has their degree from a non-Ivy R1.

      • NewishLawyer

        I think this is the point I was trying to make but I am also trying to figure out the natural conclusion of the logic if you take it farther out.

        If someone from Indiana U will never be a professors, should they major in the arts and humanities at all?

        • Morse Code for J

          Not if their intent is to become a professor.

          I took eight semesters of French I never used in the military or my current job. Was it a waste of my time if the degree was required to get my first job?

          • NewishLawyer

            I think she was encouraged to apply for Classics grad school because her professors said “You are really good at this. You should apply to grad school.”

            • Morse Code for J

              My mom told me I could be an astronaut if I wanted.

              • Crusty

                IF your mother were an astronaut, you’d have reason to be disappointed.

        • Crusty

          Those people can go to law school, become teachers, librarians, social workers, salespersons, and any number of jobs. Not really because of their education, but that’s ok.

        • JL

          Don’t most people end up working outside what they major in anyway?

          The “safe” way to major in whatever you want is to double in something “practical” and something you actually want to study. Or you can do what my sister did and major in something thoroughly impractical while doing summer internships in a practical field. She’s continuing on this track by getting a PhD in something thoroughly impractical while maintaining connections with the practical field.

      • NonyNony

        What’s wrong is that she stands little chance of being hired as a tenure-track professor, coming from a non-elite program, and her Ph.D won’t be of much help in finding other work commensurate with her investment of time and talent.

        Yes. Graduate work is one of the areas where the differences between STEM and non-STEM degrees really stand out. You get a PhD in History? You’re lucky to find a few openings a year to apply for, and you better be from a top school because otherwise forgetaboutit. You get a PhD in Computer Engineering? The market for tenure track faculty jobs is just as bad but at least there are companies looking to hire PhDs in your field into both research and non-research positions with really good starting salaries.

        • Morse Code for J

          At least with the history Ph.D., I don’t get the sense that many sitting professors bullshit their students about the odds of getting a tenure-track job or the benefits of writing a dissertation for seeking non-tenure-track employment. Law is still prone to that, unfortunately.

          • Crusty

            I attended a non HYP ivy. At the request of a bunch of students in my major, the faculty of our major (a what are you gonna do with that type major) offered a panel discussion Q and A type of thing where it was stated in no uncertain terms that if we managed to get through grad school in the field, the likelihood is that if we got teaching jobs they would be non-tenure track positions teaching large survey courses to roomfuls of students who were there to fill some kind of requirement.

          • Linnaeus

            I don’t get the sense that many sitting professors bullshit their students about the odds of getting a tenure-track job or the benefits of writing a dissertation for seeking non-tenure-track employment.

            Come to my department.

          • NewishLawyer

            I think it varies on the school and the department.

          • postmodulator

            At least with the history Ph.D., I don’t get the sense that many sitting professors bullshit their students about the odds of getting a tenure-track job or the benefits of writing a dissertation for seeking non-tenure-track employment.

            Granting the Ph.D. is, to some extent, bullshitting the student.

            • Lee Rudolph

              Granting the Ph.D. is, to some extent, bullshitting the student.

              I happen to have my doctoral diploma right here (don’t laugh! there was an empty shelf in the knick-knack holder that fits the space in the corner so well!), and it doesn’t says anything about jobs. The boiler-plate just says that I got “the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in recognition of scientific attainments and the ability to carry on original research as demonstrated by a thesis”; that’s followed by calligraphy specifying the field and the title of the thesis, and more printed boiler-plate to satisfy the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Nothing there about odds or benefits! No bullshit!! And 12 years later I even got a tenure-track job!!!

              • postmodulator

                Does it say something about Moops?

      • NewishLawyer

        Oh I see where I was being unclear. The woman in the story was an undergrad at Indiana University and being encouraged by her professors to apply for grad school and she couldn’t get into a top program because of competition from people from elite undergrad programs.

        So you can get even more fiercely practical and say “You should only study the arts and humanities if you get into a top undergrad program” and maybe not even then.

        • ThrottleJockey

          A lot of this depends on what you want out of life. I’ve known people give up decent paying jobs to take lower paying positions in academia. I have a friend who wanted to be, like his father, a humanities professor. 25 years later he’s stil working as an adjunct and whatever part-time gigs he can cobble together, but that hasn’t dimmed his enthusiasm for interviewing with each and every Podunk U each year. His older brother, on the other hand, got his PhD in Anthropology, and then promptly left for greener pastures doing IT consulting. The 2 were raised in the same home by the same man and each received a terminal degree in their field but what they want out of life couldn’t be more different.

          No matter how lousy the economic prospects of being a permanent adjunct my friend Ray still wants to follow in dad’s footsteps. Some boyhood dreams never die.

    • Crusty

      Indiana is a perfectly good big state university. Frankly, I’m surprised that an Indiana grad couldn’t get into a classics program good enough to have a shot at getting a job. Granted, it depends what “good at classics” means. Was she Phi Beta Kappa? Was there a prize the department gave out to the best classics student and did she receive it? I mean, even from the likes of Harvard, Princeton and Yale, those are the people who get accepted to the elite grad programs, i.e., the grad programs where the grads actually get hired.

      At the very least, somebody should have told her that if she wasn’t getting the full ride, stipend, fellowship, grant, whatever, then she was basically already weeded out from getting a job.

      • NewishLawyer

        The authors of the book were both sociology professors at the time and they have a barely concealed snide attitude towards Indiana. They disliked the existence of what they called “business lite” majors like Event Planning and frequently noted that better public universities like the University of Michigan did not offer business lite majors.

        The woman in question was an undergraduate student, not a PhD student. She had trouble getting a good deal for grad school because she was in competition with people from Harvard, Yale, Swarthmore, etc.

        • Lee Rudolph

          They disliked the existence of what they called “business lite” majors like Event Planning

          My understanding has always been that no one topped the imperial Romans at Event Planning!

          • NewishLawyer

            Well played, sir!

        • Crusty

          I understand. I read the book too. An outstanding classics student from Indiana can get into a good program, i.e., one where she might be able to get a job. The students getting into those programs from “elite” schools are also top students. It isn’t that run of the mill classics students are boxing her out of those programs. Those programs are tiny to begin with, and therefore extremely selective.

          • NewishLawyer

            The book said she was a really good student and did get into a program but only one of the then she applied to or something like that and couldn’t get a good aid package for these reasons.

    • Crusty

      I think there isn’t adjunct hell in the business department because an adjunct teaching business might have another adequate day job as something like an accountant.

      • NewishLawyer

        Right. Most of the adjuncts in law school were either working lawyers or retired partners. One of my adjunct professors called himself a “failed academic”. He wanted to be a history professor but said that there was no money in it. He went to law school in the early 1960s during the Kennedy administration.

    • JL

      Does anyone else here find it mind-boggling that someone would be shut out of grad programs for attending a state school? Why would that be a bad thing to attend a state school? The grad programs that I’m familiar with (which are in STEM, not classics) care about your prior research experience, the quality of your letters of recommendations, your fit with the research interests of the department, and whether your grades/GREs are strong enough to suggest that you can pass your quals and maintain the required GPA in grad classes. Going to an elite undergrad program buys you some breathing room on grades, and it increases the prestige of your recommenders, but most PIs I’ve met would rather see a truly glowing recommendation from a lesser-known professor than a generic recommendation from a famous one. And your undergrad program has nothing at all do do with your fit with the research interests of the prospective grad department.

      I sometimes attend young Jewish professional events in the city and I am amazed by the sheer practicality of most people I meet there.

      I think US Jewish culture is one of the subcultures that strongly emphasizes practicality in college. There can be a lot of parental pressure to major in something “practical.” Many Asian-American subcultures, working-class/aspiring-to-upward-mobility subcultures, and immigrant subcultures, do as well. “Why did your parents let you major in theater?” is rather telling there.

      I knew someone at MIT who got a bachelor of science in creative writing – their parents forced them to go to a tech school, but didn’t make them choose any particular major, so they went with what they liked. They’ve been working on the non-technical side – first tech writing, then management – of software for a decade now. They spent a while in humanities grad school as well to decide whether academia was for them.

      I also knew a few people who were disowned by their parents for choosing insufficiently “practical” majors, including one person disowned for choosing electrical engineering over computer science because her parents strongly believed that computer science was the only major that would get you a job after graduation in the modern world. And one who concealed the fact that he was majoring in physics instead of business from his dad right up through the graduation ceremony.

      • Lee Rudolph

        I knew someone at MIT who got a bachelor of science in creative writing

        This is as good a hook as any on which to hang something that knocked me over the other day. I wanted to register at alum.mit.edu for some reason, so I logged on, and in the fullness of time I got to a page where you could check off your various MIT degrees. There is room for up to TEN bachelor’s degrees. I knew that MIT doesn’t limit you in the number of undergraduate majors, and I recall a few decades ago reading about someone who’d gotten 7 bachelor’s degrees. But it was still amazing to see it on the form.

        To return (vaguely) to the quotation from JL, I was around when the MIT Writing Program got officially started within Course 21 (over vast objections from most of the tenured literature people), and knew everyone who taught in it (and most of the majors at first). Great days.

      • Linnaeus

        Does anyone else here find it mind-boggling that someone would be shut out of grad programs for attending a state school?

        I do too, because at least in my graduate program, those who attended state schools as undergraduates are pretty well represented.

        I also knew a few people who were disowned by their parents for choosing insufficiently “practical” majors, including one person disowned for choosing electrical engineering over computer science because her parents strongly believed that computer science was the only major that would get you a job after graduation in the modern world. And one who concealed the fact that he was majoring in physics instead of business from his dad right up through the graduation ceremony.

        When I was an undergraduate, I considered changing my major, but was dissuaded from doing so by my father. Since he was footing much of the bill for my education, I didn’t feel like I could make that kind of decision without informing him. He did not threaten to disown me, cut me off, etc. if I decided to change and the thought would likely have never occurred to him. But it was clear how he felt about such things, and I decided to stick with what I had originally chosen. Looking back, it may have been better for me to make a stronger argument for changing majors than I did, but I can only speculate how much of a difference that would have made for me in the long term.

      • NewishLawyer

        “I think US Jewish culture is one of the subcultures that strongly emphasizes practicality in college. There can be a lot of parental pressure to major in something “practical.” Many Asian-American subcultures, working-class/aspiring-to-upward-mobility subcultures, and immigrant subcultures, do as well. “Why did your parents let you major in theater?” is rather telling there.”

        The overwhelming majority of people I am dealing with at these are third or fourth generation Americans and almost certainly are not the first in their families to attend college. They mainly also grew up comfortably middle-class or upper-middle class. So it is interesting that many of my fellow Jewish-Americans can still keep with the ethos of being an immigrant subculture this long.

        I could also point to Stefan Zweig in the World of Yesterday who wrote that Europe misunderstood why Jews wanted to get wealthy and it was a means to an end rather than an end itself. The wealth was supposed to liberate future generations from practical pressures so they could devote time scholarship and the arts. There is also a long standing tradition in Judaism that scholarship is a good thing to look for in a mate potentially.

        • Crusty

          A lot of it simply has to do with changing times and changing culture. Once upon a time, there were bastions of wealthy wasp investment bankers who drove wood paneled station wagons and flaunted their wealth only by the Yacht club parking sticker on the car. But people in the know were impressed. Their son might have studied literature in New Haven. But that’s becoming rarer and rarer. Nobody wants to hide wealth and the business degree, once a grubby little degree for people who didn’t have a job waiting for them at Brown Brothers Harriman is prestigious, something you’re grandmother can brag about to her friends in her condo in Boca.

          • NewishLawyer

            I still meet people who do the faux modesty and “I studied in New Haven”, “in Rhode Island”, or “I went to law school in Boston” thing and there is a cranky part of me that wants them to just say “I went to Yale, Brown, Harvard Law, etc.”

            So basically we are in the Greed is Good realm and there is nothing you can do about it?

            I suppose this makes me a bit of a throwback. I think of myself as being fairly ambitious and there are a fair number of nice things that I do like but I am also turned off when people seem to think success is equal to partying like a frat boy, writ large. I’m still also a pretty bookish person.

            There is someone I know who recently posted a picture on social media of themselves lighting up a big cigar. Said person was surrounded mainly by middle-aged guys (one of whom was lighting said big ass cigar.) I thought to myself that if networking is all about cigars and poker night, I can’t compete really….

            • Unemployed_Northeastern

              My favorite is when someone lays down the “I went to school just outside of Boston. No, not Tufts…” line.

              • JL

                That line is especially silly because “school just outside of Boston, not Tufts” could mean anything from Wellesley to Bunker Hill Community College to Brandeis to BC to Salem State, and a lot more. There are so goddamn many colleges and universities here. I’d be tempted to play dumb with anyone who fed me that line.

                • Hogan

                  Ian Faith: The Boston gig has been cancelled…

                  David St. Hubbins: What?

                  Ian Faith: Yeah. I wouldn’t worry about it though, it’s not a big college town.

            • JL

              I always just say where I went if asked or if it’s relevant. I get why people do the faux-modesty thing – and I know some people who have gotten really uncomfortable fawning reactions from people after they said where they went. But to me, dithering about where I went suggests that I think my alma mater, unlike other people’s, is so amazing that the plebes (I hope my sarcasm is evident there) can’t hear the name without it derailing the conversation. It seems more respectful, more realistic, and less self-aggrandizing, to assume that my conversation partner will not be bowled over by the presence of someone who went to a famous university, and to talk about it the way I would talk about any other school that I attended.

            • mds

              I still meet people who do the faux modesty and “I studied in New Haven”

              Oh, did they attend Gateway Community College, or Southern Connecticut State? (One can’t use “University of New Haven” for this joke, because it’s not actually in New Haven.)

      • NewishLawyer

        I knew someone who studied chemical engineering and theatre at MIT.

      • ThrottleJockey

        I think US Jewish culture is one of the subcultures that strongly emphasizes practicality in college.

        US black culture also strongly emphasizes practicality in college! And my Latino friends tell me that Latino culture does the same!! :-) In my experience the only culture that doesn’t is rich WASP culture!

    • burritoboy

      Re: No. 5 You live in San Francisco. The young people who go to Jewish professional events in San Francisco are there because they don’t have better networking events to go to. What that means in San Francisco is that they’re either Russian/Israeli immigrants (or first-gen kids of Russian/Israeli immigrants) or they’re the guys who graduated from a big state U with an engineering degree (that’s why they’re in the Bay Area instead of their more natural habitats). You’re not going to see whole major swathes of the SF Bay Area Jewish community at these things. A lot either don’t need to or they don’t benefit from networking within the lower rungs of the coder world.

      Also, a lot of people simply misrepresent their educations (or, more accurately usually, allow their listeners to believe things they didn’t technically say) in the SF Bay Area.

    • djw

      3. I’ve discussed the above with people and there are some who felt like the professors were being wrong and getting said students hopes up. There is a fine line in saying “You probably won’t get into a great grad program despite your grades because you attended Indiana University” and saying “You should probably major in Supply Side Management or Business or Accounting instead of Classics.”

      This would be more accurate if you replaced the business stuff with engineering and natural sciences. The employment/salary outcomes for business majors aren’t notably better than social science and humanities majors.

  • Eli Rabett

    A single number, and an average at that, is somewhere between useless and misleading for discussing academic salaries.

    There is about a 50K$ difference between PhD granting institutions and BA places for full professors in chemistry and if you look at the top 20 places it is much larger. Salary growth has been much stronger at the top than the bottom looking at older surveys

    The AAUP has the best survey, showing that salary growth btw 1974 and 2014 has been about 50% for full ps (less for associates and assistants) and well over 100% for senior administrators.

    • Downpuppy

      Nice link, including the charts showing Percentage Change in the Number of Employees in Higher Education Institutions, by Category of Employee,
      1975 and 1976 to 2011.

      No points for guessing which group has increased by 369% .

      • Paul Campos

        As I said in the OP, people near the top of the academic pyramid have done pretty well, although not nearly as well as administrators of course.

        Also, faculty salaries declined quite a bit in real terms during the 1970s. Average salaries for fulls were 20% higher in 1970 than in 1978, which explains why the AAUP numbers are different from those I quote, which use 1970 as the baseline.

        And of faculty salaries haven’t declined at all if you don’t consider the people who do the majority of the teaching in American higher ed to be part of the faculty.

        • ThrottleJockey

          One of the problems with studies that say, “Hey, the President’s salary has gone up by 50%, while the average worker’s has gone up only 5%, ergo the President’s salary is driving 90% of the cost increase” is that typically senior management salaries are less than 10% of Total Costs, often less than 5% of Total Costs. In contrast the sum total of the average workers costs can be 30-40% of Total Cost.

          So its quite hard for me to follow the math to the conclusion that’s asserted. To do this properly we need to see what percent of Total Cost senior University executives account for in order to understand how much price inflation university executives drive.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            so since upper management takes less than 10% of total costs, there isn’t anything out of whack about the fact they’re getting 50% raises while the people who are responsible for the actual work are supposed to be *happy* with 5% raises

  • Fuzzy Dunlop

    I read somewhere, years ago, that although the sticker price for tuition has increased, the price increase has been compensated for with financial aid. So the sticker price doesn’t reflect what colleges are actually getting in tuition money. I wonder how much the calculation presented here would change if adjusted to reflect that?

    Also, I wonder if anyone here has actually sent kids to college, or knows about how financial aid is distributed could weigh in on this? How much money do you need to make to pay the sticker price now? When I went to college in the 90s my family paid the full private school tuition for one kid and somewhat less for the second, my parents’ combined income was less than six figures.

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