We’re having the wrong conversation about higher education in our country.As reviewed in the New York Times, “So argues Suzanne Mettler in her provocative new book, “Degrees of Inequality,” based onthe eight years she spent studying a college system that she argues works well for those born into well-off families but few others. Tuition rates of $50,000 or more at private four-year colleges? The trillion-plus dollars Americans collectively owe on college loans? In Mettler’s telling, those should be the least of our worries when considering the “caste system” that is now higher education in the United States.
“The picture Mettler offers of the postsecondary-education landscape in the United States is not pretty. Looking past the top stratum of elite colleges that normally dominate discussions of higher education (Mettler herself is a professor of government at Cornell University), she chronicles the deterioration of the country’s once-vaunted state college system, where a majority of students pursuing a postsecondary degree are enrolled. She bemoans the fact that the community colleges, which play a central role in educating the “less advantaged,” must beg for money, and she lays into for-profit colleges like the University of Phoenix, the largest of the 1,000 or so of these institutions that have sprouted up in recent years.
“For-profit colleges are the true bad guys in this tale. Though their “ardent defender,” the Republican Party, contends that the schools provide “meaningful opportunities for low-income and minority students,” Mettler mounts a persuasive case that something like the opposite is true: These institutions are generally more skilled at getting rich off those living in the lower economic reaches than they are at preparing them for the job market. She has mined congressional reports, newspaper accounts and academic studies, piling up example after example of recruiters who’ll say practically anything to enroll a student, any student, in their programs, resulting in graduation rates not even close to those of traditional colleges. Continue reading ““Degrees of Inequality””
About 75% of young women believe the US needs to do more to bring about equality in the workplace, a new study finds, despite a narrowing pay gap and steady employment gains for women at higher levels of business and government, reports an article in The guardian today.
“Those women remain as pessimistic as their mothers and grandmothers regarding gender equality in the workplace, according to the report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.
“The study finds that women under 32 now make 93% of what young men earn, aided by women’s higher rates of college completion. But the analysis of census and labor data also shows the gender pay gap will widen for women by their mid-30s, if the experience of the past three decades is a guide.
“That widening gap is due in part to the many women who take time off or reduce their hours to start families. Other factors cited in the report are gender stereotyping, discrimination, weaker professional networks and women’s hesitancy to aggressively push for raises and promotions, which together may account for 20% to 40% of the pay gap.
“Even so, just 15% of young women say they have been discriminated against because of their gender. Continue reading “Millennial gender pessimism”
Only a few miles separate the Baltimore neighborhoods of Roland Park and Upton Druid Heights. But residents of the two areas can measure the distance between them in years—twenty years, to be exact. Today’s edition of The Nation explains:
“That’s the difference in life expectancy between Roland Park, where people live to be 83 on average, and Upton Druid Heights, where they can expect to die at 63.
“Underlying these gaps in life expectancy are vast economic disparities. Roland Park is an affluent neighborhood with an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, and a median household income above $90,000. More than 17 percent of people in Upton Druid Heights are unemployed, and the median household income is just $13,388.
“It’s no secret that this sort of economic inequality is increasing nationwide; the disparity between America’s richest and poorest is the widest it’s been since the Roaring Twenties. Less discussed are the gaps in life expectancy that have widened over the past twenty-five years between America’s counties, cities and neighborhoods. While the country as a whole has gotten richer and healthier, the poor have gotten poorer, the middle class has shrunk and Americans without high school diplomas have seen their life expectancy slide back to what it was in the 1950s. Economic inequalities manifest not in numbers, but in sick and dying bodies.
“On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders convened a hearing before the Primary Health and Aging subcommittee to examine the connections between material and physiological well-being, and the policy implications. With Congress fixed on historic reforms to the healthcare delivery system, the doctors and public health professionals who testified this morning made it clear that policies outside of the healthcare domain are equally vital for keeping people healthy—namely, those that target poverty and inequality. Continue reading “How income inequality kills”
New York Times recently reported that 76 percent of American university faculty are adjunct professors – an all-time high. Unlike tenured faculty, whose annual salaries can top $160,000, adjunct professors make an average of $2,700 per course and receive no health care or other benefits, as the ever-insightful Sarah Kendzior writes in Al Jazeera this week.
“Most adjuncts teach at multiple universities while still not making enough to stay above the poverty line. Some are on welfare or homeless. “Others depend on charity drives held by their peers. Adjuncts are generally not allowed to have offices or participate in faculty meetings. When they ask for a living wage or benefits, they can be fired. Their contingent status allows them no recourse.
“No one forces a scholar to work as an adjunct. So why do some of America’s brightest PhDs – many of whom are authors of books and articles on labour, power, or injustice – accept such terrible conditions?
“Path dependence and sunk costs must be powerful forces,” speculates political scientist Steve Saidemen in a post titled “The Adjunct Mystery”. In other words, job candidates have invested so much time and money into their professional training that they cannot fathom abandoning their goal – even if this means living, as Saidemen says, like “second-class citizens”. (He later downgraded this to “third-class citizens”.)
With roughly 40 percent of academic positions eliminated since the 2008 crash, most adjuncts will not find a tenure-track job. Their path dependence and sunk costs will likely lead to greater path dependence and sunk costs – and the costs of the academic job market are prohibitive. Many job candidates must shell out thousands of dollars for a chance to interview at their discipline’s annual meeting, usually held in one of the most expensive cities in the world. In some fields, candidates must pay to even see the job listings. Continue reading “The academic underclass”