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Aug 16 2012

Woe is us academics

Have you been following Doonesbury for the past few weeks? It’s been all about the progressive destruction of the American university, as the old model is replaced by the for-profit university, a hideous scheme in which state and federal support for higher education gets siphoned off to support lousy schools that grind through massive numbers of students, offering low tuition, flexible hours, and a fast-track to a degree…and with abysmal retention rates, low success, marginally qualified ‘faculty’, and an education that is worth less than you paid for it. These are the colleges you see advertised on cheesy commercials on television, in which some guy proudly testifies about getting his fancy diploma working only a few hours a week at night over two years, and never having to step away from his computer to do it.

The assault is occurring at multiple levels, not just with dumbass MBAs and lawyers in congress shunting off cash towards their Libertarian ideal of a university. Anyone involved in academia has been watching the slow erosion over the last few decades…a period during which university faculty have been blamed and cheapened and discarded, replacing institutions of learning with factories churning out quotas of tuition-paying customers. You want to know How The American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps? Here’s one of them.

V.P. Joe Biden, a few months back, said that the reason tuitions are out of control is because of the high price of college faculty. He has NO IDEA what he is talking about. At latest count, we have 1.5 million university professors in this country, 1 million of whom are adjuncts. One million professors in America are hired on short-term contracts, most often for one semester at a time, with no job security whatsoever – which means that they have no idea how much work they will have in any given semester, and that they are often completely unemployed over summer months when work is nearly impossible to find (and many of the unemployed adjuncts do not qualify for unemployment payments). So, one million American university professors are earning, on average, $20K a year gross, with no benefits or healthcare, no unemployment insurance when they are out of work. Keep in mind, too, that many of the more recent Ph.Ds have entered this field often with the burden of six figure student loan debt on their backs.

I’d like to mention here, too, that universities often defend their use of adjuncts – which are now 75% of all professors in the country — claiming that they have no choice but to hire adjuncts, as a “cost saving measure” in an increasingly defunded university. What they don’t say, and without demand of transparency will NEVER say, is that they have not saved money by hiring adjuncts — they have reduced faculty salaries, security and power. The money wasn’t saved, because it was simply re-allocated to administrative salaries, coach salaries and outrageous university president salaries. There has been a redistribution of funds away from those who actually teach, the scholars – and therefore away from the students’ education itself — and into these administrative and executive salaries, sports costs — and the expanded use of “consultants”, PR and marketing firms, law firms. We have to add here, too, that president salaries went from being, in the 1970s, around $25K to 30K, to being in the hundreds of thousands to MILLIONS of dollars – salary, delayed compensation, discretionary funds, free homes, or generous housing allowances, cars and drivers, memberships to expensive country clubs.

Yeah, that’s the reward for earning a Ph.D. Most of you won’t get employed in academia, and most of you who do will get the terrifyingly fragile job of adjunct. And if you do manage to get a real tenure-track position, after 4-6 years of graduate school and a post-doc or two, you’ll get paid $40-50K/year, and be damned grateful for it.

162 comments

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  1. 1
    brucecoppola

    PZ: And if you do manage to get a real tenure-track position, after 4-6 years of graduate school and a post-doc or two, you’ll get paid $40-50K/year, and be damned grateful for it.

    But then again, you get the trophy wives!

    Srsly, I doubt that many outside of academia, including those of us with grad degress in the “real” world, have a clue what’s happening to higher ed in this country.

  2. 2
    PZ Myers

    I was only issued one trophy wife, and if I break her they won’t replace her.

    And yes, I know, most people aren’t aware of what academia is really like — they just hear the Republicans telling everyone we’re parasites living off the government, and our students are welfare kings and queens leeching off the dole, and we know nothing of the real world, and the real sources of American greatness are poorly education entrepreneurs who know how to scrape maximal profit out of an enterprise.

  3. 3
    Glen Davidson

    and the real sources of American greatness are poorly education entrepreneurs who know how to scrape maximal profit out of an enterprise.

    Pretty close to the ID model, after all. And since biological research is just ID research in denial, it’s been very successful.

    Unless, of course, parasite professors make you learn some different from the UD line.

    Glen Davidson

  4. 4
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    Zowie. PZ that’s horrendous.

    Speaking as a Canadian (and an MBA, hopefully not one of the ‘dumbass’ ones) I am constantly hearing horror stories from friends and family in the U.S. When I first heard what the yearly tuition was at an Ivy-League like Boston University, my eyes nearly bugged out of my head. Canadian post-sec tuition has been climbing since the 1980s, but you can still earn a 4-year baccalaureate at a good school for about $25K in tuition – yes, in total.

    On the other end of the spectrum, a Danish friend of mine earned his doctorate on the taxpayer’s dime, including living expenses. Nothing extraordinary mind you, but enough to get by, and IIRC he has some obligation to put his education to work to serve the public good in Denmark. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

    Despite being a capitalist with the Mark of Evil (‘MBA’ has been seared into my skin and the brand smells like sulphur) I’m a huge supporter of social welfare and think that pouring tax revenues into education, basic to advanced, is one of the best ways to improve the health and happiness of individuals as well as society. Maybe it’s because I’m one of those commie pinko Canuckistani secular socialists, but I like the idea of Canada’s education system moving towards what our Danish friends are doing.

    However, the Danes need to get their filthy paws the fuck off of Hans Island, or we’re gonna have to carpet-bomb Copenhagen with poutine. Viking fuckers.

  5. 5
    carlie

    AND YOU HAVE SUMMERS OFF WHAT ARE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT.

    Oh, wait, summers are when the work for the majority of what your job evaluation is based on has to be crammed into, because during the academic year you’re spending 50-70 hours a week on lecture prep/teaching/writing tests/grading tests/committee work/meetings/student angst/parent angst/etc.? Right, then.

  6. 6
    Jadehawk

    lousy schools that grind through massive numbers of students, offering low tuition, flexible hours, and a fast-track to a degree…and with abysmal retention rates, low success, marginally qualified ‘faculty’, and an education that is worth less than you paid for it.

    *coughwyotechcough*

  7. 7
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Nitpick: Boston College isn’t Ivy. In fact, there are many more expensive schools in the US that don’t deliver a great education.

    Take my local college: Union. In the top five for tuition costs, mid tier education at best, has been cutting faculty and programs for years, pays no taxes or “curb fees” to the city… where the fuck is that money going?
    http://www.union.edu

  8. 8
    Jadehawk

    anyway, US universities are the one thing that’s still great about the US. Once that dies, the US will be a proper “banana republic”: pseudo-democratic oligarchy; too powerful and near-everpresent military; impoverished, oppressed, and uneducated populace.

  9. 9
    DLC

    horrible, indeed. But how do we reverse this trend ?

    demand more public funding for colleges and universities ?
    demand better standards for hiring and employment ?
    Should this be a major political issue ?

    I’ve seen a lot of young people today saying “we just want a party school, so we can get high for 4 years while we wait to get a cheesy MBA so we can go to work for Goldman Sachs or whatever.”

    This is also a part of the problem.

  10. 10
    gussnarp

    I agree with most of this, and I’ve been rather annoyed by a lot of what Obama has been saying about controlling the cost of higher education, because like Biden, he’s doing nothing but fact free pandering. But I’m not sure I buy the notion that Universities have not saved the money, but spent it all on presidents’ and coaches’ salaries. Those gaudy salaries are easy to sling blame at, but they’re just aren’t that many of them. They’re cutting back far more than the increase in a handful of marquee salaries. The bigger problem, for public universities, is a constant decrease in state funding, while states still control what’s allowed in tuition increases. Couple this with generally higher expenses, particularly in terms of technology and amenities and scholarships that students expect and you’ve got a recipe for disaster, regardless of what the football coach is paid.

  11. 11
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    Audley: Thanks for the correction. Being a foreigner, I don’t quite fully understand the distinction between Ivy and non-Ivy. I have some nebulous “Ivy = Expensive, great teaching, need to be real smart or connected to get in” definition in my head. When I visited BU I guess I made an assumption because it’s such an impressive looking campus.

  12. 12
    Jadehawk

    I’ve seen a lot of young people today saying “we just want a party school, so we can get high for 4 years while we wait to get a cheesy MBA so we can go to work for Goldman Sachs or whatever.”

    “young people today” as opposed to…?

    I’m so fucking sick of this idiotic claim. “Young people today”, unless they’re children of those already in the Upper Middle Class and higher, are quite fucking aware of how much the older generations are fucking them over. And so they’re choosing those degrees that will least likely land them in the poorhouse.

    I do love how one side whines about how “kids these days” are being spoiled brats who take underwater basketweaving degrees (and therefore, we should cut funding to universities), while the other side whines because they take business degrees (therefore fuck them, they should want to be poor). In reality, the problem isn’t kids these days, it’s their fucking parents and grandparents, taking their safety net away from them.

  13. 13
    Jadehawk

    The bigger problem, for public universities, is a constant decrease in state funding, while states still control what’s allowed in tuition increases. Couple this with generally higher expenses, particularly in terms of technology and amenities and scholarships that students expect and you’ve got a recipe for disaster, regardless of what the football coach is paid.

    and fuck you, too. students should expect affordable education, not be the ones burdened with the supposedly increasing costs of educating them.

  14. 14
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    @DLC: It’s a bit of a cultural problem, isn’t it? From the outside looking in, it seems that there’s a constant narrative in the U.S. that you have to go to college to get a good job. Anecdotally, I’ve seen job postings that require an undergraduate degree. Not anything specific, just a Bachelor’s in Something. Which seems kind of weird – if a recruiter is going to use education as a filter, why not be specific about the education you want your candidates to have?

    If I were to hazard a wild-assed guess based on cynicism, I would suggest that the colleges themselves push hard to keep that narrative going, while jacking up tuitions and lobbying the government to ensure student loans were easily obtainable.

  15. 15
    Jadehawk

    silomowbray:

    wikipedia to the rescue! “Ivy League” doesn’t actually have anything to do with education, per-se. It’s an athletic league, but because its members are some of the best, oldest, whitest (and certainly some of the most famous) private universities in the US, “Ivy League” also has connotations of excellence and social elitism

  16. 16
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Silomowbray:
    Wikipedia to the rescue! Technically, the Ivy Leage is a college athletic conference made up of eight schools: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivy_League

  17. 17
    'Tis Himself

    The Ivy League is Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

  18. 18
    'Tis Himself

    Snap, Audley!

  19. 19
    Jadehawk

    Which seems kind of weird – if a recruiter is going to use education as a filter, why not be specific about the education you want your candidates to have?

    you gotta remember the increasingly shitty high-school education many kids in the US get. To get the equivalent of a German High-School graduate, you need someone with a US Associate’s Degree. So “Bachelor in Anything” simply means “knows a bit more than the basics”, especially since Associate’s Degrees are kinda rare. Most people, when they go to college, go to 4-year-universities, not 2-year-colleges.

  20. 20
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Whoa. Spooky, Jadehawk. O.o

  21. 21
    Jadehawk

    holy crap. the pharynguloid hivemind at work, eh?

  22. 22
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    Thank you Jadehawk and Audley. I am shamed for not Wikigoogling!

    My partner would agree that I need a lot of rescuing.

  23. 23
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    And spooky, ‘Tis! O.o

    (Are you all my sock puppets?)

  24. 24
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    You guys are starting to freak me out.

  25. 25
    unclefrogy

    Jadehawk said it.
    I guess I am lucky to live at a time to watch the end of an “empire or civilization”
    the question I have for any here is what country or area of the world will replace the U.S. long term as the focal point of global human civilization as we slowly slip from our dominate place. I do not think we will be successful long term in being militarily dominate either because we are destroying the source, a large prosperous population and replacing it with debt.

    uncle frogy

  26. 26
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I find it really perverse that US students are expected to be paying back their scholarships for a couple of decades after finishing their education. Jadehawk is right, students should expect an affordable education.

  27. 27
    gussnarp

    Slow your roll, Jadehawk. I’m discussing what is, not what should be and I’m not blaming students. These are the budget realities state universities face. They must get tuition increases approved by a politically appointed board of trustees, while the state legislature reduces the funding they supply. That means the university has no choice but to make budget cuts. I don’t personally think that tuition increases are the right answer, I’d rather see increased state funding, but those are the two options. Students do have different expectations today, and in some cases that includes scholarships (in truth, I think this applies more to grad students expecting paid tuition, and is probably more of a problem for some subject areas and colleges than others, so I could have been nitpickily clear about that). I think scholarships and graduate stipends are good and important things too, but there’s no denying that they cost universities money. The funding for them has to come from somewhere. I’d love to see states, the federal government, and even private grants step up and cover more of these things, but if that doesn’t happen, the university has to be able to operate and the result will be cuts of some kind.

    Again, I’m not blaming students. I’m not blaming administrators. I’m not even blaming football coaches. I don’t think playing blame games helps solve the problem. I am blaming politicians who don’t think funding public university education is important.

  28. 28
    Alukonis, metal ninja

    silomowbray, you need to read this comic:

    http://satwcomic.com/epic-battle

  29. 29
    Paul

    Which seems kind of weird – if a recruiter is going to use education as a filter, why not be specific about the education you want your candidates to have?

    The reason is so that they have an easy filter to punt out the majority applications that they’re not interested in (for good and bad reasons — in this market, if you advertise 5 positions for very long you’re still dealing with hundreds or thousands of applications), without risking running afoul of any hiring laws (and it serves as a handy statistical minority filter!). Most large companies that have such a filter will take applicants without the degree, if they have sufficient demonstrable experience that shows they would be a good investment for the job (and their name sounds white, can’t forget that). “Any college degree” is also helpful if your main criteria is basic reading, writing, and comprehension ability (with NCLB, more and more a high school diploma in some states doesn’t give you much assurance there).

  30. 30
    MetzO'Magic

    Holy. Fuck. That article was a real eye-opener. I had a pretty good idea that U.S. academia was going down the tubes, and that a large part of that problem was due to corporate interests taking precedence over a well-rounded education, especially in the sciences.

    But adjuncts still at *1975* salary levels… with no benefits?! Yet administrators are raking in the megabucks. Looks like we managed to mould (most of) academia into the image of corporate America – 1% vs. 99% :-|

  31. 31
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Er ,that is pay back the tuition, not scholarships.

  32. 32
    Alukonis, metal ninja

    Oh yeah and also this is why I’m going to go for an industry job when I finish my degree, because it’s so not worth it unless you get tenure-track and even then it’s probably not worth is because grading sucks.

    Also don’t be surprised if I end up being part of the US’s brain drain and move to Canada or something. I’d have more country loyalty if the politicians didn’t keep trying to take away my rights/not give me equal rights.

  33. 33
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Jadehawk:

    “Young people today”, unless they’re children of those already in the Upper Middle Class and higher, are quite fucking aware of how much the older generations are fucking them over. And so they’re choosing those degrees that will least likely land them in the poorhouse.

    Here’s what I hate: if a student chooses any degree related to finance, they’re money grubbers. If they choose any of the liberal arts, people assume that they’ll be flipping burgers for the rest of their lives.

    Students just can’t fucking win.

  34. 34
    skeptifem

    Just one correction- for profit schools are not cheap at all. The courses and programs offered by for profit colleges makes them much more comparable to community colleges than universities (it is almost all 2 year degrees and job specific training). For profit schools usually cost much more than community college.

  35. 35
    mokele

    This sort of crap is exactly why, when it comes time to apply for faculty positions, I’ll be sending plenty of applications to Europe. Rats, sinking ships, all that.

    It helps that my field is extremely cheap compared to a lot of molecular and biomedical areas, so I don’t need a steady stream $1,000,000 R01 grants from the NIH just to keep the lights on.

  36. 36
    aleph squared

    @Jadehawk and slightly OT

    you gotta remember the increasingly shitty high-school education many kids in the US get.

    I was a TA for one of the freshman writing classes here (long story how a mathematician ended up with that particular gig), and no joke (seriously, not joking), the majority of the students (all high school graduates, admitted to college) in my class could not tell me the difference between a noun and a verb.

    That was my first teaching experience in US academia. Disillusioning, certainly.

  37. 37
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    As a graduate of one of those shit colleges, I can say that it’s an atrocity. $60k of college loan debt for a worthless piece of garbage Associate’s degree that couldn’t get me a job in my ‘field of study’ if I had fairy magic.

    The answer to me is simple though. Why the fuck are these clown colleges (no offence to actual clowns intended) accredited? Why has accreditation gone from being an important attainment to a rubber-stamp procedure?

    Oh, right, because the rubber-stamp procedure is more profitable.

    That’s what happens when the motive is profit, instead of education.

  38. 38
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    As I understand it, the only exceptions to this trend (and they are pretty rare) are small liberal arts colleges with long history and big endowments. There aren’t many, but they seem – somewhat – to be bucking the trends.

    But yeah, the overall picture is deplorable.

  39. 39
    thunk: y'all know ageism is a thing?

    *sigh*

    Yes. Sadly. Make everything for profit, and screw us over.

    Seriously, I’m expected to go to college in the next few years. So what do I do? Do this just to be mired in debt, or something else?

    Has the horde any suggestions?

  40. 40
    skeptifem

    @36

    I was a TA for one of the freshman writing classes here (long story how a mathematician ended up with that particular gig), and no joke (seriously, not joking), the majority of the students (all high school graduates, admitted to college) in my class could not tell me the difference between a noun and a verb.

    That was my first teaching experience in US academia. Disillusioning, certainly.

    You can thank all the tougher standards bullshit that democrats and republicans push unthinkingly. It is the one thing that seemingly everyone can agree upon and there is very little debate between the parties outside of cirriculum content. K-12 education has been pushed in the same direction as colleges for YEARS, with privatized charter schools popping up everywhere touting their “superior” education (meaning superior test scores). I don’t know how any kids are supposed to really give a shit about thinking or learning when they are swamped with useless homework from first grade on (and sometimes in kindergarten) and given four hour standardized tests at least once a year, and graded non fucking stop as if the only things worth doing are the ones that get you a gold star or a good mark. Those kids grow up without any alternate model of learning or education. College just becomes a thing you do to get what you want (more money usually), because valuing learning intrinsically is a totally foreign concept in schooling. I helped a lot of friends with math when I was in college, and literally none of them cared about understanding it (despite all of them wanting biology degrees and jobs in the medical field, where math is important). They just wanted an A so they could do the next class. fuck. I cannot express how totally demoralizing it was to go to classes full of people who could not give less of a shit about actually learning anything.

  41. 41
    carlie

    The bigger problem, for public universities, is a constant decrease in state funding

    This should be stamped in huge blinking letters over every one of those “oh, academics cost too much!” articles. There is only so much you can do when funding goes down. Public funding now covers less than a quarter of the expenses at most “public” universities, and there are some states where I think it’s down to something like 15%. Whether the legislature controls what they do or not, that’s why costs to individuals are rising, because we’ve taken what ought to be publicly funded and made it not.

  42. 42
    neuroturtle

    Hahahaha, gussnarp. Graduate stipends are not bankrupting universities. Grad students are to actually doing science what adjuncts are to actually teaching: most of the work for crap pay. Schools aren’t paying staff scientists because grad students are cheaper. My grad school could probably hire a hundred staff scientists with what they spend on landscaping. =P I didn’t go there for the flowers, y’all.

    Now I’m a post-doc, and contemplating just quitting this field and going to medical school. It’ll be 10 years and I’ll be 40 when I finally enter the workforce, but I’ll never be out of work!

  43. 43
    Hurin

    aleph squared

    I was a TA for one of the freshman writing classes here (long story how a mathematician ended up with that particular gig), and no joke (seriously, not joking), the majority of the students (all high school graduates, admitted to college) in my class could not tell me the difference between a noun and a verb.

    This story reminds me of a general chemistry lab I taught during my first year of grad school. I work at a big 10 university, and the majority of my students were either pre-med, or majoring in a science or engineering discipline. The first lab required them to measure the density of several regular solids by measuring the mass and the dimensions of the solids and then using formulas to calculate the volume. A large number of my students had difficulty calculating the volumes of the solids even though they were given the necessary formulas by their lab manuals.

    There are a lot of very smart and motivated students at my university, don’t get me wrong. On the other hand the distance between the ends of the bell curve can be immense, and the median is often someplace mildly frightening.

  44. 44
    Jadehawk

    I think this applies more to grad students expecting paid tuition,

    and why shouldn’t they? In civilized countries, graduate students get paid.

  45. 45
    siveambrai

    @carlie I know in several states it has dropped below 10% depending on the university.

    @neuroturtle beat me to it but yea. Graduate students on stipends are expected to work their asses off to earn their spot. In the program I graduated from most of the research work was done by graduate students. We offered few to no post-docs or research positions. During my time there I wrote 4 grants and worked on at least 3 more. I was expected to help bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of research to my program through my adviser’s name. So yea. In many instances the graduate stipends often bring in more than they’re rightfully accounted. On top of that the number of stipends is dramatically fallen off in the 7 years since I entered grad school but the expectations for workload haven’t changed at all. So students are expected to pay out of pocket for the PhD while still doing 40+ hours of work a week for their classes/research/advisers.

  46. 46
    Jadehawk

    even private grants step up

    ew, no. last thing we need is more corporate influence in education/research.

  47. 47
    Kevin

    About the only profession with a sure-fire guarantee of steady, ongoing work is undertaking.

    And pastry chef.

    Oddly, the two are related.

  48. 48
    iain

    So can someone clarify something for me? The post PZ quoted says “funds allocated to [..] coach salaries [..] sports costs” etc. I’ve heard before that athletics is a huge drain on most major universities. And yet in the wake of Paterno, I’ve heard college admins and journalists wringing their hands over the loss of income from their multi-million dollar sports programs – not just at Penn State, but how all colleges depend on sports to keep them alive, and without sports tuition rates would skyrocket, etc…

    Which is it? Are sports programs profit centers or money pits? Or money pits that are long-term investments? (And how exactly does that work if they continue as money pits?)

    Please: this is a real puzzle to me. I’m neither condemning not supporting the quote. Being a Brit from a university that had zero sports involvement (if it had a sugar daddy, it was the Church of England) I tend to seeing the union of sports and academic institutions as harmful, and the promotion of college sports as somewhat obscene, but if they really are what’s keeping academics alive, I’d like to know.

  49. 49
    brianspence

    For a brief time I went to The Art Institutes, a well known for-profit school. Here’s my rundown/opinion on their operation: 1) they accept everyone, 2) you get a crappy education because they teach to the lowest common denominator (remember, they take anyone), 3) they won’t graduate you. I know people who took the final course in their degree program 3-4 times. These aren’t bad students, either. They’ll just continue to take your money until you either give up or somehow you get lucky enough to pass.

    Thankfully, I transferred to a real school after a year and half. I had to take two of my AI classes at my new not-for-profit school (SCAD). The difference between what I was taught at AI and SCAD was amazing.

    Another thing I noticed was that they offer terrible terms for financial aid. I have no proof, but I’m sure there’s so back scratching between the schools and the banks.

    The students at AI were hilarious. Kids literally showed up for drawing classes without paper or pencil. Geez.

  50. 50
    Jadehawk

    Also don’t be surprised if I end up being part of the US’s brain drain and move to Canada or something.

    that’s my plan. and actually, unless the miracle of acceptance to Brown actually happens, I’d like to do my PhD in Canada, NZ, or Europe, and then finagle a way to stay there.

    Students just can’t fucking win.

    I was kinda trying to say that with the second part of the post you quoted, but maybe wasn’t clear enough. You’re damn right, of course. Kids are doing it wrong no matter what they’re doing. silly kids, should have known better than be born post-1980.
    the majority of the students (all high school graduates, admitted to college) in my class could not tell me the difference between a noun and a verb.O.o

  51. 51
    Jadehawk

    blockquote fail.

    the majority of the students (all high school graduates, admitted to college) in my class could not tell me the difference between a noun and a verb.

    O.o

  52. 52
    joed

    @33
    the winner is the person that can realize that “education” is to open your mind to the world of ideas and working hard to understand higher math and being able to write a paper so other people can understand what you want to say.
    If a student can’t do that then they are simply going to be uneducated. Rational, reasonable, empathetic, considerate towards other people, these are the result of education in my book.
    Please don’t yell at me and cuss at me. This is my point of view and I don’t expect anyone else to think or act like me. This is a simple response to what was said @33. A simple response to a really huge and sad problem of non-educating young people.

  53. 53
    charlessoto

    Well, technically often the “administration” is comprised of members of the faculty. It’s that way at UT, for the most part. And, our president is one of the better paid – but it’s only $750K thereabouts, not “millions.” And our men’s football coach is one of (maybe the most) highly paid, but supposedly that money doesn’t mix with state or tuition monies. Average salaries range from $59K-$136K. See http://www.utexas.edu/academic/ima/facsal.

    Our budget is too big. We have way too many people doing things which do not support the mission. I’d say our faculty is well paid, but in no ways are they raking it in (outside their non-academic “side gigs”).

  54. 54
    Jadehawk

    For a brief time I went to The Art Institutes, a well known for-profit school.

    I was contemplating going to the one in Seattle; got a nice tour of their photography studios/equipment, certainly enough to make one drool. But the price tag scared me the fuck out of attending.

    And so I mived to ND and became a freelance illustrator/graphic designer, instead. And now that I read your account of your experience, I’m glad I didn’t go, even if their toys looked much fun to play with.

  55. 55
    gussnarp

    Oh, for fuck’s sake, Yes, they should expect paid tuition, that’s great. Why is it everything I mention that something is an issue in the budget I’m claiming it should be cut? How many times and how many ways do I have to say that I think the problem is reduced state funding? Just because I’m willing to lay out all the things that are budget realities and say we have to choose among them doesn’t meant that I’m advocating for or against any of those things. In my perfect world we would provide a four year undergraduate degree free of charge for everyone who can maintain adequate grades at taxpayer expense. Is that good enough?

    @neuroturtle – Not all grad students are doing research for pay. There are a variety of levels of compensation for grad students, and a variety of levels of work required to receive that compensation. There are also some whole colleges in universities that don’t do any research at all. Fine arts, music, and theater would be prime examples. Me, I think those things are worth having and educating people in, and again, I think grad student tuition and stipends should exist, I think scholarships should exist, even, nay especially, for the arts. But when a school is competing for students against say, Yale, where every single student, thanks to a huge donation to the endowment, in music and theater gets a free ride, it’s a huge problem when the University is telling the college it has to get more students for performance based budgeting and no, you can’t have any more funding, sorry, tough luck. It sucks. Do I think the answer is to get more paying students? For the hundredth time, NO!

  56. 56
    Ace of Sevens

    Wow at Canada. $25K is less than in-state tuition at a state University in most of the US for a four-year degree.

  57. 57
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    In reality, the problem isn’t kids these days, it’s their fucking parents and grandparents, taking their safety net away from them.

    Bingo. They “pulled the ladder up behind them” and now complain about how lazy kids are “these days”. And then steal from their children and/or grandchildren by voting republican.

  58. 58
    brianspence

    Also, just so we don’t think for-profit schools are blameless, I went to SCAD completely online (I actually think it was better than being in a classroom, but it’s not for everyone). I don’t understand why I need to pay more than those students who are on campus. THAT is a scam. Too many colleges have made their universities into gorgeous resorts and that has to be driving some of these costs. If I’m not taking advantage of all those brick and mortar facilities, why would I need to pay more??

  59. 59
    Jadehawk

    Yes, they should expect paid tuition, that’s great.

    you misunderstood. they should be paid, as in salary. that’s what happens in civilized countries.

    and i can read your point just fine, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to pick out the parts of your comments that annoy me and that I have something to say about.

  60. 60
    joed

    @57 Illuminata
    YES!

  61. 61
    Ben P

    Which is it? Are sports programs profit centers or money pits?

    At the vast majority of schools athletics programs are money pits. Revenue generated by the athletics programs doesn’t even come close to the cost of maintaining the programs themselves, much less the facilities. It just offsets a percentage of it.

    At a handful of schools, most of which are large state universities with very well known athletics programs, LSU, Alabama, Texas, Penn State, USC etc. the ticket and TV revenue from headline sports is big enough to make the athletics program a net positive for the school.

    However, even for a lot of those schools and definitely for many schools one tier lower, the big headline programs (football, mens basketball) generate revenue but most of that revenue is turned around and spent on the other sports, so the athletic program as a whole costs money but not very much.

  62. 62
    brianspence

    @Jadehawk Seriously, get a degree somewhere. There’s such a difference between an artist/designer with a degree and without a degree. You can just tell when an artist has really learned color theory, typography, layout, etc. Being self taught will only get you so far. Savannah College of Art and Design was great for me, but it was even more expensive than AI.

  63. 63
    Jadehawk

    holy fuck. I wonder if this is accurate. Because those are very comfortable salaries, considering ND is cheap living.

  64. 64
    michaelbusch

    @gussnarp @10:

    College athletics is certainly a big net loss for many US schools – the annual losses at NCAA-member schools are about a billion dollars (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/2010-01-13-ncaa-athletics-funding-analysis_N.htm). I’m not sure how that compares to the losses from higher administrator salaries.

    One important thing to note:

    The salaries for faculty positions range very widely from institution to institution and department to department. Most astronomy faculty jobs have salaries maybe a bit less than twice the the disturbingly low numbers PZ quoted – but that usually includes some amount of money from NASA or NSF research grants, which individuals or groups have to compete for. Certainly that’s how we can afford to have many students.

    A few geology professors get paid very well, to avoid them being hired away as industry consultants.

  65. 65
    Jadehawk

    @Jadehawk Seriously, get a degree somewhere. There’s such a difference between an artist/designer with a degree and without a degree. You can just tell when an artist has really learned color theory, typography, layout, etc. Being self taught will only get you so far. Savannah College of Art and Design was great for me, but it was even more expensive than AI.

    Your mildly condescending concern is noted. FYI, I have taken classes in all of the above, just not as part of a degree.

  66. 66
    Jadehawk

    and really, I’ve learned color theory in fucking high-school (and the art-classes my mom sent me to which were run by the Kunsthochschule)

  67. 67
    Dee Phlat

    This takeover is summarized well in this recent Chomsky talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AU9lw_dFkY

  68. 68
    Arkady

    Pessimistically, I’m not sure how much better it is in the UK. Undergrad fees have just gone up to £8-9,000 per year, there’s a similar glut of PhDs and postdocs in the lifesciences and industry that would previously have taken many of the excess seems to have gone to hell over the last few years (Pfizer, Glaxo and Astrazeneca have all shut down virus research labs/major facilities in the last few years). It’s not as bad in the humanities, I shocked my (linguistics) sister when I told her that my chances of a permanent academic post were approx. 1 in 4 after 7-10 years of postdoc-ing. Tenure also doesn’t seem to be such a big deal, if an academic fails to get funding they get pushed out at my university, no matter how many years they’ve been there. If I don’t get into the NHS science scheme, my most marketable skill is depressingly my knowledge of MS Office.

    (N.B., these are the impressions of a somewhat disillusioned UK PhD student. If anyone wants to assure me that it’s not that bad, I’m all ears! Louis, any jobs going in pharma?)

  69. 69
    robb

    i am an adjunct professor. base pay is $40K. however, i do get health benefits and retirement funding. however, the governor recently hosed the unions and decreased the health and retirement contributions, which means we all got large pay decreases.

    yay for the republicans and their vendetta against the lower and middle classes.*

    *sarcasm.

  70. 70
    paleotrent

    As an American academic, I am so tired of being vilified by the Right, I could scream. I am mid-career, a full professor (for the non-academics out there, that’s the highest rank one can achieve in academia), and I make less than $90k a year. Please don’t get me wrong – I realize how privileged I am – the salary is great – I’m super comfortable, especially since my spouse is a full professor, too (but also keep in mind that up until five years ago I was making less than $50k a year). I’m not complaining about my salary per se, but it’s nowhere near the boardroom salaries of corporate America. Yet you don’t hear the fine people of the American Right complaining about those folks’ salaries, or about the “conservative bias” of the American boardroom, do you? I guess that the difference is that those folks have been vetted by a meritocratic process, thereby proving themselves worthy of their astronomical salaries, whereas I never had to do any “real work” to get my PhD. Funny, too, how in my own experience (ca. 20 years now), the business students tend to be the worst students, period.

  71. 71
    shoeguy

    This whole “university is a bidness” is taking hold in the Texas university systems. With Rick Perry as the front man, the privateers are pressuring the various chancellor’s boards to adopt the new model. If your state has a Rethuglicans governor and legislature you can bet your public universities are in their sights.

    My kids graduated from the Washington university system with degrees in the science stuff, and are working in the private sector. One has no student loans, and the other has a pile. Their friends are buried in debt, but what’s worse is that some of these fell for the line that the private “schools” salesmen are flogging. Now, the ones that graduated have virtually worthless degrees and the rest just have the debts.

    Even if you loathe elitist university profs, your kids are the ones who will get screwed the most by these “new” universities. The catch phrase the righties love is “American exceptionalism”. Thinking that modeling the public university system after Chase Bank is a good idea isn’t exceptional.

  72. 72
    bodach

    My daughter ha finally been accepted into the Masters of Library Science program at the University of British Columbia, just up the road a piece from where we live in WA. The U of W (University of Washington) wanted twice the tuition for their program than we will pay at UBC as a ‘foreign’ student.
    The money is going someplace, but I doubt into the professors’ tweed pockets…

  73. 73
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    paleotrent@70:

    I guess that the difference is that those folks have been vetted by a meritocratic process, thereby proving themselves worthy of their astronomical salaries [...]

    Speaking as someone who sits in similar boardrooms in Canada (although I’m not certainly not a C-level executive pulling down seven figures plus benefits that includes ‘female attendants’ on tap at the local country club), and as someone who has anecdotal experiences to offer, I’d say that the meritocratic process here often involves whom it is you’re golf buddies with.

  74. 74
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    bodach@72:

    The money is going someplace, but I doubt into the professors’ tweed pockets…

    Congrats to your daughter! UBC is a great school with a solid rep. I live nearby and enjoy visiting the campus.

    But yes, it’s likely the money is going to fund something socialist, because you know how we are up here. Communistas! Tabernac!

  75. 75
    daenyx

    Damnit, PZ, why’d you have to post this on a day when I’m already despairing of my research ever working well enough to get that PhD, to do those postdocs, and to hope to Almighty Cthulhu that I can find a tenure-track position?

    My friends who failed quals and left with MS’s are already making 60k/year+. I’ve never for an instant wanted a PhD for the money (what money?), but being able to put at least a little aside would be nice, someday… @_@

  76. 76
    Fickle Ibis

    This situation is why a friend of mine who loves teaching and was in the process of becoming a teacher, decided to not borrow trouble (or any more student loans) and gave up her dream. As it stands she’s busy trying to pay off her loans and figure out how she’s going to manage getting healthcare for her and the baby she’s going to have.

  77. 77
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    This article is terrifying. Australia has been following this track but is waaaay less far along it. It’s still bad enough to scare me out of academia … all the way to the public service, which has its own problems.

    As to the standards, I had a 2-year encounter with US universities as a TA 20 years ago, and I was horrified by the low level of literacy and numeracy in the undergrads. I thought maybe that was because I was at a cheap state university until a couple of friends doing PhDs at Yale and Stanford said the same. The graduate students were generally pretty good, but undergrad looked like high school to me. Whatever is the problem, it’s been going on a long time.

  78. 78
    carlie

    Also, never let “average faculty salary” give you an impression of what’s going on. Even if you restrict it to full-time faculty at the same rank level with the same number of year of experience, salaries at the same university can swing from the lowest value up to three or more times that depending on how “hot” the faculty member is and if they’re in a field that is “competitive with the private sector”. Median would be a much more accurate picture, (especially if all the adjuncts were included in that).

  79. 79
    brazenlucidity

    Well, I know working as an adjunct for a for-profit school for several years certainly helped destroy my marriage and almost me.

  80. 80
    ischemgeek

    Don’t be so quick to jump to Canada on this one. We’ve got lower tuition, but the tuition we have has been skyrocketing every year. Plus, our current government is no friend to academia. Many universities are moving away from research (“Professors should be teaching! That’s what they’re paid for!”), which of course means they’re devaluing grad students and post docs, who at my uni, at least, had to unionize before we’d get our first raise in nearly 20 years, which the university promptly clawed back in increased tuition and fees.

    Also: Fees. They’re the nasty little loophole unis in Canada use to get around tuition caps. At my uni, mandatory yearly fees add on nearly $1,000/yr to tuition. $25 here, $50 there, c’mon, it’s not that much, and look at what you get for it! Access to university courses and services your tuition is supposed to pay for already!

    So we’re not as bad as the States, but just give us time. We’re walking down the same path in everything from education to crime policy, and worst of all, we’re doing it with our eyes open because we’ve seen it tried and failed South of the border! Rargh!

    Sorry for the rant, but this is a sore point for me. >.<

  81. 81
    v. h.hutchison

    I fully agree with most of what has been said about for profit colleges, part-time faculty, etc. and agree with @carlie and @ iain. The President of the University of Oklahoma likes to say “OU is a private university that receives some state funding.” It is really a small part of the budget and keeps decerweasing each year.

    Also, it is true that many universities bear a big cost for coach salaries and costs of intercollegiate athletics, but not all. For example, at Oklahoma major athletics like football and basketball not only pay for ALL athletic costs, but also supports other activities, including annual contributions to the library and other academic areas with NO costs to the main academic budget of the university. BUT, this happens only at those colleges that generate large sums from attendance at major sports. Most middle size colleges bear a large cost to support athletic teams and coaches salaries.

  82. 82
    wondering

    How does a prospective student identify whether a school is for-profit or non-profit?

  83. 83
    michaelbusch

    @v. h.hutchison:

    Do you have a citation on Oklahoma athletics actually being a net positive investment for the school? I heard similar claims while I was working at UCLA, but they didn’t hold up when the budget was actually examined, and certainly the vast majority of places are operating athletics programs at large losses (see the link I provided above).

  84. 84
    jnorris

    Its not just faculty but staff too. I am now, after 30+ years as a professional librarian, a full-time temporary employee without benefits at a state funded research university. If I don’t get a real job by the end of the year I fear I may never get employed again.

  85. 85
    geocatherder

    After mucking around for years part-time, I finished an M.S. degree from a California State University school last December. Alas, I was there too long; I got to watch as the budget cuts went from cutting fat to cutting flesh to scraping bone. Friends on the faculty say the bone is getting even thinner, though student fees have skyrocketed over that time. It’s almost too sad to think about.

  86. 86
    v. h.hutchison

    @michaelbusch #83
    Michael: There was a time some years back, after two disaster coaches and falling football revenues that the University had to LOAN the Athletic Department. Over time and the return of football to prominence, the University was repaid by the Athletic Department after Joe Castiglione became AD.

    Here are three links on the subject you requested. I did not have time to find the official budget after several tries:

    http://www.soonersports.com/school-bio/castiglione.html

    http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/okla/genrel/auto_pdf/2009-10_annual_report.pdf

    http://oudaily.com/news/2011/jan/18/bob-stoops-cashes-sooner-football-success/

  87. 87
    v. h.hutchison

    Continued from #86:

    Here is a statement from the third link listed in my post above (#86)

    “The Athletics Department also claims it is one of the few completely self-sustaining programs in the country, not only operating without any money from either state appropriations or student tuition and fees, but also remitting over $7 million in excess revenue to support the institution’s academic mission.”

  88. 88
    left0ver1under

    What’s Biden says about universities and “out of control” salaries sounds exactly like what the rightwingnuts said about union wages in Detroit’s auto makers. The US should take a look at Canada’s university system for suggestions. It does not have “runaway” wages, and the government-run system still produces qualified graduates. Oh, and it’s distance learning students are qualified, too.

    Americans might also consider going to one as international students. You’ll pay more in tuition than Canadians do (60-100% more), but it’s still affordable.

    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/110916/dq110916b-eng.htm

  89. 89
    Tenebras

    @Jadehawk
    As someone who has gone to college for art, I just want to say that it IS worth it IF (and only if!) you can get a good art education at a place that won’t put you in debt for 50 fuckin’ years. (I wasn’t that smart. Learn from my mistake. :P) One reason being that, at least according to several of my classmates, it is harder to get clients if you don’t have a piece of paper to wave under their nose. (That was their reason for being at the college in the first place, many had years of professional experience but no degree and they were losing business because of it.) Freaking stupid? Yes, but it’s the reality of the situation. But the biggest reason to go to art college is to simply spend several years being perpetually surrounded by other artists and absorbing ideas from them.

  90. 90
    michaelbusch

    @v. h.hutchison:

    Okay – football’s a net positive to Oklahoma right now. One of the few places where that’s true, clearly.

  91. 91
    axolotl

    PZ:

    One small nit with your characterization of for-profit “universities”. You mention that they offer “cheap tuition”. I suppose “cheap” is somewhat relative, but most of the for-profit “universities” I have checked out had tuition costs that I thought were quite expensive. Comparable in many instances to the best of “not-for-profit” private universities. So you may pay the same tuition to get a degree from “Moe’s College and Car Wash” as you would for Reed College or Harvard (I may be stretching the comparison a bit, but you get my point).

    A Proud Graduate of the not-for-profit Portland State University

  92. 92
    ibyea

    Man, I am studying to get a degree in astronomy. I keep wondering if it is worth it.

  93. 93
    ck

    Americans might also consider going to one as international students. You’ll pay more in tuition than Canadians do (60-100% more), but it’s still affordable.

    And young students can legally drink at 18 or 19, so the “need” for binge drinking is somewhat reduced, not that Canadian first year students aren’t known for drinking too much and studying too little at times.

    If you want to take advantage of this reduced tuition cost, act quickly. The tuition costs have been rising rapidly. Quebec had apparently been somewhat immune to this phenomenon until recently, sparking student protests in that province. They were, of course, thoroughly demonized for this by various right-wing talking heads, and by others Canadians who have tuitions that are much, much higher.

  94. 94
    ibyea

    @ckitching
    Stephen Harper is thoroughly George Bushing Canada, isn’t he?

  95. 95
    eleutheria

    See this is what’s so wierd.

    I trusted PZ on evolution and creationism and science topics.

    Then, he burned me with his vented his exact same vitriol on feminist and foreign policy topics.

    Now, here’s something I know nothing about. It’s a coinflip as to whether PZ knows what he’s talking about.

    What to do?

  96. 96
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    ibyea #94: The decision was made by the Quebec provincial government, which is Liberal and led by Jean Charest. Charest led the federal Progressive Conservatives in the 90s, but he is anti-Harper; Harper comes from the Republican North wing, which in the 90s was the Reform Party (but he doesn’t like to talk about that) and before was known as the Social Credit Party in various parts of Canada (mostly BC and Alberta…but there’s some scarily fundagelical stuff back there, so they don’t like to talk about that either).

    That being said, the Liberals are basically Democratic North: just a bit less neoliberalism and no Christofascists. Both the Progressive Conservative and Liberal governments of the 80s and 90s “restructured” (read: cut) the social safety net heavily. It was the Liberals under Chretien who dismantled the federal welfare program and replaced it with nothing more than a mandate for the provinces to have one.

  97. 97
    The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    I was a TA for one of the freshman writing classes here (long story how a mathematician ended up with that particular gig),

    Sorry to go off-topic just a touch, but this practice (assigning TAs to unrelated subjects) is a terrible thing for the students as well. My choice of majors was derailed entirely by having a TA for a beginning-level science class who was actually from the school of Journalism and knew almost nothing about the topic except his own opinions, which were obtrusive and factually wrong and very much pushed on the students in the class. I decided that if the department cared so little about what the students were being taught, I didn’t want a degree from them, and changed my plans entirely. (Which actually is just as well; I later found out that that particular department was dominated almost entirely by professors focussed on what has turned out to be effectively a dead end, and the subject matter for the degree was almost entirely chosen from this dead end. If you chose your electives very, very carefully, you could major in that subject and take a grand total of two classes which would actually be relevant to working as something other than a professor teaching the subject at that school.) This was at a Big Ten school in the late 1990s.

    (Come to think of it, during my visit to the college as a prospective student during the week devoted to that, I also eliminated a science department in which I had an interest because their presentation to new students was to have a single unenthusiastic TA and a single unenthusiastic professor — my later experience showed that every department in the school had at least one of the latter, to my surprise — being intermittently present in a classroom with no presentation and no materials, not even a photocopied sheet from the department office.)

  98. 98
    consciousness razor

    gussnarp, #55:

    There are also some whole colleges in universities that don’t do any research at all. Fine arts, music, and theater would be prime examples.

    Uh, I’m not sure what you’re implying here, but that depends on which fine arts degrees a university offers. There certainly is research in fine arts colleges, typically in areas like theory, history or pedagogy. Of course, it’s not generally profitable or prestigious for a school, nor are many grad students being paid to do it, nor is it usually scientific research, but it is research.

    If anyone cares. I may be the only one.

    ———

    Tenebras, #89:

    As someone who has gone to college for art, I just want to say that it IS worth it IF (and only if!) you can get a good art education at a place that won’t put you in debt for 50 fuckin’ years. (I wasn’t that smart. Learn from my mistake. :P) One reason being that, at least according to several of my classmates, it is harder to get clients if you don’t have a piece of paper to wave under their nose.

    It’s still not something everyone would want to do. I don’t know if you’re likely to make more money than you’d spend, but of course education is its own benefit, so if it’s a good school, that’s worth something. However, depending on what you want to do, if you’re good enough you don’t need a degree, and if you’re bad enough a degree won’t help.

    But the biggest reason to go to art college is to simply spend several years being perpetually surrounded by other artists and absorbing ideas from them.

    Not necessarily just for those several years either. There are hundreds of people I knew during college — when they were students, faculty, from other schools, whatever — many of whom I’ve never worked with since, but just having those connections does come in very handy sometimes. But I’m a musician. We obviously work in groups a lot more often than visual artists do, but even they need to do some networking to find the occasional collaborator, client, reference, etc.

    Another good reason to get a fine arts degree is to spend that time making every mistake you can, experimenting wildly and trying to learn something from it. Then when you graduate, you can disown all of that if you like and do something else.

  99. 99
    strange gods before me ॐ

    eleutheria,

    Then, he burned me with his vented his exact same vitriol on feminist and foreign policy topics.

    So you’re saying you’re a sexist warmonger?

  100. 100
    ibyea

    @Setar
    Great, Canadian liberal parties are similar to the US one, then. Quiet useless.

  101. 101
    ibyea

    Damn it. Isn’t there any liberal party out there that are not pretending to be liberals, and actually are liberals? Seriously, how can modern day liberal parties suck so much?!

  102. 102
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Most liberal parties are real liberals. The big leftish party in Canada, for instance, isn’t even purported to be liberal.

    Worldwide, liberalism generally is a right-wing ideology based on individual property ownership. Due to some historical quirks in the United States, liberalism here went somewhat red. But the USA is an outlier in this regard.

    So yeah, most liberal parties are very liberal. Liberal just doesn’t generally mean what US Americans expect it to mean.

  103. 103
    nms

    Wow at Canada. $25K is less than in-state tuition at a state University in most of the US for a four-year degree.

    A Canadian education may sound well and good, but the truth is a very different matter.

    In order to cut costs to prop up Canada’s subsidized socialist universities, the provincial governments run totalitarian “education panels”. Each September, the big-government bureaucrats appointed to these panels determine which students will live, and which will die.

  104. 104
    nms

    Damn it. Isn’t there any liberal party out there that are not pretending to be liberals, and actually are liberals? Seriously, how can modern day liberal parties suck so much?!

    Federally, and maybe in Quebec, the question of “why does the Liberal party suck so much?!” has very little to do with political ideology at this point.

  105. 105
    Rip Steakface

    I’m 17. I’m currently taking advantage of Washington state’s Running Start program that lets you go to a community college during high school on the state’s dollar (you still have to pay for books). This will let me get general education requirements for a bachelor’s out of the way (I’ll have an Associate’s degree).

    But based on this… what the hell am I going to do? It seems like there’s no way forward for someone who doesn’t have deep pockets. Am I going to be stuck bouncing between dead-end low wage jobs while trying to find a decent position for a programmer for the next forty-five years?

    I mean, if I really had my way, I would be going for a political science or history degree. But I decided that the education that would get me the best return on investment in terms of money is computer science – and that’s only if I can get a job in such a competitive field.

    I can’t just move to another country – immigrating, from what I can tell, is pretty damn difficult without professional or academic reasons, and I only know some basic Spanish. Sure, people from other countries can speak English far better than I will ever be able to speak their language, but you don’t want to be the one jackass at the office who refuses to learn the dominant/official national language!

    What the hell can I do?

  106. 106
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom — the manifesto of the Tea Party, or at least of those few Tea Party sophisticates who can read above the level of Glenn Beck’s Common Sense — contains this amusing complaint about the unique reddening of US liberalism:

    ‘The fact that this book was originally written with only the British public in mind does not appear to have seriously affected its intelligibility for the American reader. But there is one point of phraseology which I ought to explain here to forestall any misunderstanding. I use throughout the term “liberal” in the original, nineteenth-century sense in which it is still current in Britain. In current American usage it often means very nearly the opposite of this. It has been part of the camouflage of leftist movements in this country, helped by the muddleheadedness of many who really believe in liberty, that “liberal” has come to mean the advocacy of almost every kind of government control. I am still puzzled why those in the United States who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium. This seems to be particularly regrettable because of the consequent tendency of many true liberals to describe themselves as conservatives.’

  107. 107
    antoinette

    This is what happened to health care in the US, as non-profit hospitals and insurance companies became for profit companies: hospital administrators and investors began making huge profits at the expense of health care providers and patients. Now it’s happening to our educational system. There is no end in sight to the corporatization our country.

  108. 108
    Jadehawk

    One reason being that, at least according to several of my classmates, it is harder to get clients if you don’t have a piece of paper to wave under their nose.

    irrelevant to my needs. I farm dealing with clients out to others. If I had to do it myself, no amount of degrees would get me a job, because I don’t actually like interacting with people, and am not very good at it.

    But the biggest reason to go to art college is to simply spend several years being perpetually surrounded by other artists and absorbing ideas from them.

    I have absolutely no idea why you think not going to college means not being surrounded by artists.

    anyway, folks, I am getting a degree. In Environmental Sociology. At a State university. I have no desire whatsoever to get a design degree at all, and what good will social networking with Midwestern artists do me when I’m planning on leaving the US forever, anyway?

  109. 109
    Jadehawk

    I can’t just move to another country – immigrating, from what I can tell, is pretty damn difficult without professional or academic reasons, and I only know some basic Spanish. Sure, people from other countries can speak English far better than I will ever be able to speak their language, but you don’t want to be the one jackass at the office who refuses to learn the dominant/official national language!

    just because you do not speak the language now doesn’t mean you can’t learn it, does it? so yeah, definitely apply internationally if you want.

  110. 110
    spamamander, internet amphibian

    Don’t give up, Rip.

    I did, being overwhelmed when I was in high school and CC, and didn’t know how to work the system, and never got a degree. My daughter as I’ve mentioned before is at UW (she did some running start, but only a few classes) and is managing ok with grants and a small number of loans. Tuition there isn’t bad considering what it would be at some colleges in the same tier. She even landed a $1k scholarship from UW itself last year, not much but it covered books and such. It may be more of a struggle next year when she moves to the main campus, since they don’t have biology majors at the Tacoma campus, but I still think it will be do-able.

  111. 111
    Rip Steakface

    just because you do not speak the language now doesn’t mean you can’t learn it, does it? so yeah, definitely apply internationally if you want.

    I’m horrifically perfectionist – to the point where I won’t do something at all if I can’t do exactly my way to the point of, well, perfection. It’s difficult to learn another language and not sound like an ass while speaking it after about age fourteen. Plus, I’d have to decide on a specific country to spend a significant period of time in and move away from my entire family and friends.

    Unlike some others on here, I’ve had the great fortune of having a caring, loving, accepting family that basically agrees with me on most anything. They, unfortunately, can’t afford to travel (let alone emigrate) to other countries. It would basically mean leaving behind everything I’ve ever known and I don’t know if I can do that.

  112. 112
    echidna

    Rip,

    What the hell can I do?

    Disclaimer: basing career decisions on opinions of people you don’t know (like me) may be hazardous to your economic health.

    That said, since I have children around your age, I have given this some thought. My advice to you is to write down what you would like to have in ten years time, and the constraints that you will face.

    For example, you would probably like: a steady income, health insurance.
    You would want to work indoors/outdoors.
    Your interests include: thing1, thing2, thing3.

    This will help you figure out some feasible directions.
    If you are interested in programming, as it seems you might be, then why don’t you try making an app for the ipad, or otherwise get your hands dirty? In the worst case, you learn something. In the best case, you make some nifty app that might even make you a few bucks.

    You might not be able to emigrate to a different country straight away, but it might be worth checking out how much the different countries charge international students: it may be cheaper to go to school outside the US.

    In short; don’t limit your options to inside the US, and don’t limit your money-making options to working for an employer. This is easier in places where health insurance is not tied to employment.

  113. 113
    echidna

    Rip:

    It would basically mean leaving behind everything I’ve ever known and I don’t know if I can do that.

    It’s a learning experience, and it doesn’t need to be permanent.

  114. 114
    Rip Steakface

    Prefer working indoors… musician, computers, politics.

    Don’t like Apple, but maybe making an Android app could be helpful. I’d need to actually learn some real programming though – all I’ve got so far is a single community college class for *blech* Visual Basic.

  115. 115
    katansi

    I’m back in school again and these are the complaints I have! I love to learn but since it often comes at one year’s FULL income for me it doesn’t matter. I also have years of competent experience at being an admin but I’m expected to have a BA or BS in bs of some sort to get a job answering phones and faxing shit. WTF? Anyone who actually needs training for that kind of job should probably be under state guardianship. Now I’m trying, for the millionth time it seems, to make school work again and not end up literally suicidal at the state of my life because I can see the financial consequences piling up for this. And of course I’m continuing something in science which I’m basically required to get a masters and possibly a PhD to get a job in the field. But shit, I want to pay rent and eat maybe not hate every aspect of my life.

    Ugh… fuck the way this country’s heading and fuck the people that support this trajectory. Really I think I’ll just pile up the debt and then bail to a better country.

  116. 116
    echidna

    A quick google search revealed the following sites:

    how to develop for the android
    Harvard: free introductory computer science course (don’t forget Stanford, MIT and many others have offerings as well.)
    Open learning courses

    Whatever choices you make about formal education, I would be getting stuck into these, as they will help you get through a degree in less time (=money), and in the very worst case, you learn something.

    As for perfectionism, it’s not better to not speak a language rather than speak with an accent. Only bigots think that speaking with an accent makes one an ass. I’m not calling you a bigot; I am saying that this view is bigoted, and if you think about it you will probably change your mind.

  117. 117
    Rip Steakface

    Yeah, yeah, I know about the bigot dichotomy. I’ll see about that Harvard free comp-sci intro courses though. Seems fun.

  118. 118
    ibyea

    @sg
    So in other countries, liberal means right wing? Then what is conservative? I am a bit confused.

  119. 119
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Shouldn’t be too surprising; after all, both conservatism and libertarianism are right-wing, although they are different.

    Conservatism is more or less in favor of all forms of hierarchy — sexism, heterosexism, classism, racism.

    Liberalism is the political face of capitalism. It is necessarily in favor of some degree of classism, but is frequently indifferent (and sometimes even hostile) to sexism, heterosexism, and racism. In theory liberalism might one day be able to function such that no matter what one’s skin color, gender or sexual orientation, one could become a wealthy venture capitalist or currency speculator. Not everyone, of course — there must be poor people to keep the price of labor down — but in theory any generic individual might become the star of a Horatio Alger novel.

  120. 120
    josecardenas

    I know most everyone here hates the for profit colleges but I’ve had a rather positive experience. I’ve only been able to attend community co,llege besides the for profit college I attend. For someone like me t hat enjoys to learn,read, and write, but can’t attend traditonal school because of career and family issues,it has been good experience . Yes students can slug their way past classes often with poor grades. I don’t think my experience is typical. I hope the horde doesn’t decend upon me too harshly.

  121. 121
    strange gods before me ॐ

    For comparison: Germany’s conservative party and liberal party, currently in a coalition government together.

    Same liberal-conservative coalition government can currently be seen in the United Kingdom; and in Australia it’s a permanent coalition, whether they’re in government or not.

  122. 122
    josecardenas

    Oh and not a shill for the for profit colleges, just an averae ex-grunt and mid-income guy that loves science and the skeptical community.

  123. 123
    LykeX

    So in other countries, liberal means right wing? Then what is conservative? I am a bit confused.

    Conservatives are right wing too. They’re just slightly different kinds of right wing. The left wing in Europe would be more like the Social Democrats (mid-left) and actual socialists.

  124. 124
    angelina

    @Rip Steakface

    Where I live (Denmark) they offer free language lessons (for up to 3 years), and most universities have them as well.

    We have a number of foreign professors at my university, and many MSc courses are taught in English. Bachelor level courses are a bit less common in English, although, I am doing my bachelor in Environmental Biology and Geography in English, and the university I am at does a full range of courses at bachelor level in English, so we have plenty of foreign students here at the international houses (Mostly doing social sciences, but then, that is what the uni I am at is known for)

    Don’t let language be a barrier to you :) My Danish has improved more since I began uni here than it did in the 4 years previously working in the country, as many of my classmates are Danish, and field courses etc have mostly Danish spoken.

  125. 125
    anarlib

    Libertarian ideal of a university? Wuh?

    How is receiving taxpayer’s money a “Libertarian ideal” of anything? PZ, you really should try to learn something about the non-aggression principle before shooting your keyboard off about libertarians. Libertarians want to abolish the state, and all other examples of the initiation of force. We have no desire to profit from the state’s criminal activity. Anyone collecting a taxpayer subsidy, and also claiming to be a libertarian, is lying about being a libertarian.

  126. 126
    PZ Myers

    Exactly.

    The Libertarian ideal university is a for-profit institution that receives no state or federal tax money, and produces only graduates in areas that promote business and profitable enterprises. You aren’t reading very carefully, are you?

    And that Libertarian ideal is anathema to the pursuit of knowledge. It’s anathema to the whole concept of a university — they seem to think they should be little more than trade schools.

    In fact, that Libertarian ideal is stupid. You want to abolish the state? Well fuck you then.

  127. 127
    Louis

    PZ,

    Seeing as I have just committed a Minor Rant on the Lounge thread, measuring a mere 4.2 on the Splenetic Vent Scale, on a topic not a billion miles from this to do with the pharma industry (hint: the problem, it’s all in the second word), I sympathise.

    I don’t want to forget my academic cousins! You guys have the worst of several worlds, less money around, targets/pressures of educational performance as if such a thing were merely a quantifiable item suitable for a balance sheet, and horrible politicians at one and the same time trying to make you ridiculously accountable in terms of getting money and equally ridiculously deprived of it for ideological reasons.

    I have but one request: Can you cease and desist this crapola on the USA please. Why? Several reasons, not the least of which is successive UK governments look across the pond and the pound signs ring in their eyes as they realise there’s gold in them that universities/healthcare systems/prison.

    Far be it from me to suggest violent revolution…but…you have guns…you have libertarians and conservatives…you want I should draw you a fucking picture here? Oy! You’re giving me heartburn!*

    Louis

    * It should be very obvious to even the meanest intellect that the style, tone, tenor and general wording of this paragraph is intended to convey Comic Hyperbole. A perfectly safe and valid form of Humour and Sarcasm. Please, irony blind nutters of the internets, do not start any violent armed revolution without first consulting your doctor and at least three other responsible adults who have not recently taken peyote and/or excessive quantities of quite exciting mushrooms.

  128. 128
    opposablethumbs

    I have a Spawn currently doing undergraduate biochemistry at a decent (but not Golden Triangle) UK university. Just scraped in before the big fee hike, so debt will be significant but not insane.
    .
    Begging the indulgence of the Horde – should I be Very Strongly Advising this spawn to apply afterwards for an MSc in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland … ? On the grounds that this is the ideal opportunity to try out/think about living and working in a country with an economy, education system and social security system that actually work and may go on working. Do any of these countries even want any biosciences immigrants?
    .
    Any thoughts gratefully received!

  129. 129
    opposablethumbs

    O hai Louis. Hey, if you were a biochem undergraduate right now, where would you be aiming to go after graduation?

  130. 130
    echidna

    Rip,

    Yeah, yeah, …

    I don’t appreciate the brush off. If you think I’m wrong, explain why.

  131. 131
    Louis

    Opposablethumbs,

    Chemistry undergrad (and post etc) not biochem sadly. It’s sufficiently outside my field that the Big Names are all I know, and precious few of them. I’m behind the times I confess, in that field.

    Many countries want biosciences immigrants, so that shouldn’t be the problem. The problem is what does Spawn want to do?

    Trust me on this: the pharma industry is in disarray at the moment, there are very few jobs out there. It’s always thus (if you listen to the doomsayers) but with site closures and redundancies and the lowest proportional R+D budgets EVER, it is genuinely poor. So if Spawn wants to work in industry think very hard about how and where and when.

    I am a big supporter of PhDs, I think they are a valuable, possibly essential, learning experience. BUT I worked for ~5 years (while my wife did hers) as a graduate before I went and did a PhD, and it served me very well indeed. I know many people who got in at the (less saturated) graduate level in the industry and worked their way up. This is because it is/was thought that all the “good” candidates went straight to PhDs. It’s a bit of an outdated idea, and definitely not true, but it exists.

    So question 1) is “what does Spawn want to do ultimately?”. It is An Big Spawn Now, so it should fucking know. I recommend repeated beatings and water torture until it does. ;-)

    Question 2) will be along the lines of “where?”. That is in part determined by 1). If, taking a chemistry example, you want to work on olefin metathesis, then there are a couple of groups in Europe and about 3 groups in the USA that a student should seriously, seriously consider applying to for doctoral work.

    Question 3) predates the two above, given the job market and the competitive nature of any serious research group Spawn needs to separate itself from the Morass of Other Bastards that is the universe. An MSc (or if interested in research, a research based Masters like MRes {if they still exist}) is a great idea. Although, given that many good UK universities offer a 4 year degree course that ends with a Masters for the top students, explore local options first.

    My advice would be sort out questions 1) and 3) pretty sharpish. Consider the desires and options right now. THEN work on where. If your Spawn fervently wishes to study the biochemistry of cyclopentanoid natural products from the marine environment, then there are groups at Scripps and in Hawaii that are second to none. Don’t waste time going elsewhere. If your Spawn shrugs their shoulders and says “nothing specific, I like working on cell biology, you know, signalling, transport, that sort of thing”, then a) there are more jobs and b) lots of groups. I’d quiz their profs about who the big players in various fields are (TBH Spawn should already know this even as an undergrad) and plan from there.

    I hope that helps a bit.

    Louis

  132. 132
    hillaryrettig

    For-profit schools are even worse than PZ says because they specifically prey on some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Many of these schools target immigrants and poor people who have a hunger to succeed, but not a lot of knowledge and experience with US higher ed. They get hoodwinked into paying a lot of money – not to mention years of their lives – for a shoddy education, and a degree that offers few career prospects.

    The schools use sleazy advertising that promises them great, safe careers in a short time, and with an easy schedule. (Easy doesn’t just mean low hours; it means evening and weekend classes since many of the students needs jobs.) And if a candidate wises up, the school uses all kinds of pressure tactics to keep them enrolled.

    One of my foster kids (a Sudanese refugee who came here in his teens) signed up for one of these schools. When I learned about it the next day, I was aghast. Fortunately, MA has a law that you can withdraw from these schools within 72 hours and get a full refund, so after a friend and I explained the real nature of what he signed up for he went in to cancel his registration. Two “educational advisors” literally took him into a small room and tried to badger him into staying at the school – it was like a police interrogation on tv, he said. They also used psychological coercion, accusing him, among other things, of being “afraid of education.” Fortunately, he held firm.

    The really sad thing is that Boston has a really first rate community college, but the for profit school’s advertising was so compelling that my son ignored that obvious choice.

    These schools are despicable, and of course so are the politicians who promote them. and of course those politicians are mainly Republican: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/30/nation/la-na-forprofit-colleges-20120731

  133. 133
    opposablethumbs

    Louis, thank you. Thoughts and advice very much appreciated indeed.

    Spawn would rather work in industry than academia, loves lab-work, was interested in drug-delivery mechanisms (like nanoparticles) but says (having only just finished first year) that Everything is Exciting – each new area they study just keeps on being more exciting than the last.

    Also (somewhat to my dismay) showing interest in dissemination of science, making documentaries and the like.

    Re beatings, the preferred method in this household is Child Educational Psychology. The books are really big and heavy, deliver a solid impact and don’t leave a mark.

  134. 134
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Rant ahoy!

    I am painfully aware of the gaping hole that is the US college system. I’ve been teaching as a TA here, and I’ve never made more than $1400 a month. I’m currently making $740 to teach and they pay tuition for one class, so I have to work two jobs to get by.

    I hate to sound embittered, but the only other job I could find puts me working at $10 to do the job of an entire research team. Yesterday was my first day, and when I walked in my boss demanded a 25-page literature review of mentor ship programs in the medical field over the last twelve years… and gave me 48 hours to do it.

    But I will only be paid for 20 hours for that position, and only 10 hours for the other position, despite actually working nearly twice that.

    I am desperately taking a 15 hour load; all but one class is math, in the attempt to tailor my education toward quantitative methods. I’m hoping that a social scientist with a high level of statistical ability and a substantial background in discrete math and programming will be more employable, even though it’s currently in vogue to only do qualitative methods and whine that math is too hard to do.

    All this on a campus which sends millions down the drain on a football team which has won three times in three years (yes, really), but whose coach makes a million a year. Our presidents are a long line of good old boys who hire their friends to the tune of $500 – $750 k. Because I know people here in IT, I know that many of those assholes sit in their office all day and watch porn, and that the school buys their internet, their phones, their cars and provides a damn housing budget. Cost of living here is so low that $50k allows you to buy a house.

    I’ve been teaching a 2/2 load most of the time here, and never made more than $16.5 k a year, including tuition benefits. Trust me, TA salaries are NOT the cause of financial difficulties, and many of us have responded to the pressure put on us by giving our teaching as little attention as possible. We have to. There is only so many hours in the week, and we’re expected to volunteer our time for department events.

    But, by Rand, we cannot afford to fund grad students and hire faculty. Motorola paid for a robotics lab here which stands unused because the college won’t hire any robotics professors, despite advertising a major dealing specifically with robotics.

    If I thought Canada was any better, I’d be sneaking over the border.

    /whine

  135. 135
    Louis

    Opposablethumbs,

    Re beatings, the preferred method in this household is Child Educational Psychology. The books are really big and heavy, deliver a solid impact and don’t leave a mark.

    Very clever, very clever. We use the DSM. We bookmark a page with a disease we are threatening to beat into The Boy and act accordingly. Works every time. ;-)

    Okay, drug delivery mechanisms will involve a LOT of chemistry-chemistry as opposed to “just” biochemistry, investigate career paths in the designing of prodrugs and in formulation “chemistry”/pharmacology. I’m not saying “nano won’t work”, likely it will, but it’s far more an emergent field than its boosters let on. It will likely produce revolutionary things, so there are real opportunities, just be a little cautious about getting caught up in a research bubble. A lot of groups/work falls by the wayside early on, and sometimes a little bit of cautious playing to things that will give likely results early in a career works.

    Although the opposite works too, it just requires a bit more luck. So take that with a pinch of salt!

    And the first year disease of Everything is Exciting is a good disease. I’m biased, I still have it! The Spawn is right, everything IS exciting.

    And don’t be dismayed about the dissemination of science, there’s gold in them thar hills too. Just ask Brian Cox… At least it’s got a good chance of being a job for life! [/bitterness!]

    Louis

  136. 136
    opposablethumbs

    Oh, and Spawn’s aim would probably be to try for an MSc, not a PhD. I suspect that the levels of experience and maturity required to get the most out of doing a PhD are such that it is best attempted after some years working, as you did (if at all; I appreciate it’s not necessarily the right thing for everyone).
    .
    Which would you say are the burgeoning biochem fields to look at for a fighting chance at employment? Even in the broadest sense, I mean, as I am Not An Scientist (and I appreciate that you’re a chemist. But Pharma!!!!). (I had a family festooned with scientists of various flavours once, but sadly the only ones who could have given good advice are dead and the ones still around are worse than useless :( )

  137. 137
    opposablethumbs

    Oops, crossed posts with your answer. Thanks for that, Louis! I will copy-and-paste your words of wisdom and enclose them with the next Child Educational Psychology book I drop on Spawn from a Great Height!

  138. 138
    Louis

    As for what specific fields of biochem, seriously, ask a biochemist, I would be almost guaranteed to steer you wrong.

    My exposure to biochem is “what is useful at work” and “stuff that impinges on biosynthesis of secondary metabolites because it interests me” and “a bit of pharmacology”. I understand it, I know a bit, but I am not at the cutting edge of it.

    Cell biologists (so signalling and transport etc), molecular biologists (genetics etc), pharmacologists (drug metabolism etc), epidemiologists (disease modellers etc), statistical biologists (weird boring people we don’t talk to and who have never seen A Girl), straight biochemists (at graduate level prior to specialising) if not thinking of a specific research area, are all employable, so that should be fine (state of industry aside).

    That’s all relatively conservative, stuff. Formulation chemists are, largely, chemists. It can involve dicking about with crystal forms and what not…NOT FUN!!!!!!! (IMO, YMMV) Really cutting edge stuff like nanoparticle delivery is a research based activity.

    And remember The Unbeaten Spawn is the Unloved Spawn.

    “Dad, Dad, Why are you hitting me”

    “Because I love you darling”

    “Ah well that’s okay then”

    ;-)

    Louis

  139. 139
    sc_677205d219f80551bb5cfc02336dfdaf

    A few thoughts from someone else in the twisted realm of academia..

    1. Many for-profit colleges suck ass. To make them suck less–they should be barred from receiving any federal funding (via student loans) unless they can improve their retention rates to more like 50+% and also undergo stricter accreditation standards. This is no different than what lower level schools have to do–but of course, a lot of Republicans want to do away with those standards…

    2. On the other hand, I’m not entirely sympathetic to the claims of tenured academics about how they are all awesome and it’s everyone else’s problems that are destroying the university. I went through a pretty eminent history of science/technology/medicine program and got my Ph.D from there a couple of years ago. I am now employed at the same university in a totally different college teaching communication skills to technical students in a non-tenure track position. Thus–I’m in the equivalent of the adjunct position–except that our entire program is this and will never be anything else. We all work insane hours and I usually have to read through/edit/grade about 2500+ pages of (often bad) student writing a semester (no TA’s for us!).

    That’s the context. The other side is that I get to see a number of professors from my old department game the system in terms of their teaching loads and to do everything possible to avoid teaching, much less learning how to improve it. I’ve seen full professors wrangle out deals from the university–by threatening to leave–such that they only teach two classes a year, and for one of those–they “ghost” the class–meaning that they restrict the membership to the prof’s own graduate students and they all then use it as their monthly meeting rather than it being a real class. The end result of this is a professor making $150k a year to teach one class, while the newest professor hired in the department teaches 6 classes a year for 50k.

    The system is feudal.

    Now–I realize that a lot of the problems originate in the insanity of anti-education right-wing legislators who hate universities and are doing their best to defund them, but it is not tenable to me that the archaic faculty system is the bright and shining hope that is the only thing preventing us from the for-profit oblivion–as I’m also watching the same former professors from my department apparently try to cash in now right before they retire while leaving the department itself in a catastrophic state that will likely lead to its disbanding.

    We need a more modern system of faculty just like we need a more modern system of educational support. Until we get both, a pox on both of their houses.

  140. 140
    Sarahface, who is trying to break the lurking habit

    I have a Spawn currently doing undergraduate biochemistry at a decent (but not Golden Triangle) UK university. Just scraped in before the big fee hike, so debt will be significant but not insane.

    Ooh, lucky them – no 9k fees. I feel slightly stupid – despite spending the last year or so deciding which uni to go to and then applying and stuff, I had no idea what the Golden Triangle was. (Incidentally, and off-topic, I am convinced that UCAS is the shittiest service ever conceived of by anyone. [This opinion may change once I have to deal with HMRC or whatever, but stands for now])
    .
    .
    The American mindset towards its university system really baffles me. It seems like an awful lot of people don’t *want* competent, qualified graduates? (Well, except in business, where ‘competent’ and ‘qualified’ are nebulous-er and harder to define than usual.) The only places where the US is currently ahead (or likely to remain ahead) is the tech industry, and yet… lots of people don’t seem to care, boosted by huge doses of American Exceptionalism, and “This is the way it has been for a long time [US as the biggest world power], so it will therefore stay this way for a long time.”

  141. 141
    David Marjanović

    a post-doc or two

    What, only?

    /parent angst/

    Only in America!

    Because there, the parents have invested so much money that they’re very anxious about the outcome. Over here, people would be fucking ashamed of trying to intervene on behalf of their supposedly adult children; they never set foot on university soil except for graduation ceremonies.

    *coughwyotechcough*

    What, this?

    anyway, US universities are the one thing that’s still great about the US. Once that dies, the US will be a proper “banana republic”: pseudo-democratic oligarchy; too powerful and near-everpresent military; impoverished, oppressed, and uneducated populace.

    Yep, pretty much like… well, primary and secondary education is actually better in Russia, except maybe where history is concerned.

    From what I’ve heard, all Russian academics have a second job, or they couldn’t survive; and many of them seem stuck in the 1950s for lack of access to more recent literature.

    I do love how one side whines about how “kids these days” are being spoiled brats who take underwater basketweaving degrees (and therefore, we should cut funding to universities), while the other side whines because they take business degrees (therefore fuck them, they should want to be poor). In reality, the problem isn’t kids these days, it’s their fucking parents and grandparents, taking their safety net away from them.

    QFT.

    and fuck you, too. students should expect affordable education, not be the ones burdened with the supposedly increasing costs of educating them.

    QFT. Everyone profits (yes, including financially) when everyone has a good education. Punishing people for trying to get an education is stupid.

    So “Bachelor in Anything” simply means “knows a bit more than the basics”

    On the topic of “why stay in the most academic type of Austrian highschool 3 years beyond the legal minimum and then graduate, with the right to go to university when I don’t even want to study”, my geography/economics/eurocracy teacher said he knew a carpenter who only employed such graduates, because they knew how to think.

    You guys are starting to freak me out.

    Great minds think alike. Get used to it. :-)

    without risking running afoul of any hiring laws (and it serves as a handy statistical minority filter!).

    …Aaaah yeah. I overlooked that.

    NCLB

    No Child’s Behind Left!

    the majority of the students (all high school graduates, admitted to college) in my class could not tell me the difference between a noun and a verb.

    Ecce homo, qui-i e-est faba…

    </whistling in the dark>

    Seriously, I’m expected to go to college in the next few years. So what do I do? Do this just to be mired in debt, or something else?

    Flee.
    – Mr Bean or Blackadder

    Hahahaha, gussnarp. Graduate stipends are not bankrupting universities. Grad students are to actually doing science what adjuncts are to actually teaching: most of the work for crap pay. Schools aren’t paying staff scientists because grad students are cheaper.

    It’s a trope among US academics that US grad students are slaves and/or lab rats.

    Now I’m a post-doc, and contemplating just quitting this field and going to medical school. It’ll be 10 years and I’ll be 40 when I finally enter the workforce, but I’ll never be out of work!

    ~:-| Never? Are you sure?

    the majority of my students were either pre-med, or majoring in a science or engineering discipline. The first lab required them to measure the density of several regular solids by measuring the mass and the dimensions of the solids and then using formulas to calculate the volume. A large number of my students had difficulty calculating the volumes of the solids even though they were given the necessary formulas by their lab manuals.

    Science or engineering?

    How the fuck did they get in there???

    you misunderstood. they should be paid, as in salary. that’s what happens in civilized countries.

    (Though often not for long enough.)

    holy fuck. I wonder if this is accurate. Because those are very comfortable salaries, considering ND is cheap living.

    102,500 $ for an Assistant Professor of Marketing!?!?!

    A few geology professors get paid very well, to avoid them being hired away as industry consultants.

    Ah, the exception which proves the rule that oil geologists are the only geo-/paleo-people with money.

    and really, I’ve learned color theory in fucking high-school

    Skimming through the Wikipedia article, I notice that I learned about 2/3 of it in highschool, too – no extra arts classes, and the school wasn’t art-oriented.

    Undergrad fees have just gone up to £8-9,000 per year

    *facepalm*

    Over here, that would cause riots, and rightly so.

    A Proud Graduate of the not-for-profit Portland State University

    Why proud?

    See this is what’s so wierd.

    I trusted PZ on evolution and creationism and science topics.

    Then, he burned me with his vented his exact same vitriol on feminist and foreign policy topics.

    Now, here’s something I know nothing about. It’s a coinflip as to whether PZ knows what he’s talking about.

    What to do?

    Easy, “freedom”: you take the time to sit down and learn why PZ is right not only about this, but also about feminist and foreign-policy topics.

    Worldwide, liberalism generally is a right-wing ideology based on individual property ownership. Due to some historical quirks in the United States, liberalism here went somewhat red. But the USA is an outlier in this regard.

    It’s because of the two-party system. The 1848 division of conservatives and liberals was impossible to overcome, because you can’t simply found a third party and expect it to get more and more seats in Congress in the US; so the leftists showed up inside the liberal party (…which was the Republican Party at the time, before it and the Democratic Party switched places in the mid-to-late 20th century). Pretty much everywhere else, they formed their own Socialist or Social Democratic party (and replaced the liberals or cut them down to a quite small size).

    In such places, the conservative parties are not necessarily liberal on the economy, as the Republicans are (to an extreme extent). They want to keep (conserve) the economy under some degree of control, just like how they want to keep your bedroom under some degree of control. They also often identify with the more social aspects of Christianity and consequently support (to varying extents) things like socialized health insurance and progressive taxation.

    “Red” in the quote above means “socialist”, not “Republican”. That’s another thing the US has backwards (nowadays).

    I can’t just move to another country – immigrating, from what I can tell, is pretty damn difficult without professional or academic reasons, and I only know some basic Spanish. Sure, people from other countries can speak English far better than I will ever be able to speak their language, but you don’t want to be the one jackass at the office who refuses to learn the dominant/official national language!

    What the hell can I do?

    Immigrate first and learn the language (right) afterwards, in subsidized courses. That’s entirely feasible in much of Europe now.

    I’m horrifically perfectionist – to the point where I won’t do something at all if I can’t do exactly my way to the point of, well, perfection.

    That’ll only motivate you to learn harder. :o)

    It’s difficult to learn another language and not sound like an ass while speaking it after about age fourteen.

    There isn’t anything magic about fourteen or any other age. I know two French Canadians who started learning English when they were twenty years old and now speak and publish in English fluently; one of them is additionally fluent in Swedish, and the other speaks good Spanish (with French R) and can read scientific papers in German. It goes without saying that English was the first foreign language they had ever tried to learn.

    Plus, I’d have to decide on a specific country to spend a significant period of time in and move away from my entire family and friends.

    There’s a PhD Comic about this. E-mail, Skype, Facebook, yadda, yadda, yadda… moving halfway around the world isn’t what it used to be.

    Plus, you’ll make additional friends. Unless perhaps if you do métro-boulot-dodo (subway, work, sleep, and nothing else in a day) like I did in Paris. *sigh*

    You might not be able to emigrate to a different country straight away, but it might be worth checking out how much the different countries charge international students: it may be cheaper to go to school outside the US.

    Heh. In almost all countries it definitely will be!!!

    Liberalism is the political face of capitalism. It is necessarily in favor of some degree of classism, but is frequently indifferent (and sometimes even hostile) to sexism, heterosexism, and racism.

    And indeed, many liberal parties have made being liberal on social issues a major part of their platforms. For a few years, most people perceived almost no difference between Austria’s Green and Liberal parties. (Then the Liberal Party died out.)

    Conversely, leftists are not automatically liberal on all social issues. Hence totalitarian communists who suppressed “perverted” art.

    One of my foster kids (a Sudanese refugee who came here in his teens) signed up for one of these schools. When I learned about it the next day, I was aghast. Fortunately, MA has a law that you can withdraw from these schools within 72 hours and get a full refund, so after a friend and I explained the real nature of what he signed up for he went in to cancel his registration. Two “educational advisors” literally took him into a small room and tried to badger him into staying at the school – it was like a police interrogation on tv, he said. They also used psychological coercion, accusing him, among other things, of being “afraid of education.” Fortunately, he held firm.

    what is this I don’t even

    Motorola paid for a robotics lab here which stands unused because the college won’t hire any robotics professors, despite advertising a major dealing specifically with robotics.

    *headdesk*

  142. 142
    David Marjanović

    The system is feudal.

    That does happen.

  143. 143
    Paul

    Easy, “freedom”: you take the time to sit down and learn why PZ is right not only about this, but also about feminist and foreign-policy topics.

    That’s a bit absolutist. There have been well-reasoned arguments with PZ from the comment section on certain foreign-policy topics. However, it’s understandable why you’d take that tack when responding to that poster, as they had a very clear bias on their sleeve (I was assuming they were trolling, tbh). You could definitely very easily find many worse people to read on feminism and foreign policy, though, and not many better for the level of content he provides (if you want to get really detailed wrt policy there are better places for that), focused on presenting information and calls to action to the general population.

  144. 144
    elliete

    to 142

    Yep, pretty much like… well, primary and secondary education is actually better in Russia, except maybe where history is concerned. From what I’ve heard, all Russian academics have a second job, or they couldn’t survive; and many of them seem stuck in the 1950s for lack of access to more recent literature.

    I have never though I would ever say anything good about our current academia situation (I can probably produce an epic 2-hours long whine on the situation , trust me ) , but honestly, FU, if you can’t read the language and the only source you can get is “from what I’ve heard” than I would suggest not to say anything at all.

    But wait, since we are stuck in the 50s we probably don’t have the Internets and free libraries with major scientific magazines subs here, so I guess it’s ok to use us a boogieman. Oh, and we can’t read English obviously enough, how silly of me.

  145. 145
    opposablethumbs

    Huge squishy baconhugs (if acceptable) to Louis for those Xtremely Helpful answers to my Qs. Honestly, just having an opinion or two from someone living and working in a relevant professional area – even if by no means identical – is immensely valuable. There’s a lot of official advice out there, but it’s not the same as being able to ask an actual well-disposed human being. (I wish my mother were still alive – apart from missing her, obviously, being able to talk about all this stuff with a developmental biologist (retd.) would have been so great :( (Bet she would have loved Pharyngula, too. And I got all my first Gould and Dawkins books from her.) )

    Sarahface, I’ll bet you already knew all the actual information; calling it the Golden Triangle is just a handy moniker. Just out of curiosity, what are you going to study? (only if you feel like mentioning it, of course)

  146. 146
    hausdorff

    After getting my Ph.D. I was an adjunct for a year. The next year the new chair decided not to hire back any of the adjuncts, which sounds like it might be a good thing except they didn’t hire any proper faculty to fill our teaching roles. Between us we taught about 35 classes that year.

    Anyway, I don’t work in academia anymore. It’s a shame because I like teaching, there just not enough positions.

  147. 147
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    High price of college faculty? As opposed to what? Senators?

    ++++
    I’m a professor at a comprehensive university*. I was tenured this year. I’ve been very lucky. However, it hasn’t been a cake walk.
    ++++
    I spent seven years in graduate school making between $12-16k/year and working 60-80 hours a week.
    I spent another two years as a post-doc, making a little less than $30k/year, with a similar work schedule.
    I teach a 3-3 course load, which means three classes of three credits each, every semester. Depending on lab courses/large session courses, there is some variation in how those 9 credit hours are distributed. In my first five years, I taught eight different full courses, three of which I developed, and I don’t know how many seminar courses. In 50% of the semesters of my tenure period I taught an uncompensated overload…and extra three hour course without pay. I’ve developed two lab courses. I wrote a lab manual for one of these, edited a lab manual for another, and contributed exercises for a third (that was edited by another faculty member). I teach workshops to graduate students and professionals every summer for free. I have been on the thesis committees of 21 graduate students. I have taught more than 3,000 undergraduates. I meet with more than 20 undergraduate majors and minors every semester to provide advisement.
    None of this is beyond what is expected of me.
    I have brought in more than twice what I have been paid in this period in grant money. The university gets to keep 30-40% of all grant awards to use as it will. I have published my work and my student’s work. I have taken my students to conferences on my own dime. I serve on the editorial board of one journal, on the council of a professional society, and provide peer review for 14 other journals, averaging about 20 manuscript reviews per year.
    None of this is beyond what is expected of me.
    I sit on six departmental committees, two university committees, and serve as the advisor to three student groups.
    This is actually a little less than what is expected of me.
    I will break $60k for the first time next year.
    I know a lot of eminently qualified people—people with intelligence, passion, and energy—who envy my position. Their talent could be bought cheap, ridden hard, and put up wet, and no one would complain. I’d like to think that even if they were as mediocre as I am, they’d still justify their expense.
    The current salary (2011-2012) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.

    So, like, Jesus Christ, already.

    I spent the morning working through a master’s student’s prospectus, and I have a manuscript to finish reviewing this afternoon. And now I better get back to work, even though I have the summer off.

    *The focus is on undergraduate education, but some departments have graduate programs, and all faculty are expected to participate in research.

  148. 148
    left0ver1under

    silomowbray (#4):

    However, the Danes need to get their filthy paws the fuck off of Hans Island, or we’re gonna have to carpet-bomb Copenhagen with poutine. Viking fuckers.

    Careful, you might get your wish.

    http://satwcomic.com/epic-battle

    At least nobody talked about Hans Island during the olympics, unlike a South Korean soccer player who held up a sign about Dokdo/Takeshima.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-19225457

    Like Hans Island, Dokdo/Takeshima has become an issue because of fossil fuel deposits beneath it. But the Japanese and Koreans are a little less pleasant about it and Canada and the Danes.

  149. 149
    Jadehawk

    For someone like me t hat enjoys to learn,read, and write, but can’t attend traditonal school because of career and family issues

    bah. my university offers entire degrees that can be had via online study, and offers plenty of afternoon and evening classes, too. and it’s a state university (and costs me personally nothing to attend, not counting textbooks; in-state tuition is $6600 a year, out-of-state tuition is $16000 a year)

    What, this?

    yes, this. let’s just say i know folks who owe that school money, and haven’t gotten much of value for it.

  150. 150
  151. 151
    rwgate

    Jadehawk @54-

    I have the misfortune of having taught at one of the Art Institute Schools (they’re all over the country) in the photography program. Although they had plenty of equipment, a fair share of it was obsolete, and would not in any way meet industry standards. I left after one quarter, as I felt that it was unnecessary to drag out for a quarter what one could teach in three hours.

    I have a friend who is currently enrolled in the Art Institute of Colorado (formerly the CIA). She is in the photography program, so I went to AIC’s web site to look up the curriculum. Fully 50% of the courses taught there are obsolete. Darkroom work, printing, film processing in B/W. Color printing on obsolete wet printers. All of the classes were mandatory; there were no electives. Included were classes in World History, Spanish, Psychology, all in a photography curriculum. The end result was a 2 or 4 year degree in photography, which qualified you to be a Photographic Assistant.

    Where I live now there are 4 for profit schools. Carrington, Apollo, DeVry, and the University of Phoenix. There are also Art Institutes. I have hired people from these schools, and virtually all of them have been incompetent in their field.

    I had the advantage of attending the Univ. of Washington when it didn’t cost an arm and a leg to go there. Students now attending these Pay to Play colleges are being cheated, and the government is being cheated.

    I think I’m going to go into the education business. No facilities, no classes, just print diplomas for $29.95 and retire rich.

  152. 152
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    Like Hans Island, Dokdo/Takeshima has become an issue because of fossil fuel deposits beneath it. But the Japanese and Koreans are a little less pleasant about it and Canada and the Danes.

    One of the few benefits of AGW is that the rising sea levels will sink a lot of these islands and end a lot of these stupid conflicts.

  153. 153
    ChasCPeterson

    And now I better get back to work, even though I have the summer off.

    this is the thing, right? There’s never ever something I shouldn’t be doing instead.
    don’t care if that makes sense or not

  154. 154
    ChasCPeterson

    Actually that’s backwards. Um. There’s always something I ‘should’ be doing instead. Always.
    (drunk)

  155. 155
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    No facilities, no classes, just print diplomas for $29.95 and retire rich.

    Kent Hovind approves of this tactic.

  156. 156
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Always, Chas.

  157. 157
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    I think I’m going to go into the education business. No facilities, no classes, just print diplomas for $29.95 and retire rich.

    This idea was first proposed sometime in the early 1980s.

  158. 158
    notfromvenus

    Jadehawk -

    I think you’d be surprised. An awful lot of students do go to community college, either expressly for a 2-year program or to get the first half of their bachelor’s degree out of the way for cheap.

    Mine had, IIRC, around 15,000 students. Granted, a lot of them were part-time students with full-time jobs and sometimes kids – but that’s one of the reasons you go to community college, because they specifically accomodate that.

  159. 159
    notfromvenus

    Hmm, HTML fail there. I was trying to quote Jadehawk’s comment:

    So “Bachelor in Anything” simply means “knows a bit more than the basics”, especially since Associate’s Degrees are kinda rare. Most people, when they go to college, go to 4-year-universities, not 2-year-colleges.

    What actually showed up in the quote above was my comment. *embarassed*

  160. 160
    callitrichid

    Wow, talk about depressing. Maybe the pet-sitting business during grad school will end up being my full time job after my post-doc. Dr. Pet-sitter, PhD.

  161. 161
    callitrichid

    ‘doh! …the pet-sitting business I started during grad school…

  162. 162
    riveira

    This is a super late response, but RIP Steakface, if you are still reading…I am a former RS advisor and am now working on my PhD in history, so I may be able to offer some advice to you.

    It’s awesome that you are in RS, but please make sure that you are taking the right classes for the degree you want to pursue at the university. The University of Washington is an amazing school and I would suggest that you consider applying there if you are interested in history because it will be difficult to find a school as good as UW for the price. Keep in mind, however, that UW does not have to accept your CC credits. They usually will if all of your grades are As or Bs. Also, if the classes are in a series (such as Music Theory 1, 2, and 3), they will want you to have taken the full series to accept them toward a degree in that field.

    Talk to your high school counselor about scholarships or people at the universities you are interested in going to. Unfortunately, RS advisors are usually somewhat limited in the information they have about scholarship and funding opportunities because they are the only people at the CC working with high school students and the rest of the college isn’t concerned about scholarships for high school students/students who will be transferring as freshmen (which is what you’ll be doing – you generally have to apply as a freshman and they apply the transfer credit later). Please talk to someone at universities you are interested in about the entire process to avoid any problems.

    And there are a ton of scholarships available. One of my former students ended up with the Gates scholarship and a full ride scholarship to University of Pennsylvania. She was a special case, but I also had a number of students who ended up with full ride scholarships to their universities of choice. You need to look into it as soon as possible though and start planning now.

    As I mentioned above, I am now in graduate school. I started as a Running Start student, had full grants to UW and ended up finishing my bachelor’s degree with zero student loans, so it is totally possible (although not always easy) to get through this without acquiring a ton of debt. I am now funded for a PhD in history, so it seems to have worked out for me. As a side, however, I totally hate grad school and am thinking of getting an MA and getting the hell out. So, think carefully about what you want to do and I seriously advise taking time off between undergrad and grad school to decide if it’s what you really want to do.

    Anyway, good luck.

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