Your daily academic doom-and-gloom

There is no good news to report. View these summary infographics.

Oh, wait, there is some good news of the “screw you, Jack, I got mine” variety: I’m employed in one of those rare tenure-track academic positions. And today I have to start teaching again. I’d better earn my privilege!

Comments

  1. says

    It has been very depressing here in Washington State: since 2006, the Legislature has cut the state budget “to the bone” so often that the marrow has been sucked clean out. I swear, there are 90 year old women with better bone density than the 2012 Washington budget.

    State universities were effectively privatized a few years ago, with the Boards of Regents getting authority to set the tuition at their own colleges with no oversight. Rates for in-state students for 2011 were up 21% over 2010, and increased 13.1% the two years before that. In 2000, an in-state student paid $3,761 per quarter in tuition; that rate is now $10,574 per quarter. Meanwhile, Washington is among the vanguard of states relying on “adjunct” professors — i.e. contract teachers getting minimum wage, no benefits and no contract.

    Then there is that the state Supreme Court has ruled against the Legislative branch — twice already — for violating the state constitution: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” (Article IX, Section 1) The lawsuits, and resulting rulings, held that the Legislature has been underfunding public education to the point where the “ample provision” clause is not being met.

    Meanwhile, the Legislature continues to pass tax exemption after tax exemption, giving fat cuts to the Legislature’s corporate donors while reducing the state’s already severely depleted revenue stream.

    I would move, but even with all this Washington is one of the BETTER states.

  2. Steve LaBonne says

    We’re Murricans. We don’t need none of that stupid edducashiun. It’s just librul brainwashing.

  3. raven says

    The successors to Gibbon are writing another book.

    The Rise and Fall of the American Empire.

    I suppose every generation thinks everything is going to hell in a handbasket. But sometimes everything is doing exactly that.

    Poverty levels are now at 1960′s levels.
    Family incomes are at 1990′s levels and dropping.

    Education and higher education are an investment in a nation’s future, quite literally. Kids grow up while adults grow old and die.

    Guess what we aren’t investing in these days?

  4. tbp1 says

    I’m in the same “screw you, Jack, I got mine” category, and reasonably close to retirement to boot, but I have terrific colleagues and wonderful students I worry about all the time. Not to mention that as a department chair I am doing more with less every year. Can’t go into details, but I just narrowly averted a major staffing crisis because, essentially, I can’t pay people what their time is worth, or should be worth, and I’ve literally got students lined up to take the courses.

  5. The Dancing Monk says

    How will the US compete on the world stage if it stops educating its young? In 30 years it’ll be too late & the glorious American empire will be history

    Or am I too pessimistic?

  6. raven says

    How will the US compete on the world stage if it stops educating its young?

    Don’t worry.

    The young adults can just sneak over the borders illegally and pick fruits and vegetables in Canada and Mexico.

  7. iknklast says

    Once in a while, I can be marginally proud of my state. This is one of them. We’re in the 0 cut category (we haven’t had increases, but at least we’re holding even!)

  8. David Marjanović says

    :-) :-) :-) North Dakota (-: (-: (-:

    And yay for tenure track!

    Then there is that the state Supreme Court has ruled against the Legislative branch — twice already — for violating the state constitution: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” (Article IX, Section 1) The lawsuits, and resulting rulings, held that the Legislature has been underfunding public education to the point where the “ample provision” clause is not being met.

    So there is now no budget at all. Right?

    (I don’t know how it works in Washington; where I come from, when a law is found to be unconstitutional, it ceases to exist.)

    Or am I too pessimistic?

    You are, because Chinese characters are too damn hard.

  9. David Marjanović says

    The young adults can just sneak over the borders illegally and pick fruits and vegetables in Canada

    Yay climate change!

  10. says

    The points about investing in the education of youth are important, but this seriously affects older students as well. I started college full-time a few years ago, already in my thirties after a long time in the military. I attend college in Ohio, one of the states with the largest cuts, though my school still has the lowest tuition in the state right now. But we’re still feeling some budget crunch. Our enrollment is higher than ever, which has meant more tuition revenue, but it also has meant crowded classes, waiting lists, and overworked faculty.

    I’m a bio major, which has seen one of the largest increases in new student enrollment of all departments (mostly pre-med hopefuls). So they have shifted resources to cover more intro level classes, and now the availability of upper level bio classes has suffered. It’s getting harder and harder to put together a full-time class schedule, and it looks very likely that I won’t be able to finish before my GI Bill funding runs out. I’ve already made my family sacrifice in too many ways so I could chase my own goal, now it seems that it’s just going to get worse. This is the stuff that is keeping me awake at night. I’m fearing that I made a huge mistake going back to school.

    I still have a good GPA, but last semester my grades slipped because I have been too stressed to focus. I’m hoping I can pull it together this semester and get back on track, but there isn’t much to feel optimistic about. I thought about taking time away and tried to find work over the summer, but that didn’t turn out too well. See, now that I’ve been out of work for three years I have this ugly gap in my resume. I’ve gambled an awful lot on the hope that I will be able to find a decent job once I have this damned piece of paper.

    I guess one bright spot is something that happened last year. The university was looking into starting an NCAA football program. They asked the student body what we thought, and the idea was pretty soundly rejected. We are a commuter school with a large lower-income and nontraditional student population who wasn’t enthusiastic at seeing potential tuition increases to fund another sport team. Fortunately that idea seems to have been deep-sixed.

  11. dobbshead says

    I don’t like education being cut either, but what should be on the chopping block instead? States are all pulling in less revenue with the recession and the budgets all need to balance. The states can a) raise taxes, b) send in deficit, or c) cut spending. (I’m not aware of any other options, but I’m no expert really. Just thinking out loud).

    My understanding is that states expenditures are limited to a few catagories: infrastructure, education, sewage, etc. All of those are essential services, and any one of them would suck to have on the chopping block.

    Raising taxes also has some limits. You could raise state income taxes, but with falling household incomes I wonder how much you’d have to raise the top rates to cover the gap in most states. (i.e. if you only wanted people making more that $150K/yr to pay more, how much would you need to raise the rates to make no cuts? I don’t know, we should look up a case state budget to get some numbers.) I’d oppose raising sales taxes in general, because they are defacto regressive since small goods make up a larger part of a household budget.

    You could raise sales tax rates on luxury goods, but even then you run into issues: luxury goods are often made and traded by people in lower income brackets. Depressing spending on luxury goods may hurt lower income brackets more. Case study: my wife works retail in a luxury kitchen supply store in the upper east side. The hours she gets are directly proportional to the amount rich people decided to spend in that store. Raising luxury tax rates, i.e. the sales tax on a $500 blender, will at some point limit the number of luxury goods purchased and the store will need to cut retail hours to stay in the black. Sales taxes in general have this effect, I think.

    There are property taxes too. It would be reasonable to raise rates on properties, but you’d have to be careful to not tax people out of their homes.

    There are corporate tax rates, but those are basically sales taxes. They cut straight into the corporate revenue stream, so the corporation either raises prices, reduces payroll (which is the largest cost for pretty much any corporation), or searches for cheaper suppliers like the Chinese. So the effect is the same as a sales tax, which is regressive in that it raises living costs for the poor more. Personally I oppose corporate taxes on revenue and would rather see a higher capital gains tax, which only taxes the corporate profits as opposed to revenue.

    So while I agree that it sucks that services are being cut, at some point what should the state do? Raising taxes in general does in fact stifle the economy, which will hurt state budgets more in the long run. At some point we can only afford to pay for so much.

    I’m going to follow up this comment with an analysis of the New York budget gap, to see how much taxes rates need to change in order to maintain services. It’s not going to be simple, but I’d like some numbers before decrying budget cuts.

    http://www.tax.ny.gov/research/stats/statistics/collect_policy_stat_reports.htm

  12. raven says

    This just crossed my screen. One of countless stories that say the same thing, middle America is declining.

    ..Middle class share of America’s income shrinking
    Study finds middle class endured worst decade since WWII as wages stagnate; many feel squeezed
    By Hope Yen, Associated Press | Associated Press – 1 hour 12 minutes ago……
    ..

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The middle class is receiving less of America’s total income, declining to its smallest share in decades as median wages stagnate in the economic doldrums and wealth concentrates at the top.

    A study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center highlights diminished hopes, too, for the roughly 50 percent of adults defined as middle class, with household incomes ranging from $39,000 to $118,000. The report describes this mid-tier group as suffering its “worst decade in modern history,” having fallen backward in income for the first time since the end of World War II. continues

    There is no doubt that most Americans have been on a downhill slide this decade.

    Bill Clinton left us with a budget surplus, low unemployment, and an economy that wasn’t so bad.

    Then the Bush Catastrophe which Obama has been fixing with some success. Projected to end in 2018 accordintg to the Fed.

    It’s no secret this election will be close. Romney/Ryan will either finish what Bush started, the dismantling of the middle class or lose.

  13. dobbshead says

    “It’s no secret this election will be close. Romney/Ryan will either finish what Bush started, the dismantling of the middle class or lose.”

    And the first step there is dropping the top tax rate from 35% to 25%, because that policy didn’t coincide with increasing income-inequality or anything.

    I often see people make bold claims like “trickledown economics hurt the middle class,” or “High taxes on the rich hurt economic growth,” but these claims have always felt fuzzy to me. They often feel hypothetical, like hypothetically rich people should invest more in their businesses which should lead to more money and prosperity for all. But also rich people will tend to make investments that enrich themselves, leading to concentration of wealth. It’s never been clear to me what economic policies actually help. As skeptics it seems like we should figure out what taxation policies in general lead to a more progressive society.

    We can notice income and wage inequality, or how minorities (particularly African Americans) have a harder time gaining wealth. Government assistance programs are all well and good, but they don’t cut to the heart of the problem: money begets money. So I have a question for the freethinking community: What economic policies give the most people the tools to live higher material quality lives?

    This seems like a really hard problem. Does anybody know a good blogger who focuses on this issue?

  14. cyberCMDR says

    Just remember, the trickle down theory is why the rich refer to middle class Americans as peons.

  15. ronkelly says

    Is the situation for academics this bad in Canada? I completed my Ph. D. in 1999, and was quite disappointed not to be able to do a post-doc. I went directly into a non-academic position, and basically ended my academic aspirations. Today about 13 years later, my salary is in the mid-80s. I don’t know anyone in academia anymore, I just wonder what the prospects would have been for me (in Canada) had I remained in an academic environment. (I did have an opportunity to do FT sessional teaching, which I turned down. Periodically I check my alma mater web site and see individuals who were grad students at the same time as me, they’re still sessionals).

  16. says

    :-) :-) :-) North Dakota (-: (-: (-:

    nothing to celebrate, at least in the long term. that’s just very profligate oil-money spending. And tuition is going up for students, anyway (but this might explain the salaries I linked to in the previous thread on this topic).

  17. says

    now the availability of upper level bio classes has suffered. It’s getting harder and harder to put together a full-time class schedule

    know what you mean. if I see one more “offered in the fall, even years” or equivalent on something that’s a requirement for graduation, I’ll break down crying. how am I supposed to design a schedule with that, especially when these classes also conflict with each other?!

    *whine*

  18. DLC says

    Income disparity has reached levels not seen since the Victorian era.
    I guess it’s not really possible for Adjunct faculty to unionize?

  19. says

    Raising taxes in general does in fact stifle the economy, which will hurt state budgets more in the long run. At some point we can only afford to pay for so much.

    stupid shit is stupid.

    raising taxes in a part of the economy that doesn’t do much in the way of “job creation”, and spending it on another that does stimulates the economy. pretty much self-evidently.

    and given the consumer-based nature of US economy, giving the less-than-productive cash that otherwise would have flown into another non-productive scheme in the financial market, and instead giving it to government employees like professors (or even just handing it to students, who will promptly spend it somewhere in the economy), is a form of economic stimulus

  20. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    What economic policies give the most people the tools to live higher material quality lives?

    Those that create wealth.

    Wealth comes from finding ways to produce more for less money/labor.

    This requires innovation.

    Education fosters innovation. An equitable system of education maximizes the talent pool that innovates.

  21. raven says

    Raising taxes in general does in fact stifle the economy,

    This is so stupid there aren’t even words for how stupid it is.

    A recent study looked at the 15 most well off countries in the world. Most of them were also in the 15 highest taxed countries in the world. If there is any correlation, it is the exact opposite.

    This is just an empirically derived fact.

    Where do you think those taxes go? They get spent paying people and buying stuff. They are recycled.

    High taxes can inhibit an economy. But it is far more complicated than that. Greece, which has low taxes because no one pays them, is probably looking at one or two generations of poverty. Germany, which is bailing them out right now, has a much higher tax rate.

  22. KG says

    In 30 years it’ll be too late & the glorious American empire will be history.

    Or am I too pessimistic?

    – The Dancing Monk

    In one way, yes I think you are. There’s no question that cutting spending on education is stupid, and very damaging in the medium term, but the USA still has enormous advantages over every other state in the world: vast natural resources, a population that is large but not too large compared to those resources (compare with China, Japan, Europe), a unifying language and culture, the world’s premier science and technology base, global power across military, economic, diplomatic and cultural spheres. All this could be fucked up, if the raving right gain firm control, or if the country actually descends into civil war or fragmentation, but even a Romney-Ryan victory would not make such an outcome by any means inevitable, although it would greatly raise its likelihood.

    In another way, no, you’re not being pessimistic enough. If no serious action is taken to mitigate anthropogenic climate change, civilization as a whole will probably be doomed in less than 30 years – although it won’t yet have collapsed even by 2050. For that serious action, a sanely governed USA is essential.

    States are all pulling in less revenue with the recession and the budgets all need to balance. – dobbshead

    Her’s where you make your bloomer – or at least, one of them. No, public sector budgets do not have to balance; indeed, in a recession, they should not balance. That’s exactly the mistake the Eurozone and the UK are making – and as a result, are back in recession. For the USA and other relatively stable economies, interest rates are at historic lows: they should be borrowing large amounts to spend on infrastructure and thus create jobs – and specifically, on infrastructure to reduce energy demand and increase low-carbon energy supply.

  23. julietdefarge says

    My Daughters attending college in one of the brown states. Because tuition costs have jumped so much, she’ll have to work longer to earn the cost of her education and pay off loans, postponing the time when she can consume anything beyond goods needed to survive. I’ll have to work longer too, hanging on to a job that otherwise would be filled by a young person, and in the meantime I’m not even replacing articles that wear out.

  24. fastlane says

    Yeah, having just moved to the PNW, my wife is looking to get into UW for her PhD. The cost is pretty prohibitive, and I make too much to qualify for anything other than loans. We’ll get by, and she’ll probably get some research work to offset the costs, but it is really gonna be pricey to get her through the university here.

    It’s sad, really, when you see this next to the stats for how many big corps are making record profits (and how little taxes they are paying), and look at how much the various school’s athletic programs are being cut (little to none, except for the less popular sports). We have our priorities all fucked up.

  25. zb24601 says

    On another note, it seems that snacking on seed corn had become very popular across the country (but not as much in North Dakota).

  26. dobbshead says

    A recent study looked at the 15 most well off countries in the world. Most of them were also in the 15 highest taxed countries in the world. If there is any correlation, it is the exact opposite.

    So why does the CBO calculate increase government borrowing and taxes as a projected decrease in GDP growth? [1] Notice that I said an increasing tax burden has the general result of depressing private investment (i.e. stifling growth), that doesn’t mean that specific spending initiatives can’t have the opposite effect. I’d expect if all government spending on infrastructure were to cease, for example, we’d see an overall drop in GDP even though the tax burden were lowered.

    I think this is an example of cognitive bias here. I said something that experts in the field tend to agree with, and the knee-jerk reaction is that I said something stupid because it happened to align with fiscally conservative ideology (I might be projecting here). And also notice that this knee jerk reaction occurred despite the fact that I’m not a fiscal conservative: I want a progressive tax structure and support relatively high top income tax rates and a higher capital gains tax. I’m just pointing out that there are limits to how much tax revenues can raised without stifling private investment or screwing over everybody.

    I’m still reading through the New York tax revenues to figure out much taxes would need to be raised to prevent the CUNY/SUNY tuition hikes. It’s… complicated.

  27. KG says

    So why does the CBO calculate increase government borrowing and taxes as a projected decrease in GDP growth? dobbshead

    Do you assume that whatever the CBO says is necessarily true? If so, why?

    I’m just pointing out that there are limits to how much tax revenues can raised without stifling private investment or screwing over everybody.

    Which tells us precisely nothing useful if we don’t know where those limits are.

  28. dobbshead says

    I assume that the CBO have good reasons to make the assumptions they do. They claim (in citation) that historic economic trends show that decreasing government borrowing and tax burden have been correlated with increased GDP growth within the limits of US spending history. I have no reason to doubt this claim. Do you?

    If you look through the publically available data, US economic growth is generally time averaged and the US spending doesn’t fluctuate too wildly. That is, in the historic record, changes in spending are small perturbations. The CBO can’t project changes outside this small perturbation regime (and they even say that).

    The point in the OP is that cuts to higher education are bad-news-bears. So the obvious response is to try and figure out what should be done instead to avoid education cuts. I don’t have the answer, and it looks like an answer is hard to extract.

  29. says

    On another note, it seems that snacking on seed corn had become very popular across the country (but not as much in North Dakota).

    in ND too. what you’re seeing is not some sort of heroic love for learning and research; it’s being awash in oil-money. once that goes away, the funding for universities will, too. Probably as one of the first things.

  30. says

    How about before we argue whether tax increases will cause a drop in GDP and therefore revenues for things like education, we recognize that cutting taxes has not had the opposite effect. Expansive tax cut after tax cut over the last ~15 years has decreased revenues while failing to increase the tax base in any meaningful way.

    This is one of the root causes of the shortfalls in Ohio that are affecting our education system. When the massive budget cuts were coming online our governor steadfastly refused to even contemplate repealing massive tax cuts as well, making sure the problem was worse than it could have been.

    The message, as ever, is we at the top got ours, screw the rest of you. The analogy of the successful pulling the ladder up behind them seems appropriate.

  31. dobbshead says

    No, public sector budgets do not have to balance; indeed, in a recession, they should not balance.

    This is one of the things I’m trying to figure out. The fed can drop interest rates, which is supposed to make money easier to access and spur private investment and the downside is an increase in inflation, which results in depreciation of private securities and monetary devices. I think functionally you can model this as a flat tax on money which is then given to banks and others. Does that make sense? If this way of thinking about it is accurate (which I’m not confident of), then low interest rates have a generally regressive effect of hurting the buying power of the poor more than the rich. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t work though.

    Over the long term government budgets do need to balance, or more precisely marginal deficit spending can’t exceed inflation on average. Right now the most states are running pretty large deficits, if they keep on that path they’ll default and loose the ability to borrow later.

  32. carlie says

    My college’s budget has been cut 35% over the last four years. We’re waiting to see whether this year’s cut is another 5% or 10%.

  33. vltava says

    That’s the trouble with Pharyngula – you think you have a good comment to make, and some bright individual already posted it. In the #1 spot.

    Not that I actually live in North Dakota. But maybe I should.

  34. John Phillips, FCD says

    dobbshead, at the moment, interest rates on bonds are so low and still the organisations with money are practically begging the governments they consider solvent and safe, e.g. US, UK, Germany to please, please, pretty please, take our money and give us almost zero rate bonds in return. With such very low interest rates you can afford to fund all kinds of significant infrastructure improvement without having to worry about the servicing costs of those loans for quite some time into the future. By which time the economy, with the help of that infrastructure spending, which is stimulative in its own right, should have grown back to health and you can afford the cost of servicing the loans without problem. Read Paul Krugman, among others. This is why most sane economists were saying that TARP should have been at least 50% bigger than it was, if not double.

  35. notfromvenus says

    Speaking of higher education, whoever drew that map could use some. Looks like they think that West Virginia and Maryland are one state, and I know for sure that New Jersey isn’t square and California isn’t that small.

  36. meursalt says

    @39

    Yeah, it was news to me that Alabama’s border with Georgia curves inward, not outward. Actually wait, according to this map I actually live in Georgia! I’ve been wrong all these years. Now I’m not even sure which particular variety of redneck I am!

    Srsly, this is indeed one of the worse cutesy infographic maps I’ve seen in a long time.