But, with state budget cuts making tuition increases necessary in public higher education and with fewer high school graduates overall (and fewer of them enrolling in college), the foundations of the socialist Utopia present on many public institutions of higher education in the United States are showing signs of crumbling. Without a steady, dependable, and (hopefully) increasing stream of tuition revenue and/or students, the system inevitably will implode.
So, since raising tuition beyond the level that students are willing to pay or are willing to go into debt, some comrades on the front lines will have to be sacrificed to avoid the system's implosion.
Take the University of Southern Maine (USM), where enrollment has declined unexpectedly. USM, which has 3 campuses, budgeted for ~6.9k students for fall 2013 and ~6.5k for spring 2014. Fall enrollment was 6.5k; spring enrollment was 5.9k.
Confronted with these numbers, USM administrators did what their peers in any private institution would do: Reduce costs. And, with the largest expense being salaries and benefits, USM administrators decided to cut about 100 positions, including 34 staff members. The administration offered early retirement packages to induce some tenured senior faculty (those who likely are receiving the highest salaries and benefits) to leave. But, those inducements didn't prove good enough.
Of course not! What rational person would give up an income that requires so little personal investment? Their incomes have peaked after many years of "hard" labor and they can now sit back and rest while the junior faculty does all of the "hard" labor. Eventually, the senior faculty will depart the scene and be replaced by the junior faculty who will then have earned their right to sit back and rest--as senior faculty--while their junior faculty perform all of the "hard" labor. It has been ever thus in higher education.
So, given this culture and the senior faculty's resistance to take early retirement, USM academic administrators notified some tenured junior faculty that they'd be losing their jobs. In response, the juniors pressured the seniors to leave in order to spare the younger faculty their jobs.
The problem, according to USM's President Theorora Kalikow, is "less revenue, higher costs and intense competition for fewer students." USM currently has a $14M “structural deficit.” Kalikow notes that by the end of May, 2014, USM will reduce the current number of 310 full-time USM faculty to 280.In an email, Kalikow wrote:
We are at a point where the number of faculty positions needs to
be adjusted so that we can continue to deliver a high-quality
education to a smaller student body.
To no one's surprise, 100 people--students mostly and some faculty--protested the cuts. Some faculty also accused the administration of making "needless" cuts and attempting to pit junior and senior professors in the liberal arts against each other. Other faculty critics argued that the cuts are an attack upon tenure.
USM is part of the University of Maine System which is dealing with the demographic and financial struggles similar to other public systems across the nation. According to Rebecca Wyke, a System Vice Chancellor:
- the system’s budget appropriation is $6M below its 2008 appropriation and could get worse by millions more depending on how lawmakers settle this year’s budget;
- tuition has been frozen for the past two years and will likely be frozen again this coming year; and,
- projections indicate the State of Maine will graduate a 20% fewer high school students by 2020 than in 2010.
Since 2007, the System has eliminated 520 positions, including 10% of the faculty, 25% of the administrators, and about 17% of the hourly employees. By the end of this academic year, the System will terminate and additional 165 faculty and staff members, including the 100 faculty and staff at USM.
The protesters just don't "get it." An institution of higher education can only survive and thrive if it has students and income sufficient to keep it operating at a desired level of performance. Unlike the federal government, those institutions can't print money. Neither can they invent students to fill empty seats in classrooms. Furthermore, most endowments can only provide budgetary assistance. So, when the number of students declines and/or revenue streams dry up, expenses must be cut...faculty being the "big ticket" item.
The tenured socialists also don't "get it." Unfortunately, from their perspective, they unwittingly happened to agree to the order of faculty layoffs at USM. The terms of the System's faculty contract that their union negotiated are simple: Tenured faculty with less seniority will be terminated before those with greater seniority. (Socialists never envision the flow of students or revenue drying up, so they approve terms in contracts that allow for the inclusion of items based upon assumptions they believe never will happen.)
According to Inside Higher Education, one USM tenured associate professor of Sociology, John Baugher, did "get it." Taken aback by the pressure being exerted upon tenured senior liberal arts faculty to retire, he volunteered to leave, hoping to save someone else’s job in the process. But, Baugher also wants USM's President and Provost to take a 15% pay cut, which would fund one professor's job, believing that could inspire other faculty to take voluntary cuts to save other jobs.
Oh sure! How many jobs? Five, seven, ten? There's still 50 faculty jobs that will be cut! Just how long will those who remain behind be willing to fund their colleagues' jobs by sacrificing their pay?
In an email to several colleagues, Baugher wrote that due to the job market, he doesn't know whether he will ever work at a university again. But, he was choosing not to dwell on that because of “what is required of me right now.” He wrote:
We have known for a long time that there is no visionary leadership
at this university, and instead the focus is solely on bean counting.
Well, they have decided that some of the beans have got to go.
It's basic economics: The market always determines the price. But, with the socialist Utopia premised upon the assumption of volume and with the number of "warm bodies" comprising that volume declining as well as the number of those warm bodies who are willing to invest in the product those professors are offering also declining, the foundations of the socialist Utopia that's present on most of the nation's public university and college campuses are showing signs of crumbling.
Yes, the college bubble is stressed and getting closer to bursting.
Let the discussion begin...
To read about the USM story in Inside Higher Education, click on the following link: