Thursday, July 30, 2009


Delete, Delete, Delete

Over the past few years, I’ve received job announcements from headhunters on a fairly regular basis. They aren’t personalized, so I don’t take them as compliments; they’re a function of some mailing list or another. But I usually read them, even if only to get a sense of the market.

This week I’ve received a couple for admin positions at cc’s in California. Deleted, unread.

Out of the question.

It’s not about reluctance to live in California. I’ve lived there before and loved it, and still consider San Francisco one of my favorite cities. (TW is a huge fan of San Diego.) I make the occasional smartass comment about earthquakes or killer bees, but those are basically rooted in jealousy. (I’m not jealous of having earthquakes or killer bees per se, but you get the idea.) Parts of the state are truly nifty.

It’s about reluctance to work in California. I know enough not to climb on board a sinking ship. And I’d bet large sums that I’m not alone in that.

Short-term cuts carry long-term costs. I know that most states have made cuts – my own is no exception – and I have faith that the Great Recession won’t last forever. But the last few months have made it abundantly clear that the state government in California is uniquely incapable of sustaining public higher education.

California has a couple of afflictions that most states don’t. It’s referendum-happy, and it requires a 2/3 vote to pass a budget. That means that much of its budget is predetermined – even if in mutually exclusive ways – and that which isn’t can be held hostage by a rump faction. Compounding that is an indefensibly low (and state-controlled) level of tuition/fees, making it impossible for colleges to grow their way out of trouble. They're prevented from acting on their own behalf, and trapped in a state budget that's fundamentally hostile.

It's one thing to circle the drain because your leader is failing. If you can wait him out, you can get a better leader. It's another thing entirely to circle the drain because every single structural flaw errs in the same direction.

I hope California has a strong internal leadership development system for its community and public colleges. Importing talent, at this point, will be a whole lot harder. And I wouldn't be surprised at all to start seeing a flood of cv's from the left coast when we start hiring again. (That happened several years ago when Colorado passed TABOR, and we suddenly started seeing cv's from Colorado. Given California's size, the effect should be that much stronger.)

In the meantime, I'll just keep deleting what I now consider spam. If the state ever decides to get serious, I'd love to reconsider. But until there's a basic structural change out there, it's not gonna happen. There's dedication, and then there's masochism. No, thanks.

You probably wouldn't like Florida either. Very simliar to Cali. -- FLA CC prof.
"Compounding that is an indefensibly low (and state-controlled) level of tuition/fees, making it impossible for colleges to grow their way out of trouble."

DD, are you trying to say that tuition in fees are too low within the California community college system? I got a niche degree from Mt. San Antonio College back in 2005, and at the time, in-state students were paying $20/credit hour (plus copious amounts of tuition waivers through the "governors scholarship" or something like that. My instate friends told me that they weren't hard to get.) I was an out-of-state student paying north of $100/credit hour. I forget exactly how much.

But anyway, I thought it was great that a lot of immigrant children had access to affordable higher ed. If I'm understanding you correctly, your complaint is that tuition is too low, because adding students costs the system money, not contributing to it? But isn't that true of any in-state student at any public university? I was always under the impression that in-state tuition rates were "subsidized" by the taxpayers, and by definition, weren't covering the marginal cost of the student's attendance.
Wimp! It takes true moxy to survive and thrive in this environment. Besides, no one has cooler movie stars signing their diplomas. I'm hoping that next we elect a female actress - Sigourney Weaver perhaps? If she can kick alien butts surely she can stand up to senate Republicans. Once more into the breach....
A lot of folks don't mind Californians poking *themseleves* in the eyes with sharp sticks . . . it's when they flee their own poisoned cesspool and export their fascism to Arizona, Colorado, etc. that sucks.

Ask a long term New Hampsteran or Maineiac about the Massholes flooding their states on the east coast; it's the same deal.

When the Californicators emigrated to Colorado (and Nevada, and Arizona), they immediately began to work as hard as they could to make the states they fled TO as much of a hell hole as the state they just fled FROM.

So no, I would be ve-e-e-e-ery reluctant to hire a whole bunch of folks who just got done destroying their state, each other, and themselves.

That just makes you an enabler . . . perhaps Dear Leader can work out an emigration arrangement with OhCanada?

(Yeah, that's what will save California . . . more liberal socialism . . . "The remaining task of achieving true liberty is to perfect the human being; the flaws of Communism reside solely in the flaws of humanity, not the flaws of the system.")
YACP, I find your language offensive. Any point you have tried to make is lost due to your profane namecalling.

I moved to California for family reasons before the latest crisis occurred, and I have found wonderful colleagues and students whom I dearly appreciate. The rifts and problems in the state are complex, and you insult me and everyone here by dismissing us with flippant four-letter disdain. I am certain that the residents of Massachusetts would object similarly.

Dean Dad, my apologies for hijacking the thread. Thank you for the thoughtful analysis, and you are, of course, spot on that short term cuts have long term consequences.
Hey, Canada's in a better financial situation than you guys down in the states. Financial regulation pays off, here and there. But we're dealing with cuts, too, though nowhere nearly as drastic as California. Talk about a thankless job -- to come in as an administrator out there in this climate!
Anonymous@7:47AM -

I've learned a lot about college budgets from the problems of the last few years. At our college, the state funds cover the fixed costs like t-t salaries, so the institution and t-t jobs are not at risk unless enrollment drops by a huge factor and impacts our state funds. Enrollment increases, up to a point, more than pay for themselves *IF* tuition is high enough.

The simplest reality check is to take the salary of an adjunct or a regular prof teaching an extra class, add in the relevant fringe costs (matching FICA, at a minimum) and divide by the expected enrollment. Is that amount less than tuition, leaving enough to turn on the lights? If not, an open-admission college like a CC is screwed. You can't turn people away (like they could when it was free to go to the Universities of California) and you lose money every time a new student signs up for a class.
I think you are unfairly characterizing the entire state with one big brush. The CCs in CA seem to be weathering this much better than the Cal State and UC systems.

While not in an administrative position to know the behind the scenes finagling at Cali cc's, This year, partner finally decided to give the CC system a try since his primary skill is teaching (and he is great at it). We choose to look on the west coast. Interestingly enough, the Oregon cc search was canceled. The two CA job searches both resulted in offers that are, quite frankly, amazing... leaps and bounds better than partner or other colleagues from his class have seen over the past 10 years, even after cost of living adjustments. One of the offering schools had absolutely no budget issues in finalizing the position. The other, a little bit, but managed to get about 40% of their TT-track searches finished. So, golden gate bridge, here we come.

All this to say that we have been watching the budget issues at the state, the university and the cc levels very closely. While the cc's are hurting, it is not nearly as bad as the university systems. Frozen pay increases, but no furloughs seem to be the norm. It seems that the cc model, even with $20/credit (which I find refreshingly just) at the cc currently employing husband, must be far less dependent on the business/state tax cycle than other institutions of higher ed. I'll leave it to others to speculate why.

Maybe you ought to be paying better attention to those CA openings!
DRD - from a faculty standpoint things may be fine and dandy - but from an administrative perspective, things have hit the fan, even at the jr. college level. I have spent the last three months wading through the administrative equivalent of putrifying digestive byproducts and will likely spend the next three years doing the same (assuming they don't lay me off - a real possibility). As a state, we put a lot of problems off this year. I don't think next year will be one that inspires a great deal of courage on the part of any of our legislators, being an election year and all - and it is next year that the reserves will be exhausted, there will be no stimulus and everyone will be running around trying to hide the silver so that the dean can't swoop in and sell it on eBay. If you see a bunch of trauma simulation dummies on craig's list - watch out for your nursing program.

Seriously - unless your partner's job comes with tenure, I would rent, not buy. Next year is going to be bad.
Yes, the job comes with an early tenure option at the end of the year and a very strong union. The first job partner had years ago was TT at a small LAC that basically downsized him out within the first year; we've been bouncing around ever since. It taught us to ask a lot of financial questions regarding the institution from people at all levels, within and without the institution. We will be renting because the housing market is still falling as far as I can tell, not because the position is unstable.

Believe me, as a recent ABD in a public policy field from a state bordering CA, I understand the politics and issues plaguing CA specifically. But, frankly, my partner and I worked in academia in 2 other states in the past 12 months. Each of those states are struggling at all levels. Part of the reason the cc faculty position was sought is that all other positions in the other states (including a long term contract lecturing position at a big state school) dried up the past year across the spectrum of higher ed.

I guess that is the rub. Cali, is struggling and they have systemic political issues that make budgets and funding particularly difficult. But I'm a bit tired of everyone in Cali higher ed acting like they are the only ones with financial problems. I'm also tired of others (Dean Dad who I read every day and normally agree with included) propagating the notion. It is not as if higher ed, at least at the CC level, is leaps and bounds worse off than a lot of other states. I'd be hesitant to take ANY job across the country without a good look at the financials of the institution and/or state. I guess that's why I felt obligated to call Dean Dad on the post.

That said, your point about faculty holding well for now is likely valid. As the reserves dry up this year, some serious adjustments will need to be made - many of which are going to be very painful. But, that is the administrator's job in California or otherwise. There is no need to scapegoat an entire state or a socially admirable policy of truly affordable tuition.
Okay, had to do it for giggles. YACP was accused of using four letter words in his offensive tirade. So, I had to go and see what four letter words were used.

Here is what I found:
don't mind eyes with when they flee that

long term east same deal.

When they work hard they make they fled much hell hole they just fled FROM.

ve-e-e-e-ery hire folks just done each other

That just Dear work with

Yeah what will save more task true

I agree his language was inflammatory, and could be perceived as offensive, but then again, most of what everyone is talking about in this discussion is offensive. It's offensive how schools aren't getting the funding the need to operate. It's offensive that governments cannot function because the people (the very ones the government is to serve) get in the way.

I suspect YACP was simply expressing his own outrage at the exportation of the liberal exploitation.
Median household income (2009):

California: $59,948
Colorado: $55,212
Nevada: $55,062
Arizona: $49,889

US Median: $50,740

Not that Colorado, Nevada, or Arizona were doing particularly badly -- all were right around the US median or better -- but I'm pretty sure any of them would happily take a 8-12% bump in median income without complaints.

The thing about Cali is, it worked. That's the thing about liberalism. It makes its practitioners wealthy. It's always conservatism that seems to cost.


(Yeah, yeah, I know, don't insert facts into a discussion about US politics.)
Good point about data, Punditus.

My main observation for DRD is that the $$$ of the job offer has to be compared to the $$$ for housing and the $$$ of the LOCAL (not state) median income.

I alluded to this in my comment about the job offer discussed in the previous post from DD from what sounded to me like PA, where the state median is just above the starting offer being discussed. But the state median could be well above or below the median for the place where you will actually live, and that affects housing costs and the sort of home you can afford to buy.

My other comment to DRD is that a strong union can only dictate the order of layoffs when "exigency" is declared, and California has already made that declaration so it can steal a couple billion from local government. Better find out what those rules are (untenured before any programs get cut, or cuts only by eliminating programs), since the "rob peter to pay paul" approach they used to get thru half of the fiscal year looks like quite a gamble to me.

As for the states neighboring California, I recognize them from this listing of possible 2010 state deficits:

#14, #4, and #1 (while California is #6, and #3 tells you why Palin quit her job)
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