Wednesday, July 09, 2014
The Hidden Injuries of Austerity
Until then, though, there’s a hell of a book waiting to be written...
Meanwhile, we have seen massive state tax breaks to businesses and the wealthy, and we are experiencing budget surpluses as a state.
Add to that, the legislature has capped tuition increases (or else our state aid is further penalized). I am a parent of a college student and I understand and somewhat appreciate attempts to keep tuition from sky rocketing. But I also work in public higher ed, and it seems as though the story of my career has been austerity heaped on austerity.
People who remain have mostly bowed to this as the new normal and effectively "self censor" when it comes to anything at all that could require spending. This is how creativity and new ideas get stifled, too, because nobody wants to stick out their necks, lest they lose their heads in the process.
The largest group of bright new folks entering our organization (where you might expect innovation and creative thinking to emerge) are highly contingent, part time, with no job stability or economic security. They are often working two or three jobs to make ends meet and they cannot contribute in a meaningful way to improving the overall structure of public higher ed because they are too busy simply trying to survive. And they think this is normal.
There is no "fat" remaining, we are past cutting into muscle, and now we just have bones and limbs left to amputate.
And by the way, our enrollments are at a twenty year high, but we don't have the resources to provide our students with the experiences they deserve.
Yes, there were some tight years in the state and national economy in the last decade, but much of this long term austerity is a direct result of the systematic defunding of higher education in my state, and not an issue of excess capacity.
My institution received 73% of its funding from public support in 2000, but now receives less than 25% of its funding from public support.
That comparison highlights the problem, which isn't with state support but with costs.
Using the assumption that college costs go up 7% per year (seems to be common), if the state support stayed the same in real terms (or in percentage of the state budget of of the average state household budget--most state and household budgets have been about flat since 2000) since 2000, it would have gone from 73% to 28% of costs.
Management has to deal with steadily declining budgets, just about everything they want to do costs too much money, and they live in dread of having to lay off still more people, some of who might be close friends. There must be no greater downer than have to call in someone you know, like, and respect and tell them that they have been laid off, throwing them into financial distress, perhaps even ruining their lives.
Employees live in constant fear that they might get hit in the next layoff Are they about to be thrown out on the street to face an utterly miserable job market, one in which the only job they might be able to find is bagging groceries at the neighborhood supermarket?
Everyone fears that they might be on a sinking ship, that they might come in one morning to find that the organization to which they have devoted so may years of their lives has gone out of business and that there are bars on the doors.
Community colleges are facing austerity because states have cut funding. Much of this is driven by recession related decreases in tax revenue, but much is driven by philosophical choices driven by political leadership.
Your assumption is patently false at my college, where the total cost per student has declined since before the Great Recession while tuition has doubled.
Although details differ from the situation described by Anonymous@7:18AM, this started and continued in much the same way as described above. The rebound of the economy and tax revenue to pre-recession levels resulted in further tax cuts rather than any attempt to rescind the major cuts our students have absorbed.
Enforced austerity appears to be the long-term plan for job growth in my state. Maybe they count several adjunct jobs as being better than one full-time one.