Sunday, January 11, 2015
Following Up on Free Community College
FInally, I have to tip my cap to Sara Goldrick-Rab and Nancy Kendall, whose F2CO proposal apparently had a major influence on the proposal. Whether the idea passes in its current form or not, I’m excited to finally see the discussion shift in a positive direction. This is the kind of debate we ought to be having.
I agree that the 4-years needing to demonstrate their relative value to compete for students is a good thing. But a concern that I have is that those entering freshmen, for better or for worse, are often the bread and butter that keep these schools going.
If students end up being siphoned off, then I see departments at the 4-years shrinking substantially over time. This means fewer jobs that have any research component in them, and not everyone goes into graduate school because they want to teach. Obviously, the 4-yrs are moving toward a lot of adjuncts anyway, but imagine if their student base dropped substantially virtually overnight.
The decrease in these positions could also lead to a decrease in the amount of original research done as universities hire fewer TT people and increase teaching loads. (On the upside, I suppose maybe there'd be fewer people competing for NSF/NIH/NEA and funding rates might go up?).
I don't mean all doom and gloom. I think free college is a fantastic idea. I just wonder what would happen at the 4-years that we're not considering.
A few decades ago, I was chatting with a newly minted history professor, who told me of a couple who, upon finishing their medical and grad school studies, declared bankruptcy and shed their entire student loan debt. She seemed to think their strategy was brilliant.
"If that becomes routine," I said, "no one will ever lend money to students again."
"Oh. Right." she said.
Making student loan debt non-dischargeable was preferred to eliminating students loans altogether, which were the only two sustainable choices.
For an argument that Republicans should jump on Obama's proposal, including some possible unintended consequences, see this:
Very nice analysis, DD.
Oddly, that was a temporary effect, although the Great Recession had an impact. By 2010, the first-time admits who actually showed up were at an all-time high, and the campus went over 6,000 students (abut 4,200 FTEs) for the first time ever.
But the immediate effect was huge, especially in departments (math & English) which depended on a lot of developmental course work to keep their faculty fully employed...a lot of part-timers lost their jobs, and even a few f-t lecturer positions went away for a few years.
The issue is that student loan debt should be dischargeable under certain circumstances -- if you're formally found disabled by SS, for example. Then you can't use the education you just spent all that money to acquire.
In general, of course, the issue with student loans is simply their massiveness. The other problems, such as the stupidity of running through banks instead of directly, are extant, but the sheer scale of the issue is such that it is the primary concern.
There has been a long history of smaller "directional state" or "university of ... AT city" schools having the goal of becoming large research universities, right down to the major football program. I even know of one that started as a 2-year "normal" college and was exclusively a college of education into the 1950s; it is now a research university that is well on its way to having a medical school.
That is the reason you find "4 year" universities that dream of the same, seeking a way to cut teaching effort and increase research effort until they can get the external funds to keep the enterprise going. And, yes, this proposal could hurt them.
It won't hurt the universities with the sort of amenities alluded to in the hysterical screed written by The Hater (in the article cited by Edmund Dantes). They will still draw plenty of freshmen who want to go to football games. They will do just fine.
And so will community college faculty, who already often make more than the poor folks doing both a high load of teaching and publish or perish research at Middling State. More money goes to teaching when you don't have to feed the bureaucrats needed to run research projects.
Not everyone got in — you had to pass your A-levels, in a time when most took O-levels.
You could get a decent job (even in still-rationed Britain) without a degree.
The point of my comment is the economic logic behind treating student loan debt differently from other debts in bankruptcy.