Thursday, August 30, 2012

Campaign for Single-Payer Building Up Steam in Oregon

The Lund Report

Inspired by Vermont's success in establishing a state-run program, Health Care for All Oregon to start a grass roots public outreach campaign
By:Christen McCurdy
August 30, 2012 -- The effort to establish a single-payer system in Oregon isn't dead. A group called Health Care for All Oregon has existed in Oregon for about 20 years, but its corporate identity was
passed on to a newly formed group this January, said Dr. Mike Huntington, a Corvallis oncologist who serves as the organization's chair. So far the group includes a board and a coalition of 53 groups – including healthcare organizations, community groups and labor organizations – devoted to educating the public and eventually attempting to pass legislation guaranteeing healthcare for all of Oregon's citizens.
Huntington said the renewed campaign has taken inspiration from what organizers in Vermont were able to accomplish. Single payer bills were introduced in Vermont for more than 25 years, but were
unable to get legislative approval until a widespread public education campaign around the theme of health care as a human right raised enough public interest that voters put pressure on legislators to pass the bill.
“It takes more than just very good, logical, irrefutable arguments,” Huntington said. Right now, the group is focused on talking to coalition members and in the coming months will provide training and public outreach events to discuss its public education campaign, which will still emphasize healthcare as being a human right – but also differentiate the proposed reforms from those that have already been passed at the state and federal level.
“Our focus is, first of all, educating, informing the population about the need for universal access and a good quality healthcare system, in addition to the state and federal legislation that has already been passed or is in the process of being implemented,” Huntington said. “Even with the best possible system there will be huge problems or huge deficits.”
Huntington said the Oregon Health Plan was originally designed with some tools similar to those used in countries with single-payer care systems, including a list of procedures that should be prioritized for coverage, with immunizations and other preventive treatments taking highest priority. That reform was hamstrung because officials intended to fine-tune the list every year based partly on public input, which violates a clause in the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prevents the state from discontinuing coverage for services it has covered in the past.
“There were a number of reasons it was shackled, really, that had little to do with how well it was designed,” Huntington said.
Part of the success of the campaign message is that it's simple, Huntington said, adding that proponents of healthcare reform have to become more comfortable speaking in sound bites. Even so, he added his own qualifier to the message:
“I would qualify that 'healthcare is a human right,' it doesn't mean you get an MRI if you have had back pain for two weeks,” Huntington said. “It means you get the healthcare you need, when you need it.”
“Conservative critics would respond, Healthcare is not a human right,” said Portland anesthesiologist Dr. Samuel Metz, who’s involved with coalition but clarified that he was speaking on his own behalf to The Lund Report. “Here's where I'm in the minority: I believe we can be more successful if we point out that providing healthcare is not a goal, it's a tool.”
Even if people are ideologically opposed to the idea of providing healthcare for others, pointing out that they're already paying for care for the uninsured – in the form of higher insurance premiums and higher costs for services – can help persuade them that providing insurance upfront will help control those costs.
In 2011, House Bill 3510 – which was introduced by Rep. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) proposed single-payer healthcare in Oregon – failed, but went further than sponsors expected. Part of the problem, Metz said, was that the bill's sponsors were mostly Multnomah County Democrats, but some Republicans showed interest in its potential to control costs: he estimated that 40 percent of the cost of healthcare is administration. Metz also noted that CEOs of three major Oregon insurers – Providence, Kaiser and Legacy – have been quoted on record as favoring single-payer healthcare, even while lobbyists for the insurance industry fought it.
“These are all fairly insightful people, and they're not speaking for the industry,” said Metz, adding that the Canadian healthcare system actually started with one province – Saskatchewan – creating a single- payer system, with several others following suit until the country decided to nationalize the program.
“We're the only country that lets 44,000 people die each year because they don't have insurance. We think it's normal in the United States that if your insurance won't pay, you have raise $150,000 at a bake sale. We think that's normal,” Metz said. “It doesn't have to be this way.”

Sunday, August 26, 2012

SOU president gets pay raise


SOU President Cullinan gets pay increase

ASHLAND, Ore. (AP) — Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan's contract has been renewed for another two years and she got a raise that will boost her annual pay to $205,000.
The Ashland Daily Tidings reports ( ) that the State Board of Higher Education approved the increase earlier this month.
Cullinan's salary is now fifth-highest of the seven presidents in the Oregon University System.
Cullinan has been at SOU for six years, making her the second-longest serving president in the system

New UO president gets choice of mansions

At a time when student tuition is skyrocketing and faculty salaries do not keep pace with market, isn't it time to re-evaluate this Presidential PERK at all the Universities?

Read it at Register Guard
Published: August 11, 2012 12:00AM, Midnight, Aug. 11
At the end of his first full week on the job, University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson spoke in general terms about his new home and job from the front steps of Johnson Hall, the university’s 97-year-old administrative building.
He said the Eugene weather is wonderful, the campus is like an arboretum, the presidential residence is lovely and UO alumni are doing well in the Olympics.
“What a great week to be a Duck,” he said at a press conference Friday.
Gottfredson said he’s still moving his belongings up from the University of California, Irvine, where he worked for a dozen years before he was hired, seven weeks ago, to be the top Duck.
“My wife, Karol, and I are here, and some of our clothes. We’re moving up everything else in the fullness of time,” the new president told a pair of television reporters, a pair of newspaper reporters and a radio reporter.
Gottfredson’s contract with the Oregon University System allows him to negotiate which of the two state-owned residences in Eugene he wants to inhabit, McMorran House or Treetops.
McMorran House, at 2315 McMorran Ave., is the 1924 Tudor-style abode where recent presidents Richard Lariviere and Dave Frohnmayer lived. The 9,800-square-foot property features a sun room, a large stone deck and extensive gardens.
Treetops, at 2237 Spring Blvd., is an 8,111-square-foot, 1911 mansion in the Fairmount neighborhood. The merchant that donated Treetops to the university system in 1938 specified that either the state system’s chancellor or the UO president has to live in the house.
But Chancellor George Pernsteiner owns a home in Portland and is available to live at Treetops only part time. Consequently, it costs the state upwards of $50,000 annually to keep up a part time residence.
The Gottfredsons, at this point, are moving into McMorran House. “We’re delighted to be in McMorran House,” Michael Gottfredson said. “It’s a wonderful place.”
But the concept of the UO president living at Treetops, which would free Pernsteiner to live wherever he chose without violating the covenant, has not gone by the wayside.
“We’re having some conversations about that,” Gottfredson said.
McMorran House underwent a $450,000 renovation, which included ripping up older, light-colored carpeting and exposing the original hard wood floors.
Gottfredson’s salary is $36,667 a month, according to his contract with OUS. He’ll get an additional $91,670 in deferred compensation for the nine-month school year. His car allowance is $1,200 a month.
Karol Gottfredson was the coordinator of the Intern Teacher Credential Program at Irvine, but she has not so far taken a job in Lane County.
“She’s not working for pay outside the home,” Gottfredson said.
In addition to his presidency, Gottfredson will seek tenure in the UO sociology department, where he can remain when he leaves the UO presidency, at either his base salary as president or that of the highest paid member of the instructional faculty, whichever is greater, according to his contact.
At Irvine, where he was provost, he also was a professor of criminology, law and society in the School of Social Ecology.
Gottfredson said he’ll spend the rest of the summer exploring the campus, meeting with deans and faculty and learning the issues.
Big-time UO donors, such as Nike founder Phil Knight, for instance, want to see the university shake off the shackles of the state system of higher education and establish a new, independent board to govern the university.
“I want to have lots of consultations about that,” Gottfredson said. “I’m working on it. Absolutely. Of course.”
Gottfredson said he is “very concerned” about keeping a lid on tuition, but he didn’t have time to explain how he would go about it.
“Really what we stand for is access to the citizens of the state,” he said, later adding, “We’re very concerned about the cost of attendance. Very concerned. Access, and affordability, is one of our key issues.”
In the future, Gottfredson said, his presidential press conferences will be more substantive — and not like White House press briefings, where reporters are reduced to hollering their urgent questions at the president.
“I look forward to meeting with all of you on a regular basis, and you won’t need to shout your questions,” Gottfredson told the assembly. “I may shout a few answers, but you won’t need to shout questions.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

PERS employer contribution rates set to increase substantially for 2013-15

The PERS board meets next Tuesday where they’ll be receiving the report from the actuary on 2013-2015 contributions.  There is no good news in this report.  In sum, rates on a system-wide average are going to go up about 5% and apparently there is still an additional 2% which has not been recognized under normal collaring methodology.  In other words, if returns for the next two years are precisely 8% we would see an additional increase for 2015-2017 of about 2%, otherwise we will see increases similar to those projected for 2013-15. Here is a segment of the PERS Valuation Results that is driving the increase.  Notice the system-wide increase on page two to 21.4%. This is huge. We expect this is going to cause a media frenzy, public employers to call for changes, and a fresh crop of legislative action to rein in these costs. Needless to say, this is going to have a significant impact on public employee bargaining for the next biennium.

This is still all about the 2008 disastrous investment returns. If anyone wants to delve more deeply into the projections, go to the PERS website

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Adjunct Working Conditions affects Student Learning, Report says

The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Colleges that want to set the stage for their students to succeed should stop hiring adjunct professors at the last minute and then denying those instructors access to the technology and resources they need to teach effectively, a new report suggests.
"The 'just in time' staffing model is unjust for faculty and for students and clearly compromises education quality," says the 26-page policy report from the Center for the Future of Higher Education, a virtual think tank of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education. (The center plans to post the report on its Web site on Thursday.)
Contingent faculty members who are hired just before the start of an academic term can opt to prepare for their classes while they're not on the payroll or resign themselves to teach courses for which they're not adequately prepared, the report says. Add a lack of access to personal office space, computers, library resources, and curriculum guidelines, among other things, and "the education experience of students suffers, both inside and outside of the classroom," it says.
The report is based on the findings of an online survey of 500 contingent faculty members conducted last fall by the New Faculty Majority Foundation, the research arm of the advocacy group New Faculty Majority.
"Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions, but we realize that people don't get that connection," said Maria Maisto, who is president of the New Faculty Majority and a co-author of the report. "We wanted to take faculty working conditions and really connect them to student learning. We need to really explain how those conditions shortchange students."

3-Day Notice

The report takes its title, "Who Is Professor 'Staff,'" from the generic way adjunct professors are listed on course schedules. Its subtitle continues, "And How Can This Person Teach So Many Classes?"—a refrain the report says reflects the confusion students feel while looking at their class schedules.
Ms. Maisto is one of two well-known contingent faculty members who are among the report's authors. The other is Steve M. Street, a longtime creative-writing and literature instructor who died of cancer last week. The report is dedicated to Mr. Street.
Esther S. Merves, director of research and special programs for the New Faculty Majority Foundation and an adjunct at George Washington University, and Gary D. Rhoades, director of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, are also co-authors.
The survey described in the report asked contingent faculty members about hiring procedures and working conditions. Roughly three-fourths of the 500 respondents teach part time.
Asked about the courses for which they got the most lead time, 17 percent of the respondents said they had received less than two weeks' notice between being hired and the start of the class, while 18 percent said they had received between two and three weeks' notice. Asked about appointments for which they had the least lead time, 38 percent had less than two weeks' notice, and 25 percent had between two and three weeks' notice.
For some, it was far less: "I teach several classes online as well and those classes typically give me about a three-day notice," said one survey respondent quoted in the report.
The report also paints a bleak picture of adjunct faculty members' ability to tap instructional resources. In describing appointments that gave them the most access, 34 percent said they didn't receive sample syllabi until less than two weeks before classes started and 21 percent never got access to office space. In the worst-case settings, the report says, 41 percent of respondents had no access to a campus phone.
Ms. Maisto said adjunct faculty members often bear the financial costs related to lack of access, and the survey showed that they work hard to shield their students from any ill effects that might stem from their professors' work conditions.

Working Temporarily, for Decades

The New Faculty Majority Foundation wants administrators and others to use its survey tool to collect data that will "make transparent" the hiring and employment practices of contingent faculty.
The report also sharply questions whether administrators really need the flexibility they say hiring adjunct faculty provides them with. "How can you call someone temporary when they've been working at the same institution for decades?" Ms. Maisto said. "It's really time to unpack that and be honest. Let's talk about what kind of flexibility is really necessary."
The report is the most recent in a stream of research that has provided an inside glimpse into the problems that plague contingent faculty. In June the Coalition on the Academic Workforce released an extensive study of non-tenure-track faculty members, and last month a document from the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success detailed a year's worth of conversations among stakeholders from all segments of academe about the shift in the academic work force to contingent faculty, who now make up about 70 percent of all instructors on college campuses.
Among other things, the Delphi Project's report highlighted the lack of data related to the effects of that shift and offered some strategies to paint a more accurate picture of the professoriate.
Ms. Maisto said the New Faculty Majority Foundation plans to explore related issues in future papers, such as why adjuncts continue to do the work they do even though their work conditions make it difficult for them to do their best. Another area of interest: Under what circumstances do adjuncts share with students the inequities they face on the job, and what are the implications of doing so?
Correction (8/23/2012, 10:15 a.m.): The original version of this article misspelled the first name of a New Faculty Majority Foundation official and omitted mention of her teaching position. She is Esther S. Merves, not Ester, and she is also an adjunct instructor at George Washington University. The article has been updated to reflect this correction.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Mindset List: 2016 List: what this year's freshman class knows

See original article at The Mindset List: 2016 List

The Mindset List for the Class of 2016
For this generation of entering college students, born in 1994, Kurt Cobain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Nixon and John Wayne Gacy have always been dead.

  1. They should keep their eyes open for Justin Bieber or Dakota Fanning at freshman orientation.

  2. They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.”

  3. The Biblical sources of terms such as “Forbidden Fruit,” “The writing on the wall,” “Good Samaritan,” and “The Promised Land” are unknown to most of them.

  4. Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes “American Royalty.”

  5. If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube. 

  6. Their lives have been measured in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds.

  7. Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker's long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.

  8. Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.

  9. They have never seen an airplane “ticket.”

  10. On TV and in films, the ditzy dumb blonde female generally has been replaced by a couple of Dumb and Dumber males.

  11. The paradox "too big to fail" has been, for their generation, what "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" was for their grandparents'.

  12. For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.

  13. They can’t picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it.

  14. There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles.

  15. Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all.

  16. Since they've been born, the United States has measured progress by a 2 percent jump in unemployment and a 16 cent rise in the price of a first class postage stamp.

  17. Benjamin Braddock, having given up both a career in plastics and a relationship with Mrs. Robinson, could be their grandfather.

  18. Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.

  19. The Green Bay Packers have always celebrated with the Lambeau Leap.

  20. Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.

  21. A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.

  22. The Real World has always stopped being polite and started getting real on MTV.

  23. Women have always piloted war planes and space shuttles.

  24. White House security has never felt it necessary to wear rubber gloves when gay groups have visited.

  25. They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous.

  26. Having made the acquaintance of Furby at an early age, they have expected their toy friends to do ever more unpredictable things.

  27. Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for “save,” a telephone for “phone,” and a snail mail envelope for “mail” have oddly decorated their tablets and smart phone screens.

  28. Star Wars has always been just a film, not a defense strategy.

  29. They have had to incessantly remind their parents not to refer to their CDs and DVDs as “tapes.”

  30. There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones.’

  31. Along with online viewbooks, parents have always been able to check the crime stats for the colleges their kids have selected.

  32. Newt Gingrich has always been a key figure in politics, trying to change the way America thinks about everything.

  33. They have come to political consciousness during a time of increasing doubts about America’s future.

  34. Billy Graham is as familiar to them as Otto Graham was to their parents.

  35. Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends. 

  36. Stephen Breyer has always been an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

  37. Martin Lawrence has always been banned from hosting Saturday Night Live.

  38. Slavery has always been unconstitutional in Mississippi, and Southern Baptists have always been apologizing for supporting it in the first place.

  39. The Metropolitan Opera House in New York has always translated operas on seatback screens.

  40. A bit of the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, has always existed in space.

  41. Good music programmers are rock stars to the women of this generation, just as guitar players were for their mothers.

  42. Gene therapy has always been an available treatment.

  43. They were too young to enjoy the 1994 World Series, but then no one else got to enjoy it either.

  44. The folks have always been able to grab an Aleve when the kids started giving them a migraine.

  45. While the iconic TV series for their older siblings was the sci-fi show Lost, for them it’s Breaking Bad, a gritty crime story motivated by desperate economic circumstances.

  46. Simba has always had trouble waiting to be King.

  47. Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book.

  48. They grew up, somehow, without the benefits of Romper Room.

  49. There has always been a World Trade Organization.

  50. L.L. Bean hunting shoes have always been known as just plain Bean Boots.

  51. They have always been able to see Starz on Direct TV.

  52. Ice skating competitions have always been jumping matches.

  53. There has always been a Santa Clause.

  54. NBC has never shown A Wonderful Life more than twice during the holidays.

  55. Mr. Burns has replaced J.R.Ewing as the most shot-at man on American television.

  56. They have always enjoyed school and summer camp memories with a digital yearbook.

  57. Herr Schindler has always had a List; Mr. Spielberg has always had an Oscar.

  58. Selena's fans have always been in mourning.

  59. They know many established film stars by their voices on computer-animated blockbusters.

  60. History has always had its own channel.

  61. Thousands have always been gathering for “million-man” demonstrations in Washington, D.C.

  62. Television and film dramas have always risked being pulled because the story line was too close to the headlines from which they were ”ripped.”

  63. TheTwilight Zone involves vampires, not Rod Serling.

  64. Robert Osborne has always been introducing Hollywood history on TCM.

  65. Little Caesar has always been proclaiming “Pizza Pizza.”

  66. They have no recollection of when Arianna Huffington was a conservative.

  67. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has always been officially recognized with clinical guidelines.

  68. They watch television everywhere but on a television.

  69. Pulp Fiction’s meal of a "Royale with Cheese" and an “Amos and Andy milkshake” has little or no resonance with them.

  70. Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium.

  71. Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes.

  72. Astronauts have always spent well over a year in a single space flight.

  73. Lou Gehrig's record for most consecutive baseball games played has never stood in their lifetimes.

  74. Genomes of living things have always been sequenced.

  75. The Sistine Chapel ceiling has always been brighter and cleaner.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Financial Stress impacts students performance. A new paradigm

In a new report release by the Chronicle of Higher Education, researchers at Inceptia have found that today's students are different than students in the past. They have a higher level of stress about finances; they face significant financial challenges to stay in school; and most are working while in school. Read

Financial Stress: An Everyday Reality For College Students."

Student Debtors Might Not Get Mortgages

Inside Higher Ed
August 16, 2012 - 3:00am
People with student loans to repay, on average, might not qualify for mortgages because they have too much debt, according to a report  the advocacy group Young Invincibles released Tuesday. The group said that the average single debtor, with consumer debt, student loans and a mortgage, would have a debt-to-income ratio of nearly 50 percent -- too high to qualify for many mortgages. The report, which used average credit card payment minimums, average student loan payments and a range of household incomes, found that student debtors making the median salary for college graduates could have trouble getting a mortgage.
"At least for a time, they can be completely cut out of the market," the group wrote, warning of the economic consequences of such a barrier.

Foreign Scientists and U.S. Policy Makers Seek Ways Around Visa Stalemate

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Foreign Scientists and U.S. Policy Makers Seek Ways Around Visa Stalemate 1
Andy Manis for The Chronicle
Ankit Agarwal (left) and a fellow researcher work in a lab at the U. of Wisconsin at Madison, where as a graduate student Mr. Agarwal helped develop an infection-resistant type of artificial skin. He now leads a company that produces the material.
While Ankit Agarwal was a chemical-engineering postdoc at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he came up with an idea that could save thousands of lives.
An expert in nanotechnology, Mr. Agarwal helped devise a way of embedding tiny amounts of silver, a known antibacterial agent, into skin grafts. That, he says, could prevent most of the 100,000 deaths each year in the United States attributed to infections of the grafts, which are used on patients recovering from burns, ulcers, or surgeries.
Yet Mr. Agarwal faced one big obstacle to saving all those lives: He is a native of India, so staying in the United States and starting a company that could make his new style of graft probably meant waiting several years while working for another U.S. company that would sponsor his visa application.
"That," he said, calculating the various minimum time commitments involved, "would have put my start-up idea on hold for four years." With so many lives at stake, it was a wait that Mr. Agarwal wasn't willing to accept.
The dilemma Mr. Agarwal faced was not unique. Every year some 40,000 foreign students earn a master's or doctoral degree in science, mathematics, and engineering fields from U.S. universities. Some, including Mr. Agarwal, figure out creative ways to stay. But surveys show thousands more might be interested in staying in the United States if allowed by immigration law.
Many of those graduates can in fact remain in the United States, at least for a little while. Under current law, science and engineering students are allowed to stay in the country for up to 29 months after graduation if they are working. And those with jobs can then apply for one of a limited number of employment-based visas—a category in which the annual demand regularly outstrips the supply.
But, as Mr. Agarwal learned, the odds are even slimmer for those foreign graduates who want to stay and start their own companies. There's no specific visa category for budding entrepreneurs, and there are few options for foreigners wanting to stay in the country while self-employed.
"It is clear that we don't make it easy" on foreign entrepreneurs, said Jean-Lou Chameau, president of the California Institute of Technology. Mr. Chameau is among 90 university presidents who in June signed a letter to the White House and Congressional leaders describing the severe economic costs of expelling such highly skilled scientists.
The presidents cited a new study showing that foreign-born inventors were credited as contributors to more than 75 percent of the patents issued last year to the nation's top 10 patent-producing universities. The study was produced by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan group of mayors and business leaders seeking changes in immigration law.
The patent data is "irrefutable proof of the important role immigrants play in American innovation," the university presidents wrote in their letter.

65,000 temporary visas

The traditional focus of such lobbying efforts has been the H-1B program. A primary tool of the U.S. high-tech industry, it allows 65,000 temporary visas a year for companies to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. Even with that many visas, all those slots were taken this year within just 10 weeks.
The H-1B program is limited by Congress in large part because of fears that its beneficiaries are taking jobs from Americans. Advocates reject such objections, citing numbers that show that the United States has too few qualified workers for the number of high-tech job vacancies. A Georgetown University analysis projects that the country will face a shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree science and technology workers by 2018.
And the United States will increasingly need foreigners to help fill that shortfall, especially as cash-strapped U.S. universities fill their classrooms with foreign-born students who can afford tuition. The latest annual report by the Institute of International Education showed the number of foreign-born students at U.S. colleges increased 5 percent for the 2010-11 academic year, marking the fifth straight year of growth.
Now Mr. Chameau and other university leaders are part of a wider effort to move beyond the arguments over the H-1B visa by putting more attention on the specific need to keep foreign entrepreneurs with the skills to start companies and create even more jobs.
So far, the options for foreign science graduates who want to start a company in the United States are few.
For a self-employed foreigner, the main U.S. visa categories are "O-1," for a temporary stay, and "EB-1," for the path toward a green card and permanent residency. Both are broadly defined categories, designed for foreigners deemed to have an "extraordinary ability" in a particular field. That's doesn't necessarily mean an entrepreneur, and the eligible fields are far beyond just the sciences, extending to the arts, business, athletics, and entertainment.
And the allocation of such visas is well below even the limited H-1B numbers, with about 12,000 O-1s and 25,000 EB-1s issued last year. U.S. immigration law does have an even smaller visa category specifically designed for "entrepreneurs," though the term in this case is generally understood to mean wealthy investors, each of whom must put at least $500,000 into a job-creating project.

A Success Story

Out of desperation, Mr. Agarwal applied for a visa in the EB-1 category. He said he asked several immigration law firms for help, and was repeatedly told that the odds were so low their lawyers didn't want to risk their reputations by trying. He finally did find one lawyer, John J. Gallini in the Boston area, who agreed to try, having had luck with science graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Mr. Gallini succeeded, winning Mr. Agarwal the visa and then a green card in June 2011. Even Mr. Agarwal admits, however, that his success was an anomaly, due largely to his determination in the face of a system set up largely to reject him.
For scientists seeking an EB-1 visa, the law sets an expectation that seems designed to rule out even the most accomplished young entrepreneurs, suggesting that the qualifications of applicants be measured by existing career accomplishments such as a Nobel Prize.
Judged by potential, Mr. Agarwal presents a more compelling case. He moved to the United States in 2002 to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Iowa State University. He completed the degree in 2007 and moved to Wisconsin for postdoctoral research work.
Along the way, he came to realize how his work with nanoparticles could improve the technology of skin grafts. About 10 million people a year need skin grafts in the United States, Mr. Agarwal said. At least 10 percent of those patients end up with an infected wound, and about 100,000 of them die, he said.
The chemical element silver is a bacteria-killing disinfectant, but current formulations contain too much silver and are too corrosive to be incorporated into artificial skin, Mr. Agarwal said. He said his new method solves that problem by allowing minute amounts of a stabilized form of silver to be incorporated on a nanoscale into artificial skin, thereby giving patients just enough silver to prevent infections.
"It's a nano-film, so we put it only on the wound-contact surface of the artificial skin," Mr. Agarwal said.

A New Effort

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers visa programs, cannot comment publicly on individual cases such as Mr. Agarwal's, said an agency spokesman, Daniel Cosgrove. But the agency realizes the need to encourage entrepreneurs and recently began a new program to help them.
The effort, announced this year, is called "Entrepreneurs in Residence." So far it consists largely of a team of experts advising the agency on ways it can change policies and practices to boost entrepreneurship.
The group's recommendations, which are about to be adopted, include creating a new Web portal and assembling a team of specialized immigration officers dedicated to helping entrepreneurs. But the program is designed only for temporary visas, and its changes cannot alter Congress's numerical limits on immigration.
Still, the immigration agency does have some flexibility, if it chooses to use it. Agency data compiled for The Chronicle show that the agency last year granted 2,118 permanent visas in the category used by Mr. Agarwal, reserved for immigrants "with extraordinary ability." That's a drop of 45 percent from the previous year. And it granted 2,458 visas in a related EB-1 category, for "outstanding professors and researchers," down 39 percent from 2010.
Mr. Cosgrove said the agency made no changes in policies that would affect those numbers, and would not comment on possible reasons for the declines. The agency data do reflect wide year-to-year swings, with the 2010 approvals at the agency's highest levels in five years.
Mr. Gallini, the attorney who helped Mr. Agarwal get his visa, said he sees signs that approval patterns reflect political factors, including Congressional and presidential elections, and periods of growing public awareness of the "brain drain" caused by rejecting highly skilled foreigners.
That variation does appear to be changing, with the agency apparently more determined to set more predictable expectations for approvals, Mr. Gallini said. "There's been a little bit too much subjectivity in the process," he said.
And lawmakers from both parties, though mostly Democrats, are continuing to push for bills that would create new visa categories, including permanent residency, for foreign students who earn advanced degrees in math and science fields.

Doing Better Back Home?

The changes, though, may be coming too slowly. Already there are signs that immigrants in general, and highly trained scientists in particular, are voting with their feet. The Pew Research Center reported in April that net migration from Mexico—­for decades the largest supplier of U.S. immigrants­—has stopped and may have reversed. And experts surveying foreign-born scientists say it's hard to be sure how many of them really want to stay, given all the difficulties involved.
"There are no hard data on this," said Vivek Wadhwa, an executive in residence at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University who produces surveys of immigrant entrepreneurs. "Our research showed that the majority of students wanted to stay a few years after graduation, but they were worried about getting visas, saw greener pastures at home, and planned to return," Mr. Wadhwa said. His work, financed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, also involved interviews with scientists who returned to their native countries and often believe they "are doing better back home," Mr. Wadhwa said.
And even among supporters of expanded entrepreneur visas, it's not immediately clear how to draw the line in a way that would embrace the immigration of talented scientists without encouraging the creation of low-quality diploma mills. Already there have been examples of education-related visa abuses like at Tri-Valley University, a California institution raided last year by federal agents after it was found to be enrolling hundreds of foreign students who actually were working full-time, low-level retail jobs.
As entrepreneur status is hard to define, U.S. policy should tie such visas to a degree in the sciences from an accredited university, Mr. Chameau said. That way, even if a foreign graduate fails as an entrepreneur, he or she will still be valuable to the U.S. economy.
"We are talking here about talented people who will succeed one way or another" in the United States, Mr. Chameau said. "And that success will help us."

Study documents value of college degree, even in this recession

Inside Higher Ed
August 15, 2012 - 3:00am
Stories abound of college graduates working at Starbucks, living at home and facing an uncertain economic future. And many of these stories have led to increased questioning of the value of a college degree.
But a report released today says that -- despite the current economic hardships faced by people at all levels of education -- the value of a college degree remains strong.
The unemployment rate for recent four-year college graduates is 6.8 percent, higher than the rate for all four-year graduates of 4.5 percent. But the 6.8 percent is much, much better than the 24 percent rate for recent high school graduates. These figures, and a series of others, appear in "The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm," from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.
As the name of the report suggests, the report does not claim that college graduates have been immune from the recession. The report's summary begins with this sentence: "When it rains hard enough and long enough, everyone gets a little wet."
But the report seeks to distinguish between reports of the real difficulties facing recent graduates and the idea that these hardships mean that their degrees lack genuine economic value.
What about all those college grads working at Starbucks? The report uses various databases to say that there is indeed an underemployment problem, and that the underemployment rate for new college graduates is 8.4 percent. But that is less than half of the underemployment rate for recent high school graduates, of 17.3 percent.
In terms of jobs that have been created in recent years, college graduates enjoy a strong advantage in gaining them, the report says. More than half of the jobs created during what economists call the recovery from the recession have gone to college graduates, who make up only one third of the labor force.
Of relevance given Rick Santorum's campaign blasts that some workers didn't necessarily need college degrees, the report's data show that in traditional blue collar industries, those with degrees fared much better than those without.
"Even in traditionally blue-collar industries, better educated workers fared better," the report says. "In manufacturing, employment dropped by 19 percent for workers with a high school diploma or less, but only 9 percent for workers with Bachelor’s degrees or better. In construction, employment dropped by 4 percent for workers with bachelor’s degrees or better and 24 percent for those with high school diplomas or less."
The Impact on Men
The report suggests that these statistics may be acting as a "wake-up call" for men, who in the years prior to the recession were becoming less likely than women to enroll in college. Citing data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the report says that, since the recession, the rate of increase in male enrollments has topped that of females.
"The Great Recession has produced an economic reckoning for men who stopped their education at high school or before," the report says. "Men, who in recent decades have lagged behind women in gaining postsecondary education, have been hit harder in the recession and, in response, are now growing faster than women in postsecondary enrollment. Men now realize that they need more than a high school diploma to get a job and that they shouldn’t limit themselves to fields dominated by men. They have been flocking to college at greater rates and moving into fields usually dominated by women — such as nursing — that also are more 'recession proof' and least likely to be sent overseas."
Rates of Increase in Postsecondary Enrollments, by Gender, Before and After Start of Recession
Year Men Women
2004 1.7% 2.4%
2005 0.9% 1.5%
2006 1.6% 1.5%
2007 3.2% 2.4%
2008 4.8% 4.6%
2009 7.1% 6.8%
2010 3.1% 2.7%

Saylor Foundation's Free Courses Offer Path to Credit

Inside Higher Ed

Majoring in Free Content
August 15, 2012 - 3:00am
The Saylor Foundation has nearly finished creating a full suite of free, online courses in a dozen popular undergraduate majors. And the foundation is now offering a path to college credit for its offerings by partnering with two nontraditional players in higher education – Excelsior College and StraighterLine.
The project started three years ago, when the foundation began hiring faculty members on a contract basis to build courses within their subject areas. The professors scoured the web for free Open Education Resources (OER), but also created video lectures and tests.
“I was able to develop my own material,” said Kevin Moquin, who created a business law course for Saylor. A former adjunct professor for a technical college and a for-profit institution, Moquin said the foundation gave him the “flexibility to adjust it as I needed.”
Saylor also tapped its pool of contract faculty members to conduct three-member peer reviews of each course, a process which professors described as rigorous. They checked the relevance and freshness of content, and they worked to ensure that all exams are tied to specific learning requirements, or outcomes.
The foundation currently has more than 240 courses up on its website. They are self-paced and automated, and designed to cover all the requirements of an undergraduate major in disciplines ranging from chemistry and computer science to art history and English literature, as well as a general education major. The course material is roughly 95 percent complete, Saylor officials said, and should be finished this fall.
Students have already started taking the classes, and can earn non-credit-bearing certificates. But thanks to newly forged agreements with Excelsior and StraighterLine, the foundation now provides an indirect route to college credit.
Excelsior is a private, nonprofit college that offers relatively inexpensive, online degree programs. The regionally accredited college is also one of the first to have competency-based programs, where students can take Excelsior-developed examinations in a fairly broad range of subjects – earning credits without having to take classes. The exams are worth three to six credits, and typically cost $95.
The college discovered Saylor when it was tracking down open-education material online to suggest for students to use as study guides for exams. John Ebersole, Excelsior’s president, said faculty members at the college were impressed with Saylor’s courses.
“We found ourselves at Saylor’s door,” Ebersole said, adding that the foundation “doesn’t get the cachet, but they have the quality.”
Price Wars?
StraighterLine has a similar partnership in place with Saylor, and, as of this week, with Excelsior. As a result, the group has created what is perhaps the lowest-cost set of credit-bearing courses on the Internet.
Like Excelsior, StraighterLine offers inexpensive courses online. Students pay $99 per month to enroll, shelling out $39 per course. The material is self-paced, and students can take final exams whenever they’re ready. Tutors are available to help them along the way.
StraighterLine differs from Excelsior in that it is not an accredited institution. When completed, the company’s 35 entry-level courses come with credit recommendations that are endorsed by the American Council on Education (ACE), but not credits. Many colleges have agreed to honor the council’s recommendations, although students need to enroll at one of those colleges to get credits for StraighterLine courses.
However, StraighterLine students can now take Excelsior exams that match up with the company’s course material, and are available on StraighterLine’s website. If they pass (Excelsior exams don’t offer partial credit), students earn credits from Excelsior as well as StraighterLine credit recommendations.
To complete the triangle, StraighterLine in May announced that several Saylor courses now match up with the company’s exams. That means a student could earn StraighterLine credit recommendations by passing an assessment after they complete a free Saylor course, spending $99 to sign up for StraighterLine.
The new credit pathway between the three institutions is obviously a tad complex, and not as simple as just enrolling in an online college. But the price might be attractive to savvy adult students – already the typical Excelsior and StraighterLine student. And Saylor hopes to be an option for students, including those in developing countries, who lack affordable or quality education options.
“Online courses should be really inexpensive,” says Burck Smith, StraighterLine’s CEO. “There’s no overhead. There is no reason for costs to be what they are.”
Saylor’s leaders insist the foundation is not challenging traditional colleges, and they sound earnest about their goal of expanding higher education’s reach. The foundation does not plan to seek accreditation.
But Saylor’s guiding ethos – that education should be free – does conflict with higher education’s current business model. Some students who take free Saylor courses might have paid for similar online content from an accredited college. And Smith and others claim that free online content, such as from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), undermines the pricing model of traditional, fee-based courses.
For now, however, Saylor is just getting started and probably doesn’t pose a threat to any college.
Preventing 'Link Rot'
The foundation is the brainchild of Michael J. Saylor, an Internet entrepreneur who has had several brushes with techie fame. The founder of MicroStrategy, a Beltway-based business intelligence software company, Saylor once lost $6 billion in personal wealth amid a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry. At the time, he promised to donate $100 million to create a free online university.
That idea grew into the Saylor Foundation, which has a long-term goal of putting a lot of quality academic content on the web – as much as possible, really.
This fall will be Saylor’s launch, for all practical purposes. Although the foundation has gotten some notice among higher-education reformers, the fleshed-out majors make the concept tangible. Based in a sleek but noisy office in the Washington's ritzy Georgetown neighborhood, the foundation’s 20- and 30-something employees are working with faculty members to put the finishing touches on courses.
Angela Bowie is one of those faculty members. Based in Philadelphia, Bowie has worked as a lobbyist and teaches political science and history, mostly at community colleges or regional public universities. She saw a job ad for Saylor, and tossed her hat in the ring. Bowie said the foundation put her through the wringer, asking for information on every course she’d taught over the last decade.
“They did a very thorough vetting,” Bowie said. “More than any other college I’ve ever worked for.”
Saylor has a training program for faculty members, which Bowie also described as thorough. In particular, she praised the foundation’s focus on learning outcomes. Saylor's faculty are paid on an hourly basis, a foundation official said. And Saylor is a side gig for most, who work as professors or adjuncts at traditional universities.
Bowie has designed Saylor courses, including one on Congressional politics. She has worked as a peer reviewer for courses designed by others, and also run peer reviews. In those cases Bowie pulls together feedback from all three reviewers and then assigns it to another faculty member to make changes to the content. The goal of the process is to make sure courses are “pedagogically sound, engaging, and overall sufficient for use by students,” she said.
The content must also be fresh. Dead links, for example, are a no-no. Bowie said she learned a new term for that problem from her Saylor colleagues: “link rot.”
She is optimistic Saylor can make good on its ambitions, and will attract plenty of students who will be satisfied with both the content’s rigor and price, or lack of a price.
Moquin agrees, saying Saylor has huge potential. “I feel excited because I feel that I’m at the beginning.”
Saylor, Excelsior and StraighterLine are natural partners, Ebersole said, because they share the same end goal. That is to make higher education “more of a buffet and less of a fixed meal.”
But the buffet approach only works if it includes a path to a credential, he said, “and ultimately that credential has to mean something.”

Anger on Campuses Greets Cal State's Plan to Admit Only Out-of-Staters

The Chronicle of Higher Education
August 17, 2012, 11:59 am
Faculty members and students on the campuses of California State University are upset over a plan to exempt out-of-state students from an admissions freeze next spring while still barring enrollment by California residents, reports the Los Angeles Times. Nonresidents pay higher tuition rates than their in-state peers do. A spokesman for the university system told the newspaper that if a campus had the capacity to enroll students who are not subsidized by the state, those extra tuition dollars could benefit state residents. Critics of the plan said it set a bad precedent, one that wrongly excludes Californians.
Updated (8/17/2012, 3:56 p.m.): The university on Friday issued a statement from Ephraim P. Smith, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer, addressing the controversy. The statement said the university had closed admissions for the 2013 spring semester because of several years of state-budget cuts. “What CSU is not doing is displacing Californians in favor of higher paying nonresident students, and there is no policy encouraging campuses to do so,” Mr. Smith wrote. “At their discretion, campuses that have the capacity in underenrolled programs to admit new nonresident students may choose to do so. However, the number of students in this category is very limited.”

Students in Free Online Courses Form Groups to Study and Socialize

 The Chronicle of Higher Education

August 16, 2012, 7:03 pm
Map of Udacity meet-ups.
As enrollment has rapidly increased in free online classes, also known as Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC’s, students are increasingly forming groups, both online and in the real world, to study and socialize. Whether aiming to make the experience more personal or to learn more about the possibilities of free online education, the students are seeking out various ways to connect with classmates. Following are examples of some of those gatherings:
  • Both Coursera and Udacity, two companies offering MOOC’s, encourage students to organize study groups through, a site that facilitates local gatherings. The two companies have each created an official channel on the site to organize student-led gatherings in different parts of the world. In response to enthusiasm for the Meetup groups, Udacity is holding its first Global Meetup Day, on September 15, in which Udacity members will meet in their own communities and together watch a live broadcast featuring Sebastian Thrun, the company’s founder, and other Udacity leaders. For those living in time zones that would make it difficult to watch the live-stream, Udacity is offering another option. The 10 international communities with the most participants on will hold individual video chats with the Udacity team.
  • Professors are trying to come up with ways to interact with students and make the classes more personal. In Coursera’s Sociology 101 course, taught by Mitchell Duneier, the Princeton professor led weekly Google Hangouts with students in order to replicate the feeling of a traditional, physical classroom. The videos were posted on the course’s Web site, allowing all students to benefit from the discussion. Charles R. Severance, who teaches the class “Internet History, Technology, and Security” at Coursera, has taken a different approach. Mr. Severance, a University of Michigan at Ann Arbor faculty member, holds “office hours” in different cities around the country in which he invites interested students to meet him in person and have a discussion. Jeff A. Stern, a rising junior at Elon University, attended the first meeting, held in a Starbucks in New York City. According to Mr. Stern, a wide variety of people came to talk, including graduate students and business people. “There was some discussion about the course, but the majority was about the platform and how we thought Coursera was going to evolve,” he said.
  • Students are organizing their own meetings. Satia Renee began writing about her MOOC experience on Google+ because she felt that the discussion forums for the Coursera course she is taking, “Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World,” were too chaotic and hard to follow. “There’s no way to create a good small study group within Coursera,” Ms. Renee said. Using Google+, she’s able to connect with other people who are taking the same course. She even joined a study group that meets every Sunday to discuss the week’s readings and share ideas about what they were going to write for the weekly response paper. This is the fourth week of the class, and Ms. Renee has participated in two hangouts so far. While she enjoyed the first one, she said that there were fewer participants in the second, which made the discussion less interesting and useful. As for Coursera, Ms. Renee hopes that the company can develop a course model that creates “more of an intimate and real connection between students.”
  • CompScisters, a Facebook group, has been developed to encourage women to take and complete MOOC’s in mathematics and science. Originally a study group in the discussion forums of Sebastian Thrun’s “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course, CompScisters broadened its focus as other platforms emerged offering similar classes. Jacqueline L. Spiegel, a co-founder of the group, described it as “the intersection of women, women’s lives, and computer science,” adding that “it’s a place to meet, to find people who are doing what you’re doing.” After receiving criticism for their female-only group, the organizers of CompScisters formed CompSciblings, a Facebook group for members to discuss issues of gender in science, technology, engineering, and math. While a majority of discussion among CompScisters occurs on the Facebook page, according to Ms. Spiegel, there have been in-person meetings of members of CompScisters in Southern California and in the Bay Area, including at the cookout that Coursera held for all of its users at the end of July.
  • Study groups are not just limited to the United States. Dipendra K.C., a second-year sociology student at Tribhuvan University, in Kathmandu, Nepal, arranged a meeting with other students taking Coursera’s Sociology 101 last June. He organized the group through the Kathmandu Coursera group on When the group met, they began by talking about the course content, but Mr. K.C. said that they quickly shifted to discussing the potential of Coursera classes in Nepal’s higher-education system. “We discussed how we can use technology in our local context to disseminate the information,” he said. This was important to Mr. K.C. and his classmates, he said, because the type of education he received from Coursera was very different from what he has experienced in Nepal. “The way that it makes students think on their own, that’s totally new,” he said.
  • Discussion forums play a key role in forming communities. At edX, the organization formed by Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, the forums for the first course, “6002x: Circuits and Electronics,” were so popular that the students didn’t want them to end after the class was over. “We kept the discussion forums alive, and students are still using them,” said Anant Agarwal, president of edX, adding, “it’s like a living, breathing organism.” The forums have proved so successful, Mr. Agarwal said, that certain members have decided to continue to learn together by teaching themselves new topics using publicly available course materials from an MIT class. In a nod to their old course, they call their new project ”6003z.”

Colleges' Health-Care Costs Rise Again, but Pace Slows

 The Chronicle of Higher Education
The cost of health-care coverage for campus employees went up again in 2012, but not as much as in previous years, according to new findings by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.
Insurance premiums rose by 6.7 percent this year for employee-only health plans and by 6 percent for employees with family coverage, the association found in a survey. Those figures compare with a 7.3-percent increase for both types of coverage in 2011.
The median cost of employee-only coverage is now $6,396, while the median for employee-plus-family coverage is $16,840.
The 2012 survey was completed by 354 institutions, including 15 systems that reported in the aggregate for multiple campuses, and represents a total of 485 institutions.
The lower rate of increases this year in the cost of college employee health plans mirrors the trend in the private sector. A survey of 342 businesses, released last week by the National Business Group on Health Care, found that employers forecast a 7-percent rise in health-insurance costs between 2012 and 2013, down from one-year rises of 7.7 percent in 2011 and 8 percent in 2010.
It's unclear what has caused the slowdown in cost increases. Some sources attribute it to factors like the economic downturn, which has led many employees to reduce their use of health-care services, and changes in insurance policies, such as opting for lower premiums with higher deductibles.
In the business survey, employers frequently cited new wellness programs, which typically support preventative care such as weight-loss plans, as important for keeping costs low. The use of such programs by colleges is also growing, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources found. In the group's 2012 survey, 70 percent of institutions reported that they offered wellness programs, up from around 60 percent the year before.
A fact sheet with more information from the survey is available on the association's Web site.

How The American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps

The Homeless Adjunct
A few years back, Paul E. Lingenfelter began his report on the defunding of public education by saying, “In 1920 H.G. Wells wrote, ‘History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.’ I think he got it right. Nothing is more important to the future of the United States and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education, especially of higher education. I say especially higher education, but not because pre- school, elementary, and secondary education are less important. Success at every level of education obviously depends on what has gone before. But for better or worse, the quality of postsecondary education and research affects the quality and effectiveness of education at every level.”
In the last few years, conversations have been growing like gathering storm clouds about the ways in which our universities are failing. There is talk about the poor educational outcomes apparent in our graduates, the out-of-control tuitions and crippling student loan debt. Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty. There are now movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful “assessment” tools, to offer “free” university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of “fix” for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.
To explain my perspective here, I need to go back in time. Let’s go back to post World War II, 1950s when the GI bill, and the affordability – and sometimes free access – to universities created an upsurge of college students across the country. This surge continued through the ’60s, when universities were the very heart of intense public discourse, passionate learning, and vocal citizen involvement in the issues of the times. It was during this time, too, when colleges had a thriving professoriate, and when students were given access to a variety of subject areas, and the possibility of broad learning. The Liberal Arts stood at the center of a college education, and students were exposed to philosophy, anthropology, literature, history, sociology, world religions, foreign languages and cultures. Of course, something else happened, beginning in the late fifties into the sixties — the uprisings and growing numbers of citizens taking part in popular dissent — against the Vietnam War, against racism, against destruction of the environment in a growing corporatized culture, against misogyny, against homophobia. Where did much of that revolt incubate? Where did large numbers of well-educated, intellectual, and vocal people congregate? On college campuses. Who didn’t like the outcome of the 60s? The corporations, the war-mongers, those in our society who would keep us divided based on our race, our gender, our sexual orientation.
I suspect that, given the opportunity, those groups would have liked nothing more than to shut down the universities. Destroy them outright. But a country claiming to have democratic values can’t just shut down its universities. That would reveal something about that country which would not support the image they are determined to portray – that of a country of freedom, justice, opportunity for all. So, how do you kill the universities of the country without showing your hand? As a child growing up during the Cold War, I was taught that the communist countries in the first half of the 20th Century put their scholars, intellectuals and artists into prison camps, called “re-education camps”. What I’ve come to realize as an adult is that American corporatism despises those same individuals as much as we were told communism did. But instead of doing anything so obvious as throwing them into prison, here those same people are thrown into dire poverty. The outcome is the same. Desperate poverty controls and ultimately breaks people as effectively as prison…..and some research says that it works even MORE powerfully.
So: here is the recipe for killing universities, and you tell ME if what I’m describing isn’t exactly what is at the root of all the problems of our country’s system of higher education. (Because what I’m saying has more recently been applied to K-12 public education as well.)
First, you defund public higher education.
Anna Victoria, writing in Pluck Magazine, discusses this issue in a review of Christopher Newfield’s book, Unmaking the Public University: “In 1971, Lewis Powell (before assuming his post as a Supreme Court Justice) authored a memo, now known as the Powell Memorandum, and sent it to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The title of the memo was “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System,” and in it he called on corporate America to take an increased role in shaping politics, law, and education in the United States.” How would they do that? One, by increased lobbying and pressure on legislators to change their priorities. “Funding for public universities comes from, as the term suggests, the state and federal government. Yet starting in the early 1980s, shifting state priorities forced public universities to increasingly rely on other sources of revenue. For example, in the University of Washington school system, state funding for schools decreased as a percentage of total public education budgets from 82% in 1989 to 51% in 2011.” That’s a loss of more than 1/3 of its public funding. But why this shift in priorities? U.C. Berkeley English professor, Christopher Newfield, in his new book Unmaking the Public University posits that conservative elites have worked to de-fund higher education explicitly because of its function in creating a more empowered, democratic, and multiracial middle class. His theory is one that blames explicit cultural concern, not financial woes, for the current decreases in funding. He cites the fact that California public universities were forced to reject 300,000 applicants because of lack of funding. Newfield explains that much of the motive behind conservative advocacy for de-funding of public education is racial, pro-corporate, and anti-protest in nature.
Again, from Victoria: “(The) ultimate objective, as outlined in the (Lewis Powell) memo, was to purge respectable institutions such as the media, arts, sciences, as well as college campus themselves of left-wing thoughts. At the time, college campuses were seen as “springboards for dissent,” as Newfield terms it, and were therefore viewed as publicly funded sources of opposition to the interests of the establishment. While it is impossible to know the extent to which this memo influenced the conservative political strategy over the coming decades, it is extraordinary to see how far the principles outlined in his memo have been adopted.”
Under the guise of many “conflicts”, such as budget struggles, or quotas, de-funding was consistently the result. This funding argument also was used to re-shape the kind of course offerings and curriculum focus found on campuses. Victoria writes, “Attacks on humanities curriculums, political correctness, and affirmative action shifted the conversation on public universities to the right, creating a climate of skepticism around state funded schools. State budget debates became platforms for conservatives to argue why certain disciplines such as sociology, history, anthropology, minority studies, language, and gender studies should be de-funded…” on one hand, through the argument that they were not offering students the “practical” skills needed for the job market — which was a powerful way to increase emphasis on what now is seen as vocational focus rather than actual higher education, and to de-value those very courses that trained and expanded the mind, developed a more complete human being, a more actively intelligent person and involved citizen. Another argument used to attack the humanities was “…their so-called promotion of anti-establishment sentiment. Gradually, these arguments translated into real- and often deep- cuts into the budgets of state university systems,” especially in those most undesirable areas that the establishment found to run counter to their ability to control the population’s thoughts and behavior. The idea of “manufactured consent” should be talked about here – because if you remove the classes and the disciplines that are the strongest in their ability to develop higher level intellectual rigor, the result is a more easily manipulated citizenry, less capable of deep interrogation and investigation of the establishment “message”.
Second, you deprofessionalize and impoverish the professors (and continue to create a surplus of underemployed and unemployed Ph.D.s)
V.P. Joe Biden, a few months back, said that the reason tuitions are out of control is because of the high price of college faculty. He has NO IDEA what he is talking about. At latest count, we have 1.5 million university professors in this country, 1 million of whom are adjuncts. One million professors in America are hired on short-term contracts, most often for one semester at a time, with no job security whatsoever – which means that they have no idea how much work they will have in any given semester, and that they are often completely unemployed over summer months when work is nearly impossible to find (and many of the unemployed adjuncts do not qualify for unemployment payments).  So, one million American university professors are earning, on average, $20K a year gross, with no benefits or healthcare, no unemployment insurance when they are out of work. Keep in mind, too, that many of the more recent Ph.Ds have entered this field often with the burden of six figure student loan debt on their backs.
There was recently an article talking about the long-term mental and physical destruction caused when people are faced with poverty and “job insecurity” — precarious employment, or “under-employment”.  The article says that, in just the few short years since our 2008 economic collapse, the medical problems of this group have increased exponentially.  This has been the horrible state of insecurity that America’s college professors have experienced now for thirty years. It can destroy you — breaking down your physical and emotional health. As an example:  the average yearly starting salary of a university professor at Temple University in 1975 was just under $10,000 a year, with full benefits – health, retirement, and educational benefits (their family’s could attend college for free.) And guess what? Average pay for Temple’s faculty is STILL about the same — because adjuncts now make up the majority of faculty, and earn between $8,000 to $14,000 a year (depending on how many courses they are assigned each semester – there is NO guarantee of continued employment) — but unlike the full-time professors of 1975, these adjunct jobs come with NO benefits, no health care, no retirement, no educational benefits, no offices. How many other professions report salaries that have remained at 1975 levels?
This is how you break the evil, wicked, leftist academic class in America — you turn them into low-wage members of the precariat – that growing number of American workers whose employment is consistently precarious. All around the country, our undergraduates are being taught by faculty living at or near the poverty line, who have little to no say in the way classes are being taught, the number of students in a class, or how curriculum is being designed. They often have no offices in which to meet their students, no professional staff support, no professional development support. One million of our college professors are struggling to continue offering the best they can in the face of this wasteland of deteriorated professional support, while living the very worst kind of economic insecurity.  Unlike those communist countries, which sometimes executed their intellectuals, here we are being killed off by lack of healthcare, by stress-related illness like heart-attacks or strokes.  While we’re at it, let’s add suicide to that list of killers — and readers of this blog will remember that I have written at length about adjunct faculty suicide in the past.
Step #3: You move in a managerial/administrative class who take over governance of the university.
This new class takes control of much of the university’s functioning, including funding allocation, curriculum design, course offerings. If you are old enough to remember when medicine was forever changed by the appearance of the ‘HMO’ model of managed medicine, you will have an idea of what has happened to academia. If you are not old enough – let me tell you that Once Upon a Time, doctors ran hospitals, doctors made decisions on what treatment their patients needed. In the 1970s, during the infamous Nixon Administration, HMOs were an idea sold to the American public, said to help reign in medical costs. But once Nixon secured passage of the HMO Act in 1973, the organizations went quickly from operating on a non-profit organization model, focused on high quality health care for controlled costs, to being for-profit organizations, with lots of corporate money funding them – and suddenly the idea of high-quality health care was sacrificed in favor of profits – which meant taking in higher and higher premiums and offering less and less service, more denied claims, more limitations placed on doctors, who became a “managed profession”. You see the state of healthcare in this country, and how disastrous it is. Well, during this same time, there was a similar kind of development — something akin to the HMO — let’s call it an “EMO”, Educational Management Organization, began to take hold in American academia. From the 1970s until today, as the number of full-time faculty jobs continued to shrink, the number of full-time administrative jobs began to explode. As faculty was deprofessionalized and casualized, reduced to teaching as migrant contract workers, administrative jobs now offered good, solid salaries, benefits, offices, prestige and power. In 2012, administrators now outnumber faculty on every campus across the country. And just as disastrous as the HMO was to the practice of medicine in America, so is the EMO model disastrous to the practice of academia in America, and to the quality of our students’ education. Benjamin Ginsburg writes about this in great detail in his book The Fall of the Faculty.  
I’d like to mention here, too, that universities often defend their use of adjuncts – which are now 75% of all professors in the country — claiming that they have no choice but to hire adjuncts, as a “cost saving measure” in an increasingly defunded university. What they don’t say, and without demand of transparency will NEVER say, is that they have not saved money by hiring adjuncts — they have reduced faculty salaries, security and power. The money wasn’t saved, because it was simply re-allocated to administrative salaries, coach salaries and outrageous university president salaries. There has been a redistribution of funds away from those who actually teach, the scholars – and therefore away from the students’ education itself — and into these administrative and executive salaries, sports costs — and the expanded use of “consultants”, PR and marketing firms, law firms. We have to add here, too, that president salaries went from being, in the 1970s, around $25K to 30K, to being in the hundreds of thousands to MILLIONS of dollars – salary, delayed compensation, discretionary funds, free homes, or generous housing allowances, cars and drivers, memberships to expensive country clubs.
Step Four: You move in corporate culture and corporate money
To further control and dominate how the university is ‘used” -a flood of corporate money results in changing the value and mission of the university from a place where an educated citizenry is seen as a social good, where intellect and reasoning is developed and heightened for the value of the individual and for society, to a place of vocational training, focused on profit. Corporate culture hijacked the narrative – university was no longer attended for the development of your mind. It was where you went so you could get a “good job”.  Anything not immediately and directly related to job preparation or hiring was denigrated and seen as worthless — philosophy, literature, art, history.
Anna Victoria writes, on Corporate Culture: “Many universities have relied on private sector methods of revenue generation such as the formation of private corporations, patents, increased marketing strategies, corporate partnerships, campus rentals, and for-profit e-learning enterprises. To cut costs, public universities have employed non-state employee service contractors and have streamlined their financial operations.”
So what is the problem with corporate money, you might ask? A lot. When corporate money floods the universities, corporate values replace academic values. As we said before, humanities get defunded and the business school gets tons of money. Serious issues of ethics begin to develop when corporate money begins to make donations and form partnerships with science departments – where that money buys influence regarding not only the kinds of research being done but the outcomes of that research. Corporations donate to departments, and get the use of university researchers in the bargain — AND the ability to deduct the money as donation while using the labor, controlling and owning the research. Suddenly, the university laboratory is not a place of objective research anymore. As one example, corporations who don’t like “climate change” warnings will donate money and control research at universities, which then publish refutations of global warning proofs. OR, universities labs will be corporate-controlled in cases of FDA-approval research. This is especially dangerous when pharmaceutical companies take control of university labs to test efficacy or safety and then push approval through the governmental agencies. Another example is in economics departments — and movies like “The Inside Job” have done a great job of showing how Wall Street has bought off high-profile economists from Harvard, or Yale, or Stanford, or MIT, to talk about the state of the stock market and the country’s financial stability. Papers were being presented and published that were blatantly false, by well-respected economists who were on the payroll of Goldman Sachs or Merrill Lynch.
Academia should not be the whore of corporatism, but that’s what it has become. Academia once celebrated itself as an independent institution. Academia is a culture, one that offers a long-standing worldview which values on-going, rigorous intellectual, emotional, psychological, creative development of the individual citizen. It respects and values the contributions of the scholar, the intellectual, to society. It treasures the promise of each student, and strives to offer the fullest possible support to the development of that promise. It does this not only for the good of the scholar and the student, but for the social good. Like medicine, academia existed for the social good. Neither should be a purely for-profit endeavor. And yet, in both the case of the HMO and the EMO, we have been taken over by an alien for-profit culture, our sovereignty over our own profession, our own institutions, stripped from us.
A corporate model, where profit depends on 1) maintaining a low-wage work force and 2) charging continually higher pricers for their “services” is what now controls our colleges . Faculty is being squeezed from one end and our students are being squeezed from the other.
Step Five – Destroy the Students
While claiming to offer them hope of a better life, our corporatized universities are ruining the lives of our students.   This is accomplished through a two-prong tactic: you dumb down and destroy the quality of the education so that no one on campus is really learning to think, to question, to reason. Instead, they are learning to obey, to withstand “tests” and “exams”, to follow rules, to endure absurdity and abuse. Our students have been denied full-time available faculty, the ability to develop mentors and advisors, faculty-designed syllabi which changes each semester, a wide variety of courses and options. Instead, more and more universities have core curriculum which dictates a large portion of the course of study, in which the majority of classes are administrative-designed “common syllabi” courses, taught by an army of underpaid, part-time faculty in a model that more closely resembles a factory or the industrial kitchen of a fast food restaurant than an institution of higher learning.
The Second Prong:  You make college so insanely unaffordable that only the wealthiest students from the wealthiest of families can afford to go to the school debt free. Younger people may not know that for much of the 20th Century many universities in the U.S. were free – including the CA state system – you could establish residency in six months and go to Berkeley for free, or at very low cost. When I was an undergraduate student in the mid to late 1970s, tuition at Temple University was around $700 a year. Today, tuition is nearly $15,000 a year. Tuitions have increased, using CA as an example again, over 2000% since the 1970s. 2000%! This is the most directly dangerous situation for our students: pulling them into crippling debt that will follow them to the grave.
Another dangerous aspect of what is happening can be found in the shady partnership that has formed between the lending institutions and the Financial Aid Departments of universities.  This is an unholy alliance. I have had students in my classes who work for Financial Aid. They tell me that they are trained to say NOT “This is what you need to borrow,” but to say “This is what you can get,” and to always entice the student with the highest possible number. There have been plenty of kick-back scandals between colleges and lenders — and I’m sure there is plenty undiscovered shady business going on. So, tuition costs are out of control because of administrative, executive and coach salaries, and the loan numbers keep growing, risking a life of indebtedness for most of our students. Further, there is absolutely no incentive on the part of this corporatized university to care.
The propaganda machine here has been powerful.  Students, through the belief of their parents, their K-12 teachers, their high school counselors, are convinced by constant repetition that they HAVE to go to college to have a promising, middle class life, they are convinced that this tuition debt is “worth it” — and learn too late that it will indenture them.  Let’s be clear: this is not the fault of the parents, or K-12 teachers or counselors.  This is an intentional message that has been repeated year in and year out that aims to convince us all about the essential quality of a college education.
So, there you have it.
Within one generation, in five easy steps, not only have the scholars and intellectuals of the country been silenced and nearly wiped out, but the entire institution has been hijacked, and recreated as a machine through which future generations will ALL be impoverished, indebted and silenced. Now, low wage migrant professors teach repetitive courses they did not design to students who travel through on a kind of conveyor belt, only to be spit out, indebted and desperate into a jobless economy. The only people immediately benefitting inside this system are the administrative class – whores to the corporatized colonizers, earning money in this system in order to oversee this travesty. But the most important thing to keep in mind is this: The real winners, the only people truly benefitting from the big-picture meltdown of the American university are those people who, in the 1960s, saw those vibrant college campuses as a threat to their established power. They are the same people now working feverishly to dismantle other social structures, everything from Medicare and Social Security to the Post Office.
Looking at this wreckage of American academia, we have to acknowledge:  They have won.
BUT these are victors who will never declare victory — because the carefully-maintained capitalist illusion of the “university education” still benefits them. Never, ever, admit that the university is dead. No, no. Quite the opposite. Instead, continue to insist that the university is the ONLY way to gain a successful, middle class life. Say that the university is mandatory for happiness in adulthood. All the while, maintain this low-wage precariate class of edu-migrants, continually mis-educate and indebt in the students to ensure their docility, pimp the institution out to corporate interests. It’s a win-win for those right wingers – they’ve crippled those in the country who would push back against them, and have so carefully and cleverly hijacked the educational institutions that they can now be turned into part of the neoliberal/neocon machinery, further benefitting the right-wing agenda.
So now what?
This ruination has taken about a generation. Will we be able to undo this damage? Can we force refunding of our public educational system? Can we professionalize faculty, drive out the administrative glut and corporate hijackers? Can we provide free or low-cost tuition and high-quality education to our students in a way that does NOT focus only on job training, but on high-level personal and intellectual development? I believe we can. But only if we understand this as a big picture issue, and refuse to allow those in government, or those corporate-owned media mouthpieces to divide and conquer us further. This ruinous rampage is part of the much larger attack on progressive values, on the institutions of social good. The battle isn’t only to reclaim the professoriate, to wipe out student debt, to raise educational outcomes — although each of those goals deserve to be fought for. But we will win a Pyrrhic victory at best unless we understand the nature of the larger war, and fight back in a much, much bigger way to reclaim the country’s values for the betterment of our citizens.
I am eager to hear from those of you who have been involved in this battle, or are about to enter it.  We have a big job ahead of us, and are facing a very powerful foe in a kind of David and Goliath battle.  I’m open to hearing ideas about how to build a much, much better slingshot.