Category Archives: Higher Education

The Direct and Indirect (Spillover) Effects of Productive Government Spending on State Economic Growth

Source: Andrew Ojede, Bebonchu Atems, Steven Yamarik, Growth and Change, Early View, September 25, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using data on 48 contiguous U.S. states and a spatial econometric approach, this paper examines short- and long-run effects of productive higher education and highway infrastructure spending financed by different revenue sources on state economic growth. Following the Lagrange Multiplier, Wald, and Likelihood Ratio tests, the data are found to be characterized by both spatial lag and spatial error processes, leading to the estimation of a dynamic spatial Durbin model. By decomposing results of the dynamic spatial Durbin model into short- and long-run direct as well as indirect (spillover) effects, we show that accounting for spillover effects provides a more comprehensive approach to uncovering the effects of productive government spending on growth. We find that, regardless of the financing source, productive higher education and highway spending have statistically significant short- and long-run direct as well as spillover effects on state income growth.

Employment trends by typical entry-level education requirement

Source: Audrey L. Watson, U.S. Department of Labor, Monthly Labor Review, September 2017

From May 2007 to May 2010, the U.S. economy lost nearly 7.4 million jobs in occupations that typically require a high school diploma or no formal educational credential for entry. In contrast, the economy had no statistically significant employment change in occupations that typically require postsecondary education for entry. During the recovery, the economy gained jobs in almost all the typical entry-level education categories. By May 2016, employment exceeded May 2007 levels for occupations that typically require no formal educational credential for entry and occupations that typically require postsecondary education. However, employment in occupations that typically require a high school diploma or the equivalent for entry remained nearly 1.3 million lower than in May 2007. This trend is projected to continue. From 2014 to 2024, occupations that typically require a high school diploma for entry are projected to grow more slowly than average, causing a further employment shift away from these occupations and toward occupations that typically require postsecondary education.

The President’s House Is Empty: Losing and Gaining Public Goods

Source: Boston Review, Forum III, 2017
(subscription required)

Many of the critical issues of our time—from clean water to health care to schools—are about public goods, things that are owed to the members of a democratic society. In the United States, these goods are endangered and access to them is constricted by class and race. Against this background, Trump’s nearly empty White House stands as a symbol of the crisis our democracy faces. In this Forum we consider public goods: what they are, how to provide them, how to ensure equitable access. The debate about public goods is at heart a debate about what it means to be an American. What is at stake is not only what we owe to each other but who we are.

Articles include:
Losing and Gaining Public Goods
K. Sabeel Rahman

To build a tangible, inclusive, meaningful, and durable community, we must begin with public goods….

Free College for All
Marshall Steinbaum

The movement for free college has gained considerable momentum in the past year, in no small part thanks to the sad state in which many college graduates currently find themselves. …. The United States has never had free, high-quality college education. But that does not mean we can’t. In the past, we have included world-class public education in our understanding of public goods, and we have successfully expanded public education on the premise that society as a whole benefits from a well-educated population. Previous generations and social movements fought hard to create good educational institutions at public expense. The current generation is discovering why that matters. ….

A Public Good Gone Bad: On Policing
Tracey Meares

….However, the best way to solve the epidemic of police violence against black Americans is far from obvious, and it should not be surprising that the solutions advanced by communities of color often run counter to conventional solutions. In some communities marked by extreme levels of violent crime—those one would think most in need of police—residents are calling for a complete and total end to policing….

Draining the Swamp: On Mar-a-Lago
Julian C. Chambliss

….Mar-a-Lago is the apotheosis of the Florida Dream in which wealthy interests degrade the environment and hollow out prospects for the poor. But as Hurricane Irma shows, this dream was never sustainable….

The Third Rail
Elaine Kamarck

….Although we are a long way from the pioneer era, a nation’s DNA dies hard. A substantial number of Americans still glorify the individual and believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to work hard and take care of their own. It’s why, for instance, America has never had a successful socialist party while Europe has. Progressive or liberal policy that ignores this strain in the public consciousness will always be vulnerable to the argument that government that takes from those who work and gives to those who do not is illegitimate. Fortunately policy that is constructed with an understanding of this tension can stand the test of time…..

Saving the Commons from the Public
Michael Hardt

Sabeel Rahman’s argument against the privatization of public goods and services contributes to a rich stream of contemporary critiques of neoliberalism that rightly focuses on how privatization creates and maintains forms of exclusion and hierarchy. In response to privatization, Rahman calls to make public goods public again—that is, to design and bolster government programs that foster social inclusion and equality, broadening both our conception of public goods and the populations whose membership grants them access to those goods. Rahman’s argument, however, rests on a notion of the opposition between public and private that obscures the full range of political possibilities. …. Fortunately the private and the public are not our only options. The common—defined by open access to, and shared democratic management of, social wealth—provides an alternative. ….

All Good Things
Jacob T. Levy

….What do we want in the provision of a good? Is it sufficiency, equality, progress, or simply more? Different answers to these questions call for genuinely different kinds of responses. If we want sufficiency, as we do with dignity goods and necessities, very often we should not pay much attention to the provision of the goods themselves; we should pay attention to the problem of poverty, and worry about economic growth, barriers to entering the labor market, redistribution and poverty relief, or some combination of these. (Direct public provision of food, or indirect provision through food stamps, is certainly not better for recipients’ dignified membership in the community than their having enough money to be able to simply afford food.)….

Naming the Villain
Lauren Jacobs

Sabeel Rahman’s essay is a call to action. Progressives should take seriously the coming political struggle over public goods generally and infrastructure specifically. They should also be better skilled in the administration of government and learn how to use the tools available to incrementally transform the material conditions of our current system. But as a lifelong organizer, dedicated to the dignity and economic security of all workers, I know that this is not enough. It is also critical that we see the big picture: the corporate power and its accompanying dogma of the supremacy of profit that brought us to this brink. They are the enemies we face. And they must be named. From fairy tales such as Rumpelstiltskin, to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, many of the stories of our childhood teach us the same lesson: we must name the villain before we stand any chance of defeating it. Any discussion of public goods is ultimately a discussion of values. How we define who is included in the notion of a “public”—and what we think is in the best interest of that public—are inherently political and therefore always contested. Those definitions live at the intersection of race, wealth, gender, and work….

A Beautiful Public Good
Joshua Cohen

Sabeel Rahman’s democratic conception of public goods is founded on the idea of a public responsibility for ensuring the essentials of a democratic society. Public goods are among those essentials. They answer to the basic needs of persons, conceived of as free and equal members of a democratic society. What those public goods are and the best methods for providing them vary across time and circumstance. In our time and circumstance, public goods should include clean water and air, good schools, broadband Internet access, and quality health care. Discharging the responsibility to provide those goods is not only a core public responsibility, Rahman says. It will also help to foster a sense of commonality—of a we with a common fate. Rahman calls this dimension of public provision the “constitutive” aspect of public goods.
I agree with much of Rahman’s view, but found his account of this constitutive aspect surprisingly thin. In a collaborative spirit, I propose to thicken this aspect of the democratic conception with a story about how the ambition to foster democracy and democratic sensibilities helped to shape the design of Central Park, one of the country’s truly great public goods…..

The Last Word
K. Sabeel Rahman

Throughout this forum, the idea of public goods has been linked to water, housing, parks, and more. Taken together, the thoughtful responses highlight two crucial questions about our understanding of public goods. First, what types of goods qualify as “public” in a democratic conception? Or, more precisely, what makes a good “public,” as opposed to merely ordinary? And second, what kinds of policy tools—including but not limited to direct state provision—can we employ to ensure more equitable and inclusive access to these goods?….

Harvard Hopes Trump Will Help It Undermine Unions

Source: John Trumpbour and Chris Tilly, Labor Notes, September 14, 2017

….Like other private universities, Harvard appears to be banking on Trump appointees to the Labor Board to help fight off graduate student unionization. But Harvard’s going the extra mile in seeking to undermine all unions’ right to an accurate list of employees during a union election campaign…..

Related:
Opinion: Are elite universities ‘safe spaces’? Not if you’re starting a union
Source: Thomas Frank, The Guardian, September 9, 2017

For all their trigger warnings and safe spaces, places like Yale and Columbia are not very democratic when it comes to unions. ….

….Once Trump’s members are seated on the Labor Board, there is every likelihood they will revisit the matter of graduate student teachers and reverse themselves on the question, which would in turn permit university administrations to refuse to negotiate and even to blow off the results of these elections.

A radicalized university that lives to coddle young people would sit down immediately at the bargaining table and give those graduate students what they want.

A corporation that is determined to keep its employees from organizing, on the other hand, would stall and delay and refuse to recognize the union until Trump’s new, right-wing NLRB can saddle up and ride to the rescue. And guess what: that is exactly what these universities are doing – refusing to begin contract negotiations, filing challenges to the elections, appealing this and that…..

A New Way to Learn Economics

Source: John Cassidy, New Yorker, September 11, 2017

With the new school year starting, there is good news for incoming students of economics—and anybody else who wants to learn about issues like inequality, globalization, and the most efficient ways to tackle climate change. A group of economists from both sides of the Atlantic, part of a project called CORE Econ, has put together a new introductory economics curriculum, one that is modern, comprehensive, and freely available online.

In this country, many colleges encourage Econ 101 students to buy (or rent) expensive textbooks, which can cost up to three hundred dollars, or even more for some hardcover editions. The CORE curriculum includes a lengthy e-book titled “The Economy,” lecture slides, and quizzes to test understanding. Some of the material has already been used successfully at colleges like University College London and Sciences Po, in Paris…..

…..The CORE approach isn’t particularly radical. (Students looking for expositions of Marxian economics or Modern Monetary Theory will have to look elsewhere.) But it treats perfectly competitive markets as special cases rather than the norm, trying to incorporate from the very beginning the progress economists have made during the past forty years or so in analyzing more complex situations: when firms have some monopoly power; people aren’t fully rational; a lot of key information is privately held; and the gains generated by trade, innovation, and finance are distributed very unevenly. The CORE curriculum also takes economic history seriously…..

Related:
CORE

CORE is an open-access, interactive ebook-based course for anyone interested in learning about the economy and economics.
CORE is a question-motivated way to learn the tools of economics.
CORE is based on recent developments in economics and other social sciences.
CORE is a community of learners and teachers collaborating to make economics accessible and relevant to today’s problems.

Golden Parachutes for Public College Presidents Burden Already Thin Budgets

Source: Jon Marcus, Washington Monthly, August 28, 2017

Even presidents who leave their campuses awash in red ink walk away with big payouts. …. Often hammered out in secret, and seldom brought to public attention except when they explode into controversy, these kinds of golden parachutes for university and college presidents are not unique to Northern Illinois. And while anger often flares up when presidents’ salaries are publicized, salary totals alone don’t come close to exposing the universities’ true financial obligations to their chief executives. It’s these hidden severance deals that increasingly obligate higher education institutions to continue paying long-departed presidents large amounts for years, further thinning already stretched finances…..

The Looming Decline of the Public Research University

Source: Jon Marcus, Washington Monthly, September/October 2017

Cuts in research funding have left midwestern state schools—and the economies they support—struggling to survive. ….

….But university research is in trouble, and so is an economy more dependent on it than many people understand. Federal funding for basic research—more than half of it conducted on university campuses like this one—has effectively declined since 2008, failing to keep pace with inflation. This is before we take into account Trump administration proposals to slash the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) budgets by billions of dollars more.

Trump’s cuts would affect all research universities, but not equally. The problem is more pronounced at public universities than privates, and especially at public institutions in the Midwest, which have historically conducted some of the nation’s most important research. These schools are desperately needed to diversify economies that rely disproportionately on manufacturing and agriculture and lack the wealthy private institutions that fuel the knowledge industries found in Silicon Valley or along Boston’s 128/I-95 corridor. Yet many flagship midwestern research universities are being weakened by deep state budget cuts. Threats to pensions (in Illinois) and tenure (in Wisconsin) portend an exodus of faculty and their all-important research funding, and have already resulted in a frenzy of poaching by better-funded and higher-paying private institutions, industry, and international competitors…..

Unionized College Faculty Are Winning Themselves a Lot of Money

Source: Hamilton Nolan, Splinter, August 25, 2017

Unions are not just a feel-good sort of thing to do. New research about higher ed unions shows just how much workers have actually gained from organizing, in a short period of time.

One of the most active areas of new union organizing in America is higher education: adjunct professors and other academic and non-academic workers on college campuses, who tend to have shockingly low pay and poor job security even though they tend to be highly educated and work in prestigious settings. Those are the sort of ingredients that can motivate people to unionize. And voila: it has been so. And the gains have been clear. Duke University non-tenured faculty members who signed their first union contract this summer immediately got double digit raises and improved job security…..
Related:
SEIU Contract Highlights: The Union Difference
Source: SEIU, Faculty Forward, [2016]
….Unionized contingent faculty often have a higher rate of pay, regular salary increases and pay protections on work done outside of the classroom.
– Across the country, median pay per course was 25% higher for part-time faculty that had union representation…..
Job Security, Improved Benefits and Professional Development
Unionized contingent faculty have an increased level of job security, better benefits and 90 percent of SEIU faculty contracts have established professional development funds….

Unionizing Pays Big Dividend for Professors at Regional Public Universities
Source: Peter Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 3, 2016

Full-time instructors at regional public universities earn an average of about $21,000, or nearly 25 percent, more in pay and benefits annually if they belong to a union, concludes a groundbreaking new study of compensation at such institutions. The location and size of the employer also makes a big difference. Those in larger suburban public universities, the highest-paying category of institutions studied, earned an average of nearly $17,000, or 20 percent, more in pay and benefits annually than those at midsize rural institutions, the lowest-paying category.

A Lost Decade in Higher Education Funding: State Cuts Have Driven Up Tuition and Reduced Quality

Source: Michael Mitchell, Michael Leachman, and Kathleen Masterson, Center on budget and Policy Priorities, August 23, 2017

From the summary:
A decade since the Great Recession hit, state spending on public colleges and universities remains well below historic levels, despite recent increases. Overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the 2017 school year (that is, the school year ending in 2017) was nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation. (See Figure 1.) The funding decline has contributed to higher tuition and reduced quality on campuses as colleges have had to balance budgets by reducing faculty, limiting course offerings, and in some cases closing campuses. At a time when the benefit of a college education has never been greater, state policymakers have made going to college less affordable and less accessible to the students most in need.

As states have slashed higher education funding, the price of attending public colleges has risen significantly faster than what families can afford. For the average student, increases in federal student aid and the availability of tax credits have not kept up, jeopardizing the ability of many to afford the college education that is key to their long-term financial success.

With many states facing revenue shortfalls in the current or upcoming fiscal year, state lawmakers must renew their commitment to high-quality, affordable public higher education by increasing the revenue these schools receive.[2] By doing so, they can help build a stronger middle class and develop the entrepreneurs and skilled workers needed for a strong state economy…..

Public university sector mostly stable, but with pockets of stress

Source: Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, July 17, 2017
(subscription required)

Public colleges and universities continue to demonstrate overall financial stability with steady enrollment, solid cash flow margins and retained financial flexibility, according to our fiscal 2016 sector medians. However, heading into 2018, revenue and expense pressures will emerge, pressuring performance for some. The challenges will mostly affect some moderate and small universities lacking the revenue diversity and brand strength of large research, or comprehensive, universities…..