Friday, January 9, 2015

Free college, Amirite?

from Frenna:

I am not sure how I feel about this.

I love the idea of making education more accessible.

Even by our
standards this
graphic is awful.
What is free? Only courses that lead to a degree? Sadly many students at the CC level need lots of help with remedial subjects like reading, language and math.

How will it be paid for? How will this influence the use of adjuncts versus hiring more full-time faculty? I think education is woefully underfunded (more likely wrongly funded) currently. More money needs to be spent hiring good people, full-time to do the work in the trenches! We also need support faculty. The ability to make photocopies (I work at a place where we can no longer photocopy syllabi - budget cuts), have a computer, pens, paper, dry erase makers, professional development funds, etc.

In a side note, kind of related, a University nearby is planning to hire ~100 Professors. Now at this particular University one must do research to obtain tenure. Unsurprisingly, most of these hires will be in the sciences. Where will these young prof's get their grant money to fund the research to get tenure?

The system is woefully broken in places!


  1. I've been thinking about this, too. I, too, am generally in favor of the idea (maybe with some way, other than maintaining a particular GPA, to ensure that the student has some "skin in the game"; I think I'd actually require that the student pay at least a nominal tuition fee, but then make it refundable at successful completion of a degree or certificate for particular purposes -- either going on for a four-year degree, or for continuing education, or perhaps for professional tools/equipment/clothing where relevant). But I wonder what the effect on 4-year institutions (especially universities) would be, and how the system could be implemented in a way that wouldn't exacerbate adjunct exploitation at the community-college level.

    One option would be to make the community colleges part of, or at least more similar to, the K-12 system. There are lots of problems with that system, and I don't think I'd want to work in it, but I don't know of any U.S. K-12 system, even in right-to-work states, where the great majority of teachers aren't full-time, with something approaching a living wage, and benefits. If Americans need some sort of post-high-school education (academic, vocational, or a combination of the two) in order to participate fully in the economy, then maybe we need to go to a K-14 system (perhaps including some restructuring of grades 9-12, or at least 11 and 12, a la the English system, so that students who're headed in a vocational direction can start on that track sooner; I think a number of high schools are already doing this, often in partnership with community colleges).

    The really interesting question is what universities would look like if they offered few core courses, and focused mostly on junior and senior courses in the disciplines. Given the degree to which tuition from core courses (often taught by grad students and/or contingent faculty) is currently subsidizing upper-level courses, that could be quite a challenge to figure out. I suspect it would be very painful in the short term (and I'm sure administrators, especially those who are fond of the idea of "disruption," would flail around like crazy trying to maintain something resembling the status quo), but it might ultimately yield a productive reconsideration of how the teaching and research missions of the university interact, and what personnel policies are necessary to maintain a healthy balance between the two.

  2. It will be paid for by middle-class taxpayers, just like "free" health care and every other program that purports to be free. Not saying that's necessarily a bad thing; health care and education shouldn't be privileges of only the wealthy. Just stating the obvious: things that sound free aren't really free for a big chunk of society but only free for the very poor or the very rich. Again, not necessarily a bad idea, but it won't be free.

  3. I'm looking forward to the debates involving House/Senate Republicans who are saying the proposal is dead before arrival and Kentucky/Tennessee Republicans who think it worked pretty well for them. I'm sure the new Senate leader will say something along the lines of hating Obama-edu but loving Kentucky-edu