Tag Archives: higher education

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Staff Editorial: New Price For College Tuition: $0

Tennessee Gov. understands education is a right. Why don’t we?

The stress of college begins for many students and their families long before the first semester. College prices (room, board, and tuition)  have risen 42% for public, and 31% for private universities from 2000-2011, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. With the unbelievably high price of college tuition, students are expected to delve deep  into their own (or their parent’s) bank accounts for a good education.  For most, this means loans taken out and massive debts accrued, or the alternative — foregoing higher education completely. We at the Foghorn do not believe these are good options; thankfully, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently proposed a simple solution: make college free.

Education is a human right that should not be limited by a student’s financial situation. In order to make for a more progressive society, we must ensure free and easy access to a higher degree. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ (UDHR) Article 26: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” Haslam’s Tennessee Promise serves to fulfill this basic human right outlined by the UDHR, a right that has largely been ignored in this country.

The “Tennessee Promise” was proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam during his State of the State address on Monday, Feb. 3 2014. The promise was a big one — two free years of either community college or or technical school for high school graduates in the state of Tennessee.  If Gov. Haslam’s promise is fulfilled, Tennessee would be the only state in the country with free college. The initiative is important for Tennessee especially, one of the least-educated states in the country where less than one third of residents have a two-year degree, according to NPR.

At first Haslam’s plan seems a grandiose dream, one that raises more questions than it answers. The biggest question of all — if the students are not paying for college then who is? The answer, according to Haslam, is the state’s lottery where an excess amount of cash is generated to the tune of $300 million. “Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future? Priceless,” Haslam said at the address.  Haslam’s plan is a breath of clean air in a polluted education environment — an environment that caters to the wealthy while indebting, or excluding, the less fortunate. Haslam has a feasible plan to offer free education in this country.

However  it is shocking that we are so behind other countries in terms of free education. Countries like Germany, Sweden, and Ireland (just to name a few) all have free education for their people. Does our Government place lesser value on higher education? During his first joint address to Congress in 2009, Obama stated that the United States “should once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” How will this goal be achieved if many in this country can not afford it?

Attending college might not be right for every person, but having access to it should be a right for every person. The Foghorn hopes Gov. Haslam’s enthusiasm for free education proves contagious, and it spreads across the rest of our country.

Adjunct Professor Salaries

Are USF’s Adjunct Professors Fairly Paid? Faculty and Provost Speak Up 

Members of the adjunct faculty at USF have come forward expressing frustration over their salaries and “exploitation,” as one adjunct faculty member described it.

Adjunct professors, who are part-time faculty at USF, differ from full-time faculty in their hours, obligations, and salaries.

Some adjunct professors argue that their salaries are too low for the amount of work they put in. Others argue that part-time salaries are too low to cover the cost of living in San Francisco

The number of adjunct faculty members has increased remarkably at universities nationwide — USF being no exception. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, adjuncts composed just over 50 percent of the faculty in 2009. This number is in stark contrast to the to figure in 1975, when part-time professors only made up around 30 percent of the faculty.

The adjunct faculty members at USF are broken down into two categories: preferred and non-preferred hiring pools. According to article 18.3 of the USF adjunct faculty contract, the minimum pay rate for an undergraduate adjunct professor in the non-preferred hiring pool is $1,668 per unit. If the non-preferred professor taught the usual eight units a semester, his or her yearly salary would come out to be $26,688. For a preferred hiring pool adjunct faculty member, the pay rate is $2,020. After spring and fall semesters, this comes out to a yearly salary of $32, 320.

The difference between preferred and non-preferred is related to how long a particular adjunct has been teaching at USF. According to an adjunct professor who wished to be left anonymous, “In order to qualify [for the preferred hiring pool], you prepare a portfolio for the Dean, including recommendation letters from colleagues and students, the student evaluation forms (the SUMMAs) for every class you’ve taught, a statement of teaching philosophy, a curriculum vitae (resumé), and a sample syllabus. One of the deans in your college observes your teaching, and some months later you find out whether or not you’ve been accepted. If you are not accepted into the PHP [preferred hiring pool], that is often the end of your teaching career at USF.”

In most cases, the pay a given faculty member receives directly reflects the amount of teaching hours put in. But according to adjunct philosophy professor Nancy Zeigler, this is not the case for part-time faculty. “32,000 dollars a year is not a livable wage,” she said. “The university’s justification is that I only work 10-20 hours per week, which is ridiculous. I am in the classroom or office hours for about that much time. And even if it were a part-time job, it would still be grossly underpaid for the level of skill and experience required in order to teach at the college level.”

Adjunct Spanish professor Cassandra Millspaugh echoes this sentiment: “I feel in some ways we are treated better than in other institutions, but I also feel like we are often treated almost like children or second class citizens. We cannot vote, at least not in my department meetings, and are paid about half for the same amount or in some cases more work (since we usually teach the entry level classes which are usually much larger than the major classes).”

According to Academic Vice President and Provost Jennifer Turpin, however, “The salaries paid to adjunct faculty are not intended to support them as would a full-time position, which carries with it additional workload and responsibilities.”

Although full-time professors have extra responsibilities, such as conducting research in their field and publishing academic literature, full-time politics professor Stephen Zunes remarks, “As a full-time faculty member, I certainly work more hours than adjuncts, factoring in equivalent teaching loads and other obligations, but I don’t work whatever X amount of times more salary than the adjuncts. I mean that’s just ridiculous. It’s totally out of proportion.”

However, USF as an institution treats their adjunct faculty markedly better than most other institutions of higher learning. Prof. Zunes explains: “Compared to most schools, our proportion of faculty, adjuncts versus full-time, is better. We are fairly unusual in allowing part-time faculty members their own union. A lot of colleges fought that tooth and nail. And I give the administration credit for that.”

When it comes to pay, Turpin points out, “USF pays adjunct faculty approximately double the national average for private comprehensive universities, according to CUPA, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.” Turpin also points out that this is partially due to the fact that the Bay Area is an expensive region. It is over this very point that adjuncts have grievances.

“The salaries paid to adjunct faculty are not intended to support them as would a full-time position, which carries with it additional workload and responsibilities.”

In a recent article published by Al Jazeera America, former San Francisco State University (SFSU) adjunct professor Darren Brown was interviewed about the income of adjuncts: “If I’m only teaching two classes, after taxes I bring home a paycheck that would be about $1,100 a month. No one can survive on that in the Bay Area.” With over $100,000 in student loan debt and the high cost of living in the Bay Area, Darren wasn’t able to make ends meet. Subsequently, he had no other option but to leave the world of academia.

The pay adjuncts receive at USF is decidedly higher than that at SFSU. However, when asked if it was enough, Millspaugh replied, “Well it is better than nothing. Including what I get from unemployment and the three jobs I have on campus (and I am in the preferred hiring pool), I make about $44,000 a year and live ok off that. But I don’t have a family, own a car, or a home.”

Yet Turpin said there may be other reasons adjunct faculty members would accept a part-time position: “Many of our adjunct faculty teach for reasons besides salary including professional development, satisfaction from teaching, and a desire to give back to their profession. For this group, their salaries are supplementary to that from their full-time job.” In response to this notion, Zeigler replied, “no comment.”

The growth of the adjunct faculty at universities is a nationwide trend not specific to USF. Zunes articulates the reason for this: “What we’re seeing across the country is pressure for universities to run on more of a corporate model, which is to cut costs. And one way of doing that, given that there is a surplus of PhD’s and other qualified people, is to take advantage of that fact by hiring adjuncts for substantially less salary and benefits than full-time faculty.”

Furthermore, the U.S. is one of the few countries where this is happening. “In most countries, there is enough support given to higher education by the government, either directly or by subsidizing tuition, that they don’t have to do this,” Zunes explained.

USF, a values-based institution committed to social justice, is leading the way on this issue in many regards. But as Zunes commented, “Just to say we’re not as bad as other places doesn’t mean there aren’t some real issues.”

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How to Tell if College is Worth the Struggle

As I look forward to graduating next semester, I have begun to ponder over my journey through college as a financially independent student. Two-and-a-half years at USF and five figures in student loan debt have raised the inquisition of whether it has all been worth it.

Has it been worth it? For me, it most certainly has. My grandmother was always my example of just how valuable the pursuit of an education is. As a single mother who, alone, raised six kids, she put herself through college and went on to become a teacher. She has never questioned the tough fiscal decisions she had to make to allow her to continue her education. It was a lifelong investment that would not deteriorate in value and whose worth was based on her own subjective experience. I too share that view.

I realize that when my grandmother was going to school in the sixties, economic factors surrounding education were entirely different. However, my struggle reminds her of her own and vice versa. Her stories of barely being able to keep her lights on, of the fatigue of working three jobs as a full time student, were all worth it to her — and to me — in exchange for a quality education.
To really get an understanding of whether college is worth it to you or not, you have to ask what are your expectations are from attending college. Is college simply a means to an end? Can you see yourself being successful without going to college? What about going to college will motivate you to grow into the person you wish to be?

I must be clear in stating that seeking an education is possible outside of the confines of a university or collegiate institution. While the resources that are available to a student within these settings are unparalleled compared to those of the independent scholar, to be educated and to attend college are not always synonymous, contrary to popular belief.

For me, a college education is not worth the cost if one expects to learn what to think as opposed to how to think. Struggling to come up with tuition because you’ve been told that’s the only way you can get a decent job is not a reason to attend college. I would not willingly suffer the sleepless nights of thinking about how to repay future loan interest just so that I can work a job I hate for the rest of my life. If those were my expectations, I would not be at this university today.

So is college worth its cost? Yes and no. The answer you arrive at will depend entirely on what it is you hope to gain from your experience and your certainty that the institution you’ve invested in is necessary in helping you make those expectations a reality.

“USF Steps Up” Offers State Students Classes

In response to the sweeping budget cuts that have left many California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) students struggling to enroll in all of the classes they need, USF’s College of Arts and Science has created USF Steps Up. This program will allow state students to enroll in general education courses at USF’s regional campuses on a temporary basis.

In July of 2009, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the University of California voted to cut $813 million from their budget. At the same time, Charles Reed, CSU chancellor, also began implementing cuts in hopes of reducing their budget. According to the article, these budget cuts affect staff and faculty salaries and course availability for students as a result. The Golden Gate Express, San Francisco State University’s newspaper, reported that 81 sections of courses had been cut and that many students were crowding into classrooms in hopes of adding the courses.

USF has four regional campuses in Santa Rosa, San Ramon, Sacramento and Cupertino. BJ Johnson, vice provost for academic and enrollment services, said these locations primarily serve working adults by offering courses on evenings and weekends. State students will receive a fifty five percent discount on the seven general education courses that USF Steps Up will offer; each unit will cost $560 versus the $1200 per unit on USF’s main campus. These discount courses are available only at the regional campuses.

Johnson said that there is no room on main campus and that “the experience of being on campus is very different. These students will not benefit from the services offered on main campus.” The extension campuses will offer art, math, philosophy, public speaking, Spanish, social science and writing. Johnson said “We (College of Arts and Sciences) have been hearing from administrators and faculty, especially CSUs, about how difficult it has been and that many students have not been able to get their courses. We wanted to help students so they don’t lose time.” The courses are tailored to fulfill general education classes required by every four year college. With the exception of Spanish, the other courses are all three units so they can transfer back to CSUs and UCs, which operate on a semester schedule.

Johnson said that USF Steps Up will run in the spring of 2010 as a pilot run. After the semester, the College of Arts and Sciences will evaluate how the program went and decide if they want to continue it.