Larry Mitchell, a member of this committee, notes, "In the debate about the costs and the value of higher education, there have been attempts to demonstrate that the costs have increased at a higher rate than can be justified. From the perspective of some critics, the fact that these costs have outpaced the Consumer Price Index is prima facie evidence of the failure of 'management' to implement the kind of 'restructuring' and 'downsizing' so commonplace in industry and--it is argued--so effective in cost containment. However, as many economists now recognize, the Consumer Price Index, as currently constructed, is no longer altogether reliable, and it is doubtful whether reference to it, even as a baseline, is at all appropriate in the 'knowledge industry.' As Stanley O. Ikenberry, president of the American Council on Education, succinctly put it in his address to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources (24 July 1997), 'Knowledge does not grow at the rate of the Consumer Price Index' (5
). Moreover, there is no real evidence to substantiate claims that transparent systemic inefficiencies--everything from top-heavy administration to program duplication and irresponsible faculty members--are the root causes of the steadily rising cost of higher education. In his testimony, Ikenberry usefully identifies nine critical factors behind escalating costs, as reflected in college tuition: expansion of student services, library acquisitions, technology investments, institutional (as opposed to state and federal) financial aid, campus security, compliance with federal regulations, renovation of aging physical plants, maintaining faculty salaries, and energy improvements (4
). Yet further analysis would surely reveal a marked difference between the contribution of faculty salaries to the increase in higher-education costs and the role of the other elements. Indeed, there is evidence, albeit some of it indirect, that cost containment has in fact been achieved at the expense of faculty members. For example, the latest survey of humanities doctorates by the National Research Council reports a median income of $45,000 for 1995. For those who had their doctorates fewer than five years, the median was $34,000 (Ingram and Brown 17
). Then the massive and unprecedented increase in part-time positions over the past twenty years--from 22% of all faculty members in 1970 to 40% in 1993 (Cahalan et al. 24-25
)--is incontrovertible evidence that institutions have offset the skyrocketing costs of student services, library acquisitions, technology, financial aid, security, compliance with federal regulations, and so on, by cost-saving strategies in the area most under their control--faculty hiring and salaries. The 'savings' effected by these strategies have been substantial and are realized in low pay, little security, heavy teaching loads, and a dearth of benefits for positions budgeted at less than 100%. The overall impact on the profession as a whole has been disastrous; the impact on the quality of our 'product' (our graduates) is harder to measure, but the anecdotal evidence is not comforting."
Although the statistics we use in this report are based on studies of trends in United States colleges and universities, committee member Victoria A. Smallman and other MLA members familiar with the situation in Canada note that Canadian colleges and universities are experiencing similar fiscal constraints and managerial pressures.
Edmund L. Andrews, qtd. in the International Herald Tribune
These figures for the number of students likely to earn doctorates between 1996 and 2000 are based on the number of degrees granted during 1990-95. It is likely that 4,500 to 5,000 PhDs will be granted in English and 2,500 to 3,000 in foreign languages during 1996-2000.
In addition, data from the National Science Foundation indicate that among 1988-92 PhDs in the physical sciences, 8% were adjuncts and 25% had postdoctoral fellowships; comparable figures for the life sciences were 8% and 32%.
More recently, Amy Goldstein
of the Washington Post
reported that "the federal government has agreed to pay hospitals around the country hundreds of millions of dollars not
to train doctors" (emphasis added).
In a sense, federal recognition of the magnitude of this "cash cow" problem came in the summer of 1997, when Congress passed legislation establishing the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education, which convened its first meeting in August and is scheduled to issue a report in December 1997. But there is no reason to believe that this committee will not exacerbate the situation by recommending downsizing and streamlining techniques based on corporate models.
The MLA's Job Information List
provides evidence of the improved job market during the late 1980s. During 1983-89, the number of positions advertised increased by 56% in English and by 54% in foreign languages (Mod. Lang. Assn. A1
See, for instance, the Council for Aid to Education's Breaking the Social Contract
and Franklin's comments on it ("Debate
According to MLA research, between 1990 and 1994 the average number of PhD students enrolled in individual doctoral programs in English grew from 51 to 63, an increase of 24%. In foreign languages, the average number of students grew from 16 to 20 during 1990-92, a gain of 25%. These increases were accompanied by a surge in applications to modern language doctoral programs.
Carter requested that, as one of only two graduate students present and as the only person of color on the committee, her abstention and the reasons for it be recorded. She noted first that calling for reductions in admissions to graduate programs does not address the overall structure of labor in the profession, which is characterized by an unequal two-tier system of compensation and rewards. It is this hierarchical structure that she believes is largely responsible for the current lack of full-time tenure-track job opportunities for humanities PhDs. Second, because the burden of reductions would certainly fall disproportionately on minority and economically disadvantaged students, who have traditionally been underrepresented in the academy, she found that the recommendations, in essence, run counter to the principle she considers paramount in higher education: equal access by all students regardless of race, culture, or economic background.
Similarly, an MLA analysis of the positions advertised in the Chronicle of Higher Education
between August 1994 and April 1995 indicated that of the English positions 19% were in two-year colleges, 15% were in baccalaureate institutions, and 29% were in doctorate-granting universities. The equivalent figures for foreign languages are 8% in two-year colleges, 27% in baccalaureate institutions, and 32% in PhD-granting universities.
We should also note the guarded optimism formulated in Schuster's essay. "Should faculty members in languages, literature, and related fields encourage strong undergraduate students to pursue an academic career?" asks Schuster. And he replies with a "cautious yes," commenting that the "market will
improve. It certainly cannot get much worse than it has been, and positive signs are coming into view" (118
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