Hot Air

Robed Racketeers

Thomas Frank throws the book at colleges and universities in this holy land in this Sunday’s Salon.

Frank

Acc’d’ng to the fearless journalist and essayist, college tuition has gone up 1200 percent in 30 years. Twelve hundred percent!

Let’s say you, like me, weighed a svelte 175 libra pondos aways back in 1984. Shoot, man, back in those glory days you, like me, could have eaten an entire pizza and then gone out for an all-night bike ride, something I did more than once when I was a callow 28 y.o. But, of course, time catches up with all of us and before we know it we’re all a tad thicker in face and waist, among other locales.

But if you had a weight gain of 1200 percent, today you’d be tipping the scale, if not the entire house, at a mind-boggling 2100 lbs. Sheesh! Yeah I’ve packed on the suet, but jimineez, I don’t weigh a ton with a hondo click to spare!

Nothing goes up 1200 percent in 30 years. Not gasoline. In 1984, a gallon of motion lotion set you back $1.30. Today, we’re crying like kindergartners because that gallon costs about $3.75. Me Party-ists, militia maniacs, and tinfoil hat wearers are oiling up their shootin’ irons in prep. for the coming revolt, caused in large part by today’s gas pump “insanity.”

And that gallon of 87 octane has only gone up 289 percent since the Orwell year.

I could go on and on with examples of how nothingnothing!has gone up 1200 percent in 30 years, not even pot. Yet, if you want your snowflake to get a good educ., you’d better hope you’d started stashing away your quarters three decades ago. Every single freaking one of them.

Thomas Frank indicts college administrators, politicians, and a compliant, obeisant, credulous media for this hyper-inflation going on for the better part of a lifetime. We’ve believed every bullshit excuse university presidents have tossed out. By Frank’s count, the bosses of higher education have blamed the following for their larceny:

  • Utility bills
  • Libraries
  • Their own professors
  • Gov’t regulation (natch, all crooks fall back on that cop-out)
  • Students who demand luxury accommodations
  • High technology
  • Cultural diversity
  • Students abusing substances
  • Americans with Disabilities Act access ramps
  • Declining student population
  • Competition with other universities

What the presidents haven’t mentioned, Frank says, is the growth of the administrator class, in both number and in average salary. And those administrators kept on telling us that a college degree was worth more than a million dollars over a graduate’s lifetime. That is, an alum of the institution that was fleecing you could expect to earn a cool million more than some high school grad slob, so if you don’t mind, we’re gonna continue to fleece you.

Of course, the average student graduating from college in 2013 was stuck with a $35,000 debt in student loans and credit card bills. Try paying that off on $8.25 an hour, which is prob. what you’ll be making for the foreseeable future. You’re stuck, grads, although you’ll always have the warm memory of those carpeted, air-conditioned luxury dorm rooms — which you allegedly asked for.

Lucky we’ve got Noam Chomsky around to try to make some sense of the situ.:

My feeling is that student fees are instituted, basically as a technique of indoctrination and control. I don’t think there’s an economic basis for them. And it’s interesting that, you look at the timing — like when I went to college, I went to an Ivy League university, The University of Pennsylvania. Tuition was only $100 and you could easily get a scholarship.

Students today are over $1 trillion in debt. That’s more than credit card debt. A trillion dollars of debt? That’s a burden on people coming out of college. It’s got them trapped. It (tuition) is a technique of control, and it surely isn’t an economic necessity in the richest country in the world. All sorts of things started happening — the university architecture changed. Universities that were built, worldwide, in the post-’70s and on, are usually designed so that they don’t have meeting places, designed just to keep students separated and under control. Look at the ratio of administrators to faculty: it’s gone way up the last couple of decades … not for educational purposes, but for more techniques of control.

… [I]t’s a general form of indoctrination and control, which goes down to kindergarten. I mean, that’s what No Child Left Behind is about. It’s training for the Marine Corps. It’s a way to make sure that children aren’t free, independent or inquisitive, exploring.

Our own Indiana University is building huge monuments to itself seemingly on every corner of the campus. Local developers are building ugly fortresses where students can live, drink, toke, and fumble their way through sexual encounters without worry about anybody even shaking a finger at them. They are the scions of wealth. They even study now and again. They’d better, because they’re gonna owe a lot after graduation.

Most important, they are under control. Let’s go back to Noam Chomsky:

Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt they can’t afford the time to think. Tuition Fee increases are a disciplinary technique, and by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the disciplinarian culture. This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy.

Yeah, the kids are under control but so are we. Who’s going to be the first of us to tell Michael McRobbie and his cohorts that they’re lying and we know it?

[Side note: If you want to read even more about this, try Suzanne Mettler’s new book, Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream. It’s reviewed in yesterday’s New York Times.]

2 thoughts on “Hot Air

  1. Leona Roszkowski says:

    If you read down to where he talked about the student/teacher ratio it’s been about 50:1 for my upper level eng classes. WTF? Last time around it was high if it was 20:1.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. nrhiller says:

    A big thank-you, Mike.

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