Elites to 99%: Resistance is Futile

Monday, April 23, 2012
Today my Twitter feed brought a swan song for public higher education, sung by a chorus of elites.  It was accompanied in harmony by some   public higher education leaders who are surrendering and turning in their badges.

A few highlights:

  • The co-founder and former chief executive officer of CarMax told a crowd attending the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities 2012 National Conference on Trusteeship that public universities should strive for major tuition increases. Reports the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Poor kids borrow money so that the rich kids can get a tuition discount," said Mr. Auston Ligon, now a member of the Board of Visitors at St. John's College in Annapolis, Md. "Quit subsidizing people like my kids."   
  • Gordon Gee of The Ohio State (and buddy of Biddy Martin) is promoting a forthcoming book from Stanford University Press called "Public No More."  This little ditty plays a familiar tune, sung by two business school types. Again we are told, the current business model of higher education is broken (duh) and public higher ed's "longstanding dependence on state subsidies...is unsustainable...recent cuts are permanent...public universities either recognize this...or face decline....attempts to block competitive forces by resistance and delaying actions are self-defeating."  Apparently these dudes never heard of the need to present and evaluate without pre-judgement alternative models in policy prescriptions.
  • According to Inside Higher Ed, some educators are full-on gung-ho about privatization and not even experiencing "angst" about it (sidenote to IHE--nice framing, making having reservations sound like neuroses). The chancellor of Maricopa Community College, a man in charge of guiding the futures of thousands of black and brown students, apparently has an oracle.  Rufus Glasper tells us "We have no choice. The state funds are gone forever."  There's no point in anything but his kind of "realism," and his so-called solution is a private for-profit model. 
Just a few questions. Why is the CarMax guy being invited to talk with AGBCU?  What's his expertise-- oh right, car sales. Discounting.  Clearly buying college is like buying a car--all about the transaction. And we all know that poor people with their complete information totally understand how discounting works, that's why high tuition-high aid is so successful...  Say it with me now: puhleese.

Second, when did smart people all start singing in unison about simplistic, singular solutions to complex problems?  Did they all attend a special dinner party together where primers were distributed, and the private monetary incentives for making the education "public no more" were explained?  Sure seems like it.  Because they are talking to highly educated people in a way that is utterly pedantic-- there is one solution and one solution only -- pass the buck onto the "consumer"? Can you imagine if instead they said, "Hey 5th graders, pay your own way through elementary school?" 

Third, how much longer are you people (yes you, our readers) going to take this?  For-profit leaders clearly worked this out quite well ages ago, using their massive profits paid for with your federal tax dollars to lobby legislators and university leaders into believing the future lies in private, for-profit education.  They're doing it from up high in the skyscrapers around the world, while many higher ed leaders are out there wittingly and unwittingly carrying their water and doing their bidding.  We mere "academics" and "students" who won't admit that really we are "obstacles" and "consumers" are simply in the way.


Where have we heard that before?