State Universities of the 1%
The challenge of our time is to educate our children and ourselves in the values and skills required to transition to a New Economy that redefines our relationships to one another and nature. However, there are many barriers to this challenge at a time when our education system is becoming increasingly corporatized, driven by profit motives rather than the broader interests of people and the planet.
A new Institute for Policy Studies report, “The One Percent at State U,” provides a glimpse into how the corporate model is influencing public universities. The report finds rising inequality within these universities, with extremely highly-paid top executives combined with skyrocketing levels of student debt and low-wage faculty. As noted in The New York Times, our findings suggest these trends are closely related and should be addressed together. (Below are the report’s key findings and an infographic.)
As my colleagues pointed out, university boards of trustees — which set the compensation packages of university presidents — are commonly made up of corporate executives. And given that private-sector executive compensation has soared to astronomical levels, these trustees are increasingly out-of-touch with notions of reasonable compensation. According to the American Council on Education, nearly a third of university presidents themselves have never been professors and many have business backgrounds.
This corporatization inevitably affects the quality and substance of higher education. Low-wage adjunct and contingent faculty have less time to spend with students. Students with massive debt loads have less flexibility to pursue careers that serve social and environmental needs. And with so many university leaders coming out of the for-profit sector focused on short-term gains, it’s hard to have confidence that they will be able to advance the type of educational transformation needed to meet the challenges of a warming planet.
We’re encouraged by the attention this new report has received and hope it can help galvanize pressure to ensure that our public universities are truly serving the common good.
New Economy Coordinator
New Economy Working Group, IPS