Thursday, February 11, 2010

Links for 2/11/10

Al Roth
Robert Townsend of the American Historical Association … “The primary problem today, as it was a decade ago, seems to lie on the supply side of the market—in the number of doctoral students being trained, and in the skills and expectations those students develop in the course of their training."

For a dissenting view on this latter paragraph, see Marc Bosquet's column: At the AHA: Huh?

Bosquet, the author of How the University Works (here is the introductory chapter) advocates more stringent licensing of who can teach history to undergraduates, to increase the demand for Ph.D.s in full time positions, by displacing graduate student teaching fellows and part time faculty.

As an economist, I was struck by several things about Bosquet's book, the first of which was in the foreword by AAUP president Cary Nelson. Nelson speaks of the need for theory to help understand the situation of university employees… He then enumerates the failure to do so of "Every body of theory with broad implications for understanding our own practices...", naming each such body of theory in turn "Psychoanalytic criticism...Marxist theory...feminist theory," concluding "The one institutional site where one might have hoped for a theorized account of the job system was the Modern Language Association."

It's humbling (and perhaps illuminating) to note that nowhere do these scholars look to economics for a theory of employment...
Thomas H. Benton
she continues as an adjunct who qualifies for food stamps, increasingly isolating herself to avoid feelings of being judged. Her students have no idea that she is a prisoner of the graduate-school poverty trap…

Scenarios like that are what irritate me about professors who still bleat on about "the life of mind." They absolve themselves of responsibility for what happens to graduate students by saying, distantly, "there are no guarantees." But that phrase suggests there's only a chance you won't get a tenure-track job, not an overwhelming improbability that you will…

The main point of another column I wrote six years ago ("If You Must Go") is that students considering graduate school should "do their homework." But the problem is that there is still almost no way—apart from the rumor mill to which they do not really have access—for students to gather some of the most crucial information about graduate programs: the rate of attrition, the average amount of debt at graduation, and, most important, the placement of graduates (differentiating between adjunct, lecturer, visiting, tenure-track positions, and nonacademic positions). Programs often claim that graduates who are working as adjuncts or visiting faculty members are successfully placed in the profession.

Most departments will never willingly provide that information because it is radically against their interest to do so. I can see no way for that information to become available unless it becomes part of accreditation or rankings in publications such as U.S. News and World Report.
Tim Ranzetta on Nevada’s prepaid tuition plan.
“Fund balance is estimated to have a 51% probability of being adequate to satisfy all Program obligations."

A 51% probability? I don't like those odds for a non-guaranteed financial product where I could get less back than I put in. What makes that 51% figure even more interesting is the fact that it is based on projected investment returns of 7.5% for a fund invested 55% in equity and 45% in fixed income…

Isn't it time that someone took a closer look at protecting consumers from these risky financial products that inadequately disclose their risks?
Jennifer Epstein
University of California students… spent a little more than 28 hours each week combined on class and homework…

1 comment:

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