Post Academic

On Making Humanities Like the Sciences: Start Using Numbers

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionArnold addressed the considerable issues involving the attempt of the “UC Commission on the Future” to align Humanities achievements with those in the sciences. That’s a tall order, especially when academics are already reluctant to give hard numbers related to who is getting jobs. Frank Donoghue, director of English grad admissions at Ohio State, isn’t fond of the question, “What’s your department’s placement rate?”

Here’s what Donoghue has to say about a “typical year”:

In that recent year, we graduated 11 Ph.D.’s; four did nationwide job searches, and two of them got tenure-track jobs. The third of those four Ph.D.’s got a two-year appointment as a visiting assistant professor that may possibly be converted to a tenure-track job, and the fourth got a one-year postdoctoral fellowship. Of the seven other Ph.D.’s, five did limited searches for personal reasons, and none got job offers. They will try again next year and in the meantime will work as adjuncts. One received a tenure-track offer but turned it down so that he could accompany his partner, who has a tenure-track job at a better institution. The one remaining Ph.D. did not go on the job market at all, but instead accepted a position as an English teacher at a private high school, which from early on in his graduate career had been his professional ambition. Now, what was our placement rate? Any answer to that question can’t be quantified.

Sure it can be quantified. Here’s Post Academic’s attempt to suss out Donoghue’s meaning:

Out of 11 PhDs:
2 tenure track jobs
1 visiting prof job
1 post-doc
5 adjuncts
1 faculty spouse
1 English teacher at a private high school

More after the jump! Image of numbers in action from public domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Why Are UC Schools Broke? Maybe Because They Deserve to Be

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools by Caroline Roberts on April 5, 2010
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After the March 4 student protests, some people may have been on the side of the University of California. Even with the fee hikes, the UC would still be cheaper than private schools, and the UC really needs that money to maintain the same high level of service. Right?

Nah. In UCLA’s case at least, they just want to spruce up a basketball court. The LA Times reports that UCLA is taking fees students thought were going toward one line item and putting the money toward a renovation of Pauley Pavilion, the basketball arena:

In 2006, administrators launched a campaign to raise $100 million from private contributors to pay for the $185-million upgrade, which includes cushier seats, a high-definition scoreboard and expanded locker rooms. But when the fundraising effort fell victim to the recession, administrators changed the finance plan to include $25 million from student fees.

Where will those fees come from? Oh, the students won’t mind chipping in, will they?

Most of the student money, $15 million, will come from fees approved by a student referendum in 2000 to maintain two older campus buildings that house gyms and student centers. The remaining $10 million had been set aside for seismic repair of student facilities.

If the students approved a fee hike to upgrade buildings other than Pauley Pavilion, then the money should go to the original upgrades. And besides, don’t universities pay their chancellors big money to raise funds? Maybe administrators should do their jobs instead of dipping into the student kitty.

Now that universities have decided to become businesses, they need to be run like businesses. If the administrators needed money for Pauley Pavilion so badly, they should have held a referendum on whether or not making Pauley Pavilion cushier is more important than seismic repair. (Uh, what’s more important than seismic repair in Southern California?)

Or, maybe the students should think of themselves as shareholders. Shareholders of any business would band together to vote out leaders who can’t seem to lead.

State universities tap student fees for unintended projects [Los Angeles Times]

The Grad Student Loan Trap

Posted in Surviving Grad School,The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on March 29, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionNow that people are getting into grad programs, they are wondering how to pay for it. Some schools are generous and offer fellowships or TA-ships. However, that might not cover everything, and you may need to get a loan. These tips can help you avoid winding up in debtor’s hell:

1. Set a budget to find out what you really need. What you need will depend on where you live. If your dream grad program is in New York City, your living expenses will skyrocket. Don’t forget to factor in moving costs and the fact that you may not be employed in the summers.

2. Turn to the school and the government first. Did you fill out a FAFSA? Good. You should receive information soon on how much the school can give you and if you are eligible for government loans, like Stafford or PLUS loans, that offer fixed rates.

3. Steer clear of private loans. This is your dream and you can’t turn it down. Okay. But you should still beware of private loans. Haven’t you read Dickens? If you don’t have time to read Dickens, read this article from Kiplinger, which describes how students get hooked by a teaser loan rate that can balloon later on.

More after the jump!

Random Career Option for Post Academics: Reality TV

Posted in Absurdities,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on March 28, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionNo, I’m not kidding. Over at, the writers are actively encouraging unemployed lawyers to apply for the latest season on “The Apprentice.”

You know the economy is bad when the last resource you can turn to is a reality show fronted by a guy with a bad rug. That said, if lawyers can be recruited for “The Apprentice,” why not PhDs? Based on Arnold’s post regarding MLA stats, your chances of winning a season of “The Apprentice” might be as good as your chances of landing a tenure-track job.

You laugh, and you think I’m being silly, but if a little part of you is curious about the fast-money culture of reality TV, feel free to look at the casting information after the jump:

Image of Donald Trump by Michelle Sandberg under a Creative Commons license, from Wikimedia Commons.

Broke-Ass Schools: The University of Maine

Lest you think this site is California-centric, never fear. The Broke-Ass School virus has spread to the East Coast, specifically to the University of Maine. A working group has recommended eliminating 16 majors, including public administration, theater, foreign languages, women’s studies and music.

The cut to foreign languages is drastic: “… the memo recommended the elimination of the majors offered by the MLC [Modern Languages and Classics] department, including German, French, Latin and Spanish.”

Not to focus on one scholarly area in particular, but what is with the urge to cut foreign languages? If the argument is that the foreign languages cannot be “monetized,” that’s ridiculous. Any business major with a lick of sense should at least minor in a foreign language to help open up potential markets abroad. This working group is showing a little pity by suggesting that the university should continue to offer a minor.

The real wake-up call that should apply to Post Academic readers is that the proposed plan will “eliminate 80 faculty positions across the five colleges by 2014.” As if humanities grad students didn’t have enough to worry about.

Plan would eliminate 16 majors, 80 faculty [The Maine Campus via HuffPo]

Languages students react to proposed cuts in majors [The Maine Campus]

Broke-Ass Schools: So Goes the UC, So Goes the Nation?

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools by Caroline Roberts on March 24, 2010
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The University of California has released suggestions for easing its budget crisis. Some of the suggestions seem genuinely reasonable, but they raise legitimate questions. Here’s a list of the suggestions, followed by Post Academic comments:

1. Establishing three-year degrees: Many students graduate in three years to save money, so the university is changing to fit student habits. However, the three-year plan all depends on the major. For example, since engineers are so vital to everyone’s safety, perhaps they should stay in a little longer.

2. More online courses: Uh, since when did the UC become the University of Phoenix? Then again, other states, such as Massachusetts, have incorporated more online courses. They should probably be an option for juniors and seniors, though, as students need to develop the discipline to see online courses through. Someone who has just entered college and who isn’t being monitored by parents and teachers is more likely to blow off a course.

3. More out-of-state students: This one seems inevitable. But what about all the students from California who are applying to UCs?

4. Making Berkeley and UCLA more expensive: What are the other schools, chopped liver? Option No. 3 would be preferable to this, as it would punish students who got into Berkeley or UCLA and happened to live nearby. They shouldn’t have to go a long distance and pay the dorm fees if they don’t want to.

What suggestions would you offer? What is the UC overlooking, and is there anything that other systems can learn from these choices?

UC panel proposes three-year bachelor’s degrees, other big changes [Los Angeles Times]

Broke-Ass Schools Round-Up: Minnesota, UC Davis, Alabama in General

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools by postacademic on March 17, 2010
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Today brought a flood of nasty financial news for schools. Here’s a quick look at who’s in trouble now:

–The University of Minnesota is setting a round of pay cuts for everyone. Yes, everyone, even the higher-ups: “Top administrators, who would have had to take six furlough days, would now receive a 2.3 percent pay decrease.” Although that isn’t much of a decrease when you think about it, at least some of the cuts are coming from the top, and you don’t hear about administrators taking on cuts every day. [Minnesota Daily via HuffPo]

–UC Davis is working to eliminate employee “redundancy” by decentralizing jobs so that one staff member services multiple departments. And here’s the twist: the school’s financial aid office has been cut by 17 percent. [Inside Higher Ed]

–Perhaps the ugliest of all: More parents are encouraged to start investing in prepaid tuition plans or 529 plans. Now some of these parents might get burned. Thanks to the stock market’s tanking, Alabama’s fund is down 45 percent … meaning that when parents who have paid into the fund and followed the rules are ready to send their kids to college, Alabama might not be able to cover it. [Birmingham News via Inside Higher Ed]

As always, although this information seems isolated to undergrads, this affects the overall funding prospects for grad students and the future job prospects of academics.

Academics and “The New Poor”

Posted in Absurdities,The Education Industry by postacademic on March 16, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionThanks to the recession, more people are re-training and going back to school to pick up a trade and get a job. This kind of flexibility and willingness to learn should be rewarded, right? However, according to the NYT, these students might wind up in deep debt because it costs so much money to attend some trade schools, and the educational hucksters behind those schools inflate the amount the students might make upon graduation.

Before you breathe a sigh of relief that you are in a grad school program, not a trade school program, think again. Above the Law was quick to note that the “big-debt-for-high-salary-that-doesn’t-exist” problem is also rampant in law school: “That sounds like exactly the kind of scam many law schools are running.”

As for grad school, the “scam” isn’t as scuzzy because many professors really do believe in the value of a liberal arts education, but the results are the same: There aren’t enough jobs out there for the applicant pool, and the ones that are out there don’t pay enough to cover your debt.

Before entering any training program, whether it is grad school in English or ITT Tech or Rooster’s College of Hair Artistry, find out if you can pay off your debt based on the salary of your chosen profession. If the math does not work for you, try another profession.

The New Poor: In Hard Times Lured Into Trade School and Debt [NYT]

Hypocrisy on Stilts: Law School Professor Calls Out Trade Schools Over Student Debt [Above the Law]

Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Broke-Ass Schools: Justifying Your Existence in Academia

Posted in Ask an Academic,Broke-Ass Schools,The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on March 15, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionMore and more broke-ass schools are evaluating their grad programs to determine which ones are worth it, and some programs are getting cut completely. In order for programs to survive, the professors, grad students, and undergrad students must do a better job justifying what they do, especially if there aren’t many majors in the program.

Why should you have to justify yourself to a bunch of MBAs who are only interested in money? It’s not fair. And not all disciplines can be monetized, but, in order for your department to survive, you need to prove that your discipline is generating students who are well-rounded, no matter what their major is.

Harry at Crooked Timber has a lengthy post answering the question “What’s the point of having a Philosophy Department in an American university?” and one of his statements stuck:

I like having students who are thrilled about doing Philosophy, and the handful that I have helped on their way to graduate school have been among the students I have valued teaching most. But so have students who became, or are becoming, social workers, nurses, teachers, and who took one of my classes simply to fulfill a requirement or on a whim or because some counselor strongly suggested it (the most insulting—because the student fancied the counselor who suggested it). When I think about justifying the existence of my department and what we should be doing, it is those students, and the value we can produce for them, that I think of first.

Focus on what your department and your classes bring to the core curriculum. It might sting that you cannot talk about your specific field of study, but narrow fields of study aren’t going to generate the kind of cash that will keep your department alive. Indicate that no matter how obscure your subject might seem to an administrator, it offers students a buffet of options so they can fulfill their core requirement so they can earn a deeper education and become more valuable employees or entrepreneurs.

What’s the point of having a Philosophy Department in an American university? [Crooked Timber]

Image from the German Federal Archive on Wikimedia Commons.

Broke-Ass Schools and Broke-Ass Students: UMass-Amherst

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools by Caroline Roberts on March 13, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionHigher education is supposed to prepare students for a successful career, right? So why are students leaving feeling hobbled by debt? And what are they getting in return for forking over so much cash?

The UMass Daily Collegian reports that the average debt load for a UMass-Amherst grad is $21,614. But wait, there’s more! The same article notes that the average student loan debt is $20,200. And that takes private school debt into account.

UMass-Amherst is a state school, so why on earth would the debt be that high? Students, grad or otherwise, turn to state schools precisely so they can avoid the debt associated with private schools. They might even get a better education as part of the deal. Something’s wrong when a state school’s student loan debt approaches a private school’s student loan debt.

In the past, it was considered a smart financial move to go to a state school so you wouldn’t graduate with as much debt. Now it makes me wonder if it isn’t better for students to attend a community college and transfer in, just as many students in the University of California system do. It’s a shame that students would miss out on a chunk of the “college experience,” but at least they wouldn’t start their careers deep in the hole. As for the grad students, it seems that the cost of a grad education isn’t based on the distinction between public and private schools but on just how much aid the school offers, period.

Buried Alive: UMass students struggle with more debt than ever [Daily Collegian]

Map of student loan debt by state, which indicates that you should move to Utah

Hat Tip: HuffPo College Section [Huffington Post]

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