Just the other day came news that the University of Illinois had hired a new president at a new, higher salary of $620,000, $170,000 more than his predecessor. Somehow this escaped the attention of the right-populist crowd now scrambling to find ways to criticize the Obama administration for the malfeasance of British Petroleum. In fact, it hardly seemed to merit much comment at all, despite Illinois’ ongoing budget crunch. It’s just business as usual.
In the midst of economic crisis, the wealthy always find ways to better themselves, even in so-called service professions. The other side of that coin is that the rest of us have to pay the bills and when there are a lot of big bills then suddenly lots of things that we took for granted become much too expensive. It’s in that spirit that I read a recent piece in the New York Times suggesting that maybe we don’t need that many college graduates (Plan B: Skip College.) It’s a hint that Greek style austerity measures might be coming to a town near you.
The problem is those costly liberal arts based undergraduate degrees. Do we need to put students through all that when all we want is more nurses to take care of us as we grow old? Interesting, the writers quote business people who emphasize the need for the sorts of people skills the liberal arts teaches so well. You can’t help but wonder if the real problem is that we’ve decimated the arts curriculum in the public schools and minimized learning, like writing, that isn’t easily quantified.