Chicken and Egg

Today’s freshmen are more focused on the financial benefits of a college education than were their counterparts four decades ago. Freshmen now are also more racially and ethnically diverse, harbor higher expectations for the college experience, and are increasingly interested in pursuing graduate degrees.

45 Years of Survey Data Show First-Year Students’ Financial Concerns Are on the Rise,” Libby Sander

Today brings another helpful  juxtaposition or a set of juxtapositions all set against research into student attitudes done by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California, Los Angles.  Students, this implies,  understand that education is both increasingly important and increasingly too expensive.  Interestingly, this interest in graduate programs is being met by shrinking Ph.D. programs (“Top Ph.D. Programs, Shrinking“).

It’s not surprising that the humanities are the weakest link in this chain. I suspect that many of these students would be far less concerned about their job prospects if they were not forced to go into so much debt.  I am also convinced that the so-called glut of Ph.D.’s, as Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the MLA suggests, is less about demand and more about the dominance of adjunct and part-time positions in university employment.

Are we shaped by the market or do we shape the market? If we allow the market to dominate– letting the push of  indentured student debt and poorly paid teachers drive economic development– we get something like the current medical system. If we choose to shape the market to our own interests and desires, we could create an economy in which education is cheap and accessible and college teachers well paid and secure.


About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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