Mainstream economists and politicians continue to promote higher education as the solution to all the major economic and social problems in the United States. Meanwhile, as Demos has shown, our nation’s higher education system is being dismantled by state-mandated budget cuts (including staff and faculty layoffs and the elimination of key academic programs) and transformed into a debt-for-diploma system.
The University of Southern Maine is the latest school to announce Draconian budget cuts, the dismantling of some academic programs, and union-busting layoffs even in programs that are not being eliminated—all while engaging in corporate “rebranding” and the creation of new programs such as cybersecurity and entrepreneurship. As one current student wrote:
I am beyond livid with the way these budget cuts are being handled and the way the faculty is being treated. It’s not the faculty’s fault that we dumped thousands of dollars into misspelt and incorrect signs last summer. Or that the basketball coach’s salary and cutting 26 faculty positions just last Spring apparently hasn’t helped. The reality is that the only thing right with this school is the faculty. They seem to be the only people left who care about the students earning an education. Maybe the administration just hasn’t been alerted that we are paying to be educated, not to have pretty classrooms and a better basketball team. We are paying for an education and, if they would be so kind as to give it to us, everyone just might end up content.
Meanwhile, other college campuses are seeing a rise in food pantries [ht: sm] to take care of increasingly impoverished students.
Days after biology major Gillian Carll arrived at Stony Brook University last fall, she encountered a young woman on a bench outside her dormitory who said she had nothing to eat.
“I was just like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ I didn’t know kids could afford to go here but couldn’t have mac and cheese or something like that,” said the Livonia, N.Y., freshman. “It was kind of unbelievable.”
Carll got the student some food from her dorm room and later volunteered at Stony Brook’s new food pantry — one of dozens cropping up at colleges across the country in recent years as educators acknowledge the struggles many students face as the cost of getting a higher education continues to soar.
“The perception is of college students that if you are able to go to college and you have an opportunity to go to college, you’re part of the haves of this country, not part of the have-nots,” said Beth McGuire-Fredericks, assistant director for college housing at the Stony Brook campus on eastern Long Island and a co-founder of the pantry.
“How can someone who’s in college be someone who has a need like food?”