Posts Tagged ‘universities’

wealth

One of the most pernicious myths in the United States is that higher education successfully levels the playing field across students with different backgrounds and therefore reduces wealth inequality.

The reality is quite different—for the population as a whole and, especially, for racial and ethnic minorities.

As is clear from the chart above, the share of wealth owned by the top 1 percent has risen dramatically since the mid-1970s, rising from 22.9 percent in 1976 to 38.6 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, the share owned by the bottom 90 percent has declined, falling from 34.2 percent to 27 percent. And that of the bottom 50 percent? It has remained virtually unchanged at a negligible amount, falling from 0.9 percent to zero.

During that same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (pdf), the proportion of Americans aged 25 to 29 with a bachelor’s degree or higher rose from 24 percent to 36 percent. (For the entire population 25 and older, the percentage with that level of education rose from 15 to 33.)

So, no, higher education has not leveled the playing field or reduced wealth inequality. In fact, it seems, quite the opposite appears to be the case.

And that’s true, too, for racial and ethnic disparities in wealth. As William R. Emmons and Lowell R. Ricketts (pdf) of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis have concluded,

Despite generations of generally rising college-graduation rates, higher education’s promise of significantly reducing income and wealth disparities across all races and ethnicities remains largely unfulfilled. . .rather than promoting economic equality across all races and ethnicities, higher education unintentionally has become an engine for growing disparities.

2013

Thus, for example, median Hispanic and black wealth levels decline relative to similarly educated whites as education increases until the very top. Moreover, only about 7 percent of black families and 5 percent of Hispanic families have postgraduate degrees, and wealth disparities remain large even there.

Darrick Hamilton and William A. Darity, Jr. (pdf), who participated in the same symposium, go even further. According to them, the United States has a fundamental problem in discussing wealth disparities according to race and ethnicity:

Much of the framing around wealth disparity, including the use of alternative financial service products, focuses on the poor financial choices and decisionmaking on the part of largely Black, Latino, and poor borrowers, which is often tied to a culture of poverty thesis regarding an undervaluing and low acquisition of education.

Thus, while they agree that a college degree is positively associated with wealth within racial and ethnic groups, it is still the case that it does little to address the massive wealth gap across such groups.

And yet the myth persists. American elites and policymakers still to choose to emphasize the economic returns to education as the panacea to address socially established wealth disparities and structural barriers of racial and ethnic economic inclusion.

The question is, why?

According to Hamilton and Darity, such a view

follows from a neoliberal perspective, where the free market, as long as individual agents are properly incentivized, is supposed to be the solution to all our problems, economic or otherwise. The transcendence of Barack Obama becomes the ideal symbolism and spokesperson of this political perspective. His ascendency becomes an allegory of hard work, merit, efficiency, social mobility, freedom and fairness, individual agency, and personal responsibility. The neoliberal ideology is not limited to race. It more generally places the onus on individual actions, and more broadly leads to deficiency narratives for low achievement, but this is especially the case when considering race and other stigmatized workers. Perhaps the greatest rhetorical victory of this paradigm is convincing the masses that implicit in unfettered markets is the “American Dream”—the hope that, even if your lot in life is subpar, with patience and individual hard work, you can turn your proverbial “rags into riches.”

And so the myth of college and the American Dream is perpetuated, while the unequal distribution of wealth—across the entire population, and especially with respect to ethnic and racial minorities—which has been growing for decades, continues unabated.

access

The American Dream has all but collapsed under the weight of growing inequality. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the American working-class to sustain a decent standard of living, and their children are increasingly unlikely to be better off than they are.

But those who hang on to the American Dream—or at least the selling of that dream to others—believe that sending young people to the nation’s colleges and universities is the solution.

The problem, of course, is that even as enrollment in higher education has grown so has income inequality—and, with it, access to college remains profoundly unequal. The United States is therefore moving further and further away from being able to fulfill the American Dream.

According to a new study by Raj Chetty and the rest of the Equality of Opportunity Project team, while the number of children from low-income families attending college rose rapidly over the 2000s—both in absolute numbers and as a share of total college enrollment—the share of students from bottom-quintile families at four-year colleges and selective schools did not change significantly over the 2000s. Even at the Ivy-Plus colleges, which enacted substantial tuition reductions and other outreach policies during this period, the fraction of students from lower quintiles of the parent income distribution did not increase significantly.* They enroll more students from families in the top 1 percent of the income distribution (14.5 percent) than the bottom half of the income distribution (13.5 percent). And only 3.8 percent of students come from the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution.**

Even at the institutions of higher education with the highest mobility rates (with a high fraction of its students who come from the bottom quintile of the income distribution and end up in the top quintile)—for instance, SUNY-Stony Brook and Glendale Community College—the fraction of students from low-income families fell sharply over the 2000s. As a result, the average student from a low-income family now attends a college with lower success rates than in 2000. In short, the colleges that may have offered many low-income students pathways to success are becoming less accessible to them.

parental-income

As it turns out, the degree of income segregation across colleges is comparable to income segregation across census tracts in the average American city.

Contrary to the common perception that children interact with a more socioeconomically diverse group of peers when they reach college, colleges in America are just as segregated as the neighborhoods in which children grow up.

Now, it is true: the United States still has a large number of great working-class colleges. For example,

At City College, in Manhattan, 76 percent of students who enrolled in the late 1990s and came from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution have ended up in the top three-fifths of the distribution. These students entered college poor. They left on their way to the middle class and often the upper middle class.

In fact,

the City University of New York system propelled almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago, combined.

state-funding

The problem is, the share of low-income students at at many public colleges has fallen over the last 15 years as state funding has plummeted. Working-class students, who remain shut out of the nation’s elite colleges and universities, are finding it increasingly hard to attend and complete their degrees at public institutions.

What we’re left with then is a system of higher education that, outside the elite schools, is not flush with cash and, as a result, is leaving “our young and beautiful students” with less and less access to a high-quality college or university education.

That’s why, continuing to promise the American Dream to the children of the working-class is the real American carnage.

 

*Ivy-Plus colleges include the eight Ivy League colleges (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale), the University of Chicago, Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Duke.

**At the University of Notre Dame, where I teach, 15.4 percent of students (for the 1991 cohort, approximately the class of 2013) had parents in the top 1 percent, while only 10 percent came from families in the bottom three quintiles.

-1x-1 -1x-1-1

. . .and students go on food stamps.

According to a new report by Moody Investor’s Service (cost: $550), the richest American universities are getting even richer.*

The coffers of the nation’s 40 wealthiest universities, including Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of Michigan, are filling at a faster rate than those of other schools, thanks to particularly strong investment performances and generous donors, according to a report to be published Thursday by Moody’s Investors Service.

“It’s really a tale of two college towns, if you will, or cities,” said Karen Kedem, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s. “Looking ahead, the expectation is that this [gap] will only widen.”

The 10 richest institutions held nearly one-third of total cash and investments at four-year schools in fiscal 2014, while the top 40 accounted for two-thirds. Wealth was concentrated among elite schools at similar rates before the financial crisis, but the gap shrunk as top schools lost big on more-volatile investments in 2008 and 2009.

They have more than recovered since then. Schools on Moody’s top-40 list saw assets grow by 50% between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2014, significantly outperforming other schools with strong credit ratings but smaller asset bases.

Meanwhile, with tuition skyrocketing and wages remaining stagnant, more and more students are forced to rely on food stamps.

the price of tuition has risen 1,120% between 1980 and 2010. Tuition at four-year public colleges has gone up 25% since 2007. Many students are forced to choose between low-wage jobs to help pay for tuition and unpaid internships for credit to build experience in their chosen field.

Colleges, aware of the financial troubles their students face, have begun opening food banks on their campuses. In Massachusetts, 12 of the state’s 29 public college campuses operate pantries, according to the Boston Globe, and about 200 colleges nationwide now operate pantries, reports the Wall Street Journal.

It’s no surprise then that on Wednesday, Fight for $15 campaign organizers expected students from 170 campuses to join in what was the largest US protest by low-wage workers.

“It’s important for students to be involved because even if we aren’t working for McDonald’s or Walmart, we are still on McDonald’s or Walmart type of wages,” Robert Ascherman, a student activist from NYU, told the Guardian on Wednesday. He says some students have to choose between buying food or buying textbooks.

From 2001 to 2010, the percentage of US students on food stamps has more than doubled to 12.6%, up from 5.4%, according to a 2013 analysis by Philip Trostel, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine.

*Here are the lists of the ten wealthiest private and public universities in the United States:

universities universities-public

Disclaimer: I relied on food stamps in graduate school, until the Reagan administration cut back the program. I now work for one of the 10 richest private universities in the country.

NA-CE690_ADJUNC_16U_20150216114806

According to the Wall Street Journal, an extraordinary 70 percent of the instructors on the campuses of U.S. colleges and universities were (as of 2011) adjuncts and other contingent workers. That’s up from an already-high 43 percent in 1975.

But now, fortunately, the academic precariat is starting to organize:

Since late November, adjuncts have won unionization votes at eight colleges, from Boston University to Dominican University of California. Last week, full-time, nontenure-track faculty at Tufts University’s College of Arts & Sciences voted to unionize.

Those union victories come after more than 15,000 part-time teachers at 40 schools joined unions in the 2012-13 academic year, bringing the total number of unionized, part-time teachers to about 172,000, according to the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in New York. The National Labor Relations Board in December issued a ruling opening the door for more union action at private religious schools, and a national adjunct walkout day is scheduled for Feb. 25.

original

According to Tyler Kingkade, students now pay more of the cost of attending public universities than do state governments. So much for the public in public universities!

The milestone was actually reached in 2012. And there are still other public monies (from local and, especially, the federal government) that are being used to fund public higher education.

original-1

But the state portion has declined since 2003 from 32 to 23 percent, while tuition revenues have increased from 17 to 26 percent.

No wonder students and their families are going deeper and deeper into debt.

BN-CU894_class2_G_20140515160833

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Class of 2014 is the most indebted class ever.

The average Class of 2014 graduate with student-loan debt has to pay back some $33,000, according to an analysis of government data by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher at Edvisors, a group of web sites about planning and paying for college. Even after adjusting for inflation that’s nearly double the amount borrowers had to pay back 20 years ago.

One problem is the growing gap between earnings and average student loan balance, as in the chart below:

BN-CU892_paydeb_G_20140515160642

Another problem is, as the Institute for Policy Studies [pdf] reports, the student debt crisis is worse at state schools with the highest-paid presidents.

Though it has been rising everywhere, average student debt of graduates in the top 25 public universities with the highest executive pay increased 5 percentage points more or 13% faster than the national average from summer 2006 to summer 2012.

The rise was most pronounced when executive compensation soared during the 1% recovery. From summer 2010 to summer 2011 alone, student debt in the top 25 rose by 10%, increasing 43% faster than the national average.

And to make matters even worse, today’s Chronicle of Higher Education reports that executive compensation is rising at public universities.

The million-dollar college presidency, which was unheard of at public institutions less than a decade ago, is increasingly common at top-tier universities. Nine college leaders earned more than $1-million in 2012-13, up from four in 2011-12, and three in 2010-11.

Finally, back to the report by the Institute for Policy Studies report, public universities with the highest executive compensation are increasingly relying on low-wage faculty labor.

As in universities everywhere, hiring of adjunct and contingent faculty far outstripped permanent faculty hiring at the 25 public universities with the highest executive pay. However, we found that adjunct (part- time) and contingent (temporary) faculty grew much faster than the national average when executive compensation soared at the top 25.

Put it all together and we have students who are increasingly going into debt at universities where executive compensation is soaring and education is being produced by part-time and contingent faculty in order to graduate and obtain jobs that are making it difficult to pay off their student loans.

58538_cartoon_main

 

Special mention

140408-equal-pay www.usnews