Thursday, March 15, 2012

Creative destruction comes to higher education

Yesterday's LA Times reported that Santa Monica Community College had adopted two-tiered pricing.
Faced with deep funding cuts and strong student demand, Santa Monica College is pursuing a plan to offer a selection of higher-cost classes to students who need them, provoking protests from some who question the fairness of such a two-tiered education system. 
Under the plan, approved by the governing board and believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the two-year college would create a nonprofit foundation to offer such in-demand classes as English and math at a cost of about $200 per unit. Currently, fees are $36 per unit, set by the Legislature for California community college students. That fee will rise to $46 this summer.
Just a couple of days ago, The Economist ("A pixelated portrait of labour") reported LinkedIn data that suggests the fastest growing job title in the U.S. is adjunct professor which they describe as "an ill-paid, overworked species of academic."

To explain it all, and much more, there is Ronald Ehrenberg's "American Higher Education in Transition" in the Winter 2012 Journal of Economic Perspectives.  (Ungated and excellent.)  The times are a-changing.  How could they not? 

Mammas, don't let your babies grow up to be PhDs' -- unless you are pretty sure they will be able to claim one of the dwindling number of tenure-track positions at "wealthy private and flagship public research universities and the leading liberal arts colleges" which the author reports "are in a world of their own."