Sociological Analysis

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the college business

May 20th, 2011 · 1 Comment

Recently, I’ve been seeing and realizing that everything in this day and age is a business. Unfortunately, this has started to include schools. In sports, players are always questioned on why to go to teams where they offer the most money. And other teams are questioned as to why they don’t pay the big bucks to keep their “star” players. This is how business works. You pay for what you can afford.
Ask any good business person how he makes the most from what he’s got and it’s because he’s smart about the way he uses his money. He invests in areas where he will profit most. That means he might downsize in the appropriate field if it isn’t making him any money. Unfortunately, I think we can apply this model to recent schooling trends as well. Certain universities don’t have the same budget as others. That’s why in certain places you might see more full time, willing to do everything for their student professors. I don’t know if this person is a better professor than the not full time, but for a student to know that this professor has been around the block and is doing the most in his or her power to help the student out, the student might gravitate more strongly towards doing well for that professor. I’m not speaking from experience when i say that a professor chooses a university to teach at based on where he or she will make more money. But in my mind a standout professor might have the same mind set as a star baseball player or a standout employee that can land any job anywhere. So why choose a university where he or she makes little money? No, save those universities to hire the cheaper, younger breed that are just looking to make a buck while they are doing their research to get their final licenses in graduate school. The professor wants where the money is at and that might be the expensive universities.
Again I have no experience reading or seeing any of this. It’s just a personal feeling that the world is becoming one big business.

David Walz

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1    Prof. Hala // May 23, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Insightful post, David. Your conceptualization of college as a “business” is compelling. I definitely think you’re onto something with your keen observations. Your main argument, linking student outcomes to the quality of instruction, which is shaped by the employment and hiring conditions of instructors, is right on the money, I think. In order to understand the problems of college education — and to find solutions — it’s essential to examine their relationship to the ‘labor side’ of instruction. The dramatic shift away from full-time faculty toward a ‘cheaper,’ contingent workforce of part-time and adjunct instructors undeniably has an impact on student learning — as you note, instructors who seem invested in an institution and its students are more likely to inspire students to do well.

    Your professional baseball analogy is also instructive, in this respect: academia seems increasingly to operate as a ‘star system.’ There are fewer and fewer coveted tenure-track positions available, while the pool of aspiring professors only increases. Most of them will never make it out of the ‘minor leagues.’ You are correct in asserting that the standouts, the ‘stars,’ in academia as in baseball, have their pick of positions. While it’s impossible to know others’ motivations with certainty, I’d suggest academics aren’t primarily motivated by money — there’s plenty of other fields where the money is much better. I think the ‘stars’ choose their positions based on a mix of factors, which may include pay but also include “prestige.” But even if high salary were the key determinant of where the star academics choose to work, this would not rule out public universities. Although they offer fewer ‘plum’ positions, (less-expensive) public universities do offer pay packages that can rival private universities in order to attract the ‘stars.’ However, since ‘stardom’ is increasingly based on research output, whether their hiring will actually improve the quality of instruction, hence student learning, is unclear.

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