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Humanities in Academia
March 6, 2006 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Camille Paglia: WHAT went wrong at Harvard? "Over the past 40 years, there has been a radical expansion of administrative bureaucracies on American college campuses that has distorted the budget and turned education toward consumerism, a checkbook alliance with parents who are being bled dry by grotesquely exorbitant tuitions."
posted by semmi (46 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Oh please, everyone knows that you gotta bleed the undergrads to pay for the important stuff.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:47 AM on March 6, 2006


Sorry, but the only thing worse than a single-link FPP to an op-ed is a single-link FPP to an op-ed by Camille Paglia, the Madonna (or so she wishes) of academic discourse.
posted by soyjoy at 10:47 AM on March 6, 2006


Camille Paglia carrying water for David Horowitz and Sean Hannity. That was somehow predictable.

Harvard, and all the ivies for that matter, go through a period of "who are we" self-examination about every 20 years or so. It's probably very tempting for the facile-mind to link whatever is currently ailing Harvard two the right's all purpose bugbears (rampant political correctness and liberalism), but what is going on there just seems to be the natural order of things.

There. My opinion is just as thoroughly researched and valid as Paglia's. I'm going to get back to work now. Funny to think the Paglia actually makes her bones on writing such superficial drivel.
posted by psmealey at 10:59 AM on March 6, 2006


I lost respect for Paglia when I read that she'd made a very conscious decision to be outrageous when she was first making her way in grad school. She analyzed her field, and decided that she had a better probability of becoming well enough known to get a tenure-track job by being contrary than by toeing the line.

Which is to say, she's got good marketer's instincts. But the intellectual integrity of a con artist.

That said, it does seem clear that college has become far too expensive. The more interesting idea (to me, obviously) is that this represents a long term shift away from the ideal of popular education that grew through the first half plus one decade or so of the 20th C. The way I like to sketch the idea for people is to talk about all the GIs who got their education after teh war, and the generation of their children, who prospered then and have now made a tacit decision to constrain the ability of lower-classes to rise up.
posted by lodurr at 11:47 AM on March 6, 2006


Does anyone know why the price of a college education has grown so rapidly (much faster than inflation) over the last few decades? How much is accounted for by increase in the costs to core educational inputs?
posted by grobstein at 12:33 PM on March 6, 2006


Well, when I was at Harvard, I smoked weed every day, I cheated every test, I snorted all the yay.
posted by sourwookie at 12:42 PM on March 6, 2006


sourweed: well played.
posted by ruwan at 12:55 PM on March 6, 2006


I'd answer, but I'm off to the campus protest to support faculty unionization.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:55 PM on March 6, 2006


Does anyone know why the price of a college education has grown so rapidly

Because they can? As a bachelor's degree becomes so much more important for getting jobs that really don't need one, the purveyors of said degrees can and do jack up the prices.
posted by rxrfrx at 1:18 PM on March 6, 2006


I dont know about Harvard, but at many local ultra-nice private schools (from preschool to high school) parents are the ones clammoring to increase the cost of tuition - not to increase the bureaucracy, but instead to make sure students have new books every year, new computers or laptops every year, projectors for every room, etc. Its quite possible the parents are complicit in the rise in tuition costs.
posted by SirOmega at 1:22 PM on March 6, 2006


Camille Paglia? That broad has a great ass.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:33 PM on March 6, 2006


Does anyone know why the price of a college education has grown so rapidly (much faster than inflation) over the last few decades? How much is accounted for by increase in the costs to core educational inputs?
posted by grobstein at 12:33 PM PST on March 6 [!]


Perhaps stupid question, but what do you include in "core educational inputs"?

I have no idea why education in the US is more expensive. In Canada and Britain, it is because government spending per student is lower, partly through cuts but also through an increase in the number of students. I gather that state universities in the US have had their budgets per student reduced as well. But I don't understand the economics of private universities, except that I believe faculty salaries in the humanities have not increased beyond inflation, though salaries elsewhere might have. But there are increased costs for the maintenance and renovation of aging buildings. And students do expect better provisions than of old - like having showers more than once a week.
posted by jb at 1:39 PM on March 6, 2006


Isn't harvard basicaly free for anyone of lower incomes? I'm of the impression their tuition is farily resonable.
posted by delmoi at 1:49 PM on March 6, 2006


I believe it's free if your parents have a combined income of less than $40,000 a year. Otherwise tuition itself is ~40K a year making a four-year degree cost more than $150K. I don't think that's "fairly reasonable."
posted by trey at 1:55 PM on March 6, 2006


but he said farily resonable.
posted by quonsar at 1:58 PM on March 6, 2006


I believe it's free if your parents have a combined income of less than $40,000 a year.

Is that true? I was under the impression that Ivy League colleges were prohibited from offering scholarships of any kind (academic, athletic, etc.). For sure there are people that can qualify for grants from organizations outside of Harvard, but the institution itself can only offer financing (that will eventually need to be repaid). Not so?
posted by psmealey at 2:00 PM on March 6, 2006


oh- I would comment on Paglia's article, but I couldn't figure out what she was trying to say.

on preview: delmoi, yes, there is no tuition for anyone whose parents have an income under a certain level. I don't think anyone is thinking of Harvard in particular for tuition, but the tuitions at most private universities is all about the same level and have risen dramatically in the last few years. But few of these private universities have funding systems as progressive as Harvard's - Yale, for instance, until recently relied heavily on high-interest loans and work-placements for funding for costs in excess of what government loans cover (they have recently been changing their system, in response to Harvard and Princeton who either waive tuition or give grants). Even a friend of mine who received a fair number of merit scholarships for another private university finished with loans over $20,000 USD, as opposed to my $0 from a Canadian commuter university (and I had much less funding).

trey: is tuition about $40,000 a year, or is that tuition and living costs? Because only tuition has been waived, as far as I know, not residence and mealplans. Last time I checked, Ivy League tuition alone was more like $25,000 than $40,000.
posted by jb at 2:00 PM on March 6, 2006


Well, in 2004 tuition for an undergrad was $37,000 for tuition, fees, room, and board (source: http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/03/24/harvard.tuition.ap/index.html). That doesn't include books or anything.
posted by trey at 2:05 PM on March 6, 2006


Is that true? I was under the impression that Ivy League colleges were prohibited from offering scholarships of any kind (academic, athletic, etc.). For sure there are people that can qualify for grants from organizations outside of Harvard, but the institution itself can only offer financing (that will eventually need to be repaid). Not so?
posted by psmealey at 2:00 PM PST on March 6 [!]


Actually, many graduate students at Ivy League schools are on full scholarship - at Yale, all Ph.D. students are on scholarship, though many fewer masters students are. Princeton has been offering grants to undergraduate students for sometime, while Yale gives loans (at 9% payable immediately - not the best deal). Most do stress student contributions through work and some parental contribution (though small for poor families), but there are scholarships given. I don't know whether large merit scholarships are offerred in addition to need-based (small scholarships and fellowships are there), but there is internal non-loan based financial aid.

I'm curious, who do you think would be the authority who could enforce such a ban? All of the Ivy League universities are private and are subject only to accreditation.
posted by jb at 2:07 PM on March 6, 2006


trey: Yes, that's what I thought - it's less without the room and board. Though I guess commuting really isn't an option for most Harvard students. Do tuiton waivers for poor students include room and board?

Actually, this is an interesting cultural difference between Canada and the US. Before I began at an American university, I had never imagined there were universities where the tuition was greater than the room and board. Undergrad in Ontario was about $4-5000 when I went a few years ago, but room and board were more like $7-10,000. So commutting (and living at home) was really worth it (I did, as did about 80-90% of my university).
posted by jb at 2:18 PM on March 6, 2006


Instead of welcoming this golden opportunity to introduce the forbidden subject of biology to academic gender studies (where a rigid dogma of social constructionism reigns), Mr. Summers collapsed like a rag doll.

The unfortunate result of there being little acceptance for any but the wimpy whipped metrosexual male types allowed anywhere near these institutions any more.
posted by HTuttle at 2:27 PM on March 6, 2006


I believe that the Ivy League institutions give only need-based aid to undergrads. Grad students don't generally pay tuition, at least in the sciences, but they're not on "scholarships" so much as research and teaching assistantships and fellowships.
posted by transona5 at 2:31 PM on March 6, 2006


Is that true? I was under the impression that Ivy League colleges were prohibited from offering scholarships of any kind (academic, athletic, etc.). For sure there are people that can qualify for grants from organizations outside of Harvard, but the institution itself can only offer financing (that will eventually need to be repaid). Not so?

Not so. Often a "finance package" will include:
expected contribution from parents
+ loans
+ outside scholarships
+ expected contribution from student (through work)
+ outright grant (gift) from the University itself

For low income students, the outright grant can be substantial enough to cover the majority of the tuition. As is often stated, the middle class gets screwed: The wealthy can affort to pay ouright and the poor manage to get significant grants.
posted by vacapinta at 2:32 PM on March 6, 2006


As a side note, one "problem" faced by many poorer students is that if you manage to get another outside scholarship (e.g. the local John Doe honorary scholarship) then the financial package will reduce the grant from the University by an equal amount! So, essentially if you fall into the "grant" income bracket, outside scholarship are useless financially.
posted by vacapinta at 2:36 PM on March 6, 2006


I'm a proud graduate of a second-tier American private college. If it was only the Ivies who were pricing themselves into 40K territory, that would be one thing. Parents will still make huge sacrifices to get their kids into them, along with Stanford. But the second-tier schools? They're pricing is also going through the roof. I have a hard time believing many of those Pennsylvania and midwest colleges can maintain themselves at this rate (but I heard that argument back in the 90's when I was in college, and you don't hear about many closing down, so what do I know?).

Paglia is boring, as usual. And to desribe a bomb-chucking shit-magnet like Horowitz as if he was a disinterested, concerned citizen? Too funny. Nice discussion though.
posted by bardic at 2:51 PM on March 6, 2006


Does anyone know why the price of a college education has grown so rapidly

According to the gist of the article, it has to do with the abundant costs of running the various ethnic/women studies departments, don't you agree?
posted by semmi at 3:14 PM on March 6, 2006


This link was too gross to look at.
posted by washburn at 3:40 PM on March 6, 2006


Does anyone know why the price of a college education has grown so rapidly

At UGA, our president's salary doubled to about $600k, they built two parking decks, added a skybox or two to the gigantic football stadium, but otherwise--they cut the english language program for international students, which was a drag. (wages are also down.)

The foundation, the corporation in charge of the Univ's money, wanted to do an audit of the president's expenditures, but then it was fired by the board of regents.

we keep hearing how it's because the economy sucks. They're damn right. i wish they would make it stop sucking.
posted by eustatic at 5:41 PM on March 6, 2006


Isn't harvard basicaly free for anyone of lower incomes?

I believe it's free if your parents have a combined income of less than $40,000 a year.


Harvard Announces New Initiative Aimed at Economic Barriers to College
"Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers announced Feb. 28 a major new initiative designed to encourage talented students from families of low and moderate income to attend Harvard College. The new initiative has four major components:
Financial aid: Beginning next year, parents in families with incomes of less than $40,000 will no longer be expected to contribute to the cost of attending Harvard for their children. In addition, Harvard will reduce the contributions expected of families with incomes between $40,000 and $60,000....
'Already nearly half of Harvard's undergraduates receive grants averaging over $24,000 each year, and two-thirds receive some form of financial aid,' said William C. Kirby, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. 'This new initiative will enhance our effectiveness in reaching out to students who have done remarkable things with their lives despite limited financial resources.'...

The key to the new financial aid initiative is that parents with incomes below $40,000 will no longer be expected to contribute to the cost of their child's education at Harvard. At present, the average contribution for parent(s) with incomes under $40,000 is $2,300 — that number will be $0 under the new plan. Families with incomes of up to $60,000 will see their expected parent contributions reduced by an average of $1,250."

[Harvard Gazette | February 28, 2004]
posted by ericb at 7:01 PM on March 6, 2006


College is a racket with a captive audience, they know they can overcharge because people will pay, even though the quality at most of the state schools has diminished.

Better to let your young son or daughter invest that $50,000-100,000 bucks in a business or small starter house, considering the true financial worth of most of the state college degrees today.
posted by Budge at 7:03 PM on March 6, 2006


An op-ed by Camille Paglia? Could be worse. Could be a podcast by Camille Paglia.
posted by clevershark at 7:29 PM on March 6, 2006


Why do I have the impression most people commenting on the article just gave it a very quick reading? She does not "praise" Horowitz or Hannity, but use them as an example for the present conservative on the academia, just to add two sentence later "If politicians start to meddle in campus governance, academic freedom will be the victim. And when students become snitches, we are heading toward dictatorship by Mao's Red Guards or Hitler Youth". It is ok to dislike the author, but the article itself is not bad, but somewhat superficial - the FPP should have included more supporting links.

Although Paglia alone will not support much discussion, her account of the Summers affair is good enough and her statement that "American humanities professors fell under the sway of a ruthless guild mentality" was already commented here several times. As I said, not so bad.
posted by nkyad at 7:30 PM on March 6, 2006


Considering today's over-inflated housing market, I'd recommend trade school instead.

Learn how to be a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician, or a mechanic, and you'll have no trouble finding work anywhere you go.

Whoops. What I meant to say was "Liberal Arts education highly recommended! Would spend $200,000 again!!A+++!!!eleventy1!!!"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:41 PM on March 6, 2006


The unfortunate result of there being little acceptance for any but the wimpy whipped metrosexual male types allowed anywhere near these institutions any more.
posted by HTuttle


Ann Coulter, is that you?
posted by papakwanz at 8:55 PM on March 6, 2006


Well she works at an overpriced art school in Philadelphia bleeding students and parents dry, so what is her point?
posted by 45moore45 at 9:41 PM on March 6, 2006


vacapinta
Often a "finance package" will include:
expected contribution from parents
+ loans
+ outside scholarships
+ expected contribution from student (through work)
+ outright grant (gift) from the University itself

For low income students, the outright grant can be substantial enough to cover the majority of the tuition. As is often stated, the middle class gets screwed: The wealthy can affort to pay ouright and the poor manage to get significant grants.


This is spot-on.
posted by oaf at 10:50 PM on March 6, 2006


Paglia lost me the minute she went public with her admiration of Rush Limbaugh's erudition. Seriously.
posted by telstar at 11:56 PM on March 6, 2006


Budge: College is a racket, sure, but it's not hte value of state college degrees that's plummeting -- it's the value of private college degrees. Big, expensive schools are less and less of a benefit to their students as our access to information becomes more and more ubiquitous.

I would argue that the current price of college makes the state schools much, much more attractive. The opportunity for a good education exists at any one of the many state colleges here in NY; the problem is that most students still view education as something that happens to them, instead of as what it actually is: Something they create for themselves. (Even if they float through passively, their failure to choose actively constituted a choice: They still made their education.)

And encouraging a young person to "start a small business" or "buy a house" as opposed to going to college? That's just stupid, man. Stupid. Most small businesses fail. Houses do not increase your earning potential, or enhance your ability to get a desirable job.

As for "bleeding the middle class" -- well, yes, but it's not as though the "working class" is making out like bandits. How many of them break through the socioeconomic class barrier into the middle class or the upper class?

Answer: Just enough to keep their hopes up and keep the middle class nervouc.
posted by lodurr at 6:02 AM on March 7, 2006


... Rush Limbaugh's erudition.

Well, he does have a lovely speaking voice. [/mrs premise]
posted by lodurr at 6:03 AM on March 7, 2006


Paglia lost me the fifth time she used the word "chthonic" in the first couple chapters of Sexual Personae.
posted by soyjoy at 6:53 AM on March 7, 2006


I agree with lodurr, mucho. As I get fundraising stuff from my college (and on a blue moon give a donation), nestled in a beautiful, middle-of-nowhere place, I have to wonder if it'll be around in 50 years. I loved it there, it was great, but it was such an incredible luxury (somewhat offset by an academic scholarship). Many state Universities, even traditionally weaker ones, have done a much better job of marketing themselves for the 21st century, and that's a good thing. Other than the Ivies, Stanford, and a few exceptional others, private colleges lacking any sort of professional or graduate courses (once a source of pride re: "We're about pure knowledge, not that messy professional stuff") are dinosaurs. It's kind of a shame, but not worth being too upset about. I would honestly encourage my kids one day to go the state college route than the private college one, FWIW. The more personalized experience re: 10 student seminars, no courses bigger than 50, no grad. instructors is nice, but really not worth going into debt over.
posted by bardic at 12:22 PM on March 7, 2006


I agree with the poster that trade school is a valuable option.

Actually early home ownership, would save that young adult, tons of rent money actually leading to an easier economic future. No living out of milk crates paying huge rents, and when you have to move, sell, and buy another.
Anyone I know who has purchased at home at a young age, is doing far better.

Small business, at least there is a chance and some real world experience and business contacts made.

As for the middle class and upper middle class how many are falling down the cracks into the working class
{ taxi driver, factory job, fastfood, 10 bucks an hour or less}, despite a college education?
posted by Budge at 2:46 PM on March 7, 2006


The unfortunate result of there being little acceptance for any but the wimpy whipped metrosexual male types allowed anywhere near these institutions any more.

As opposed to manly, wife-beaters like yourself, right HTuttle?
posted by I Love Tacos at 8:10 PM on March 7, 2006


To clarify an earlier point, Ivy League schools are not allowed to give merit-based and athletic scholarships, but a large chunk of their student population gets need-based scholarships.

It's true that the sticker price of an education at a private school is ridiculous, but only those who have boat-loads of money actually pay that much. I'm from a lower-middle class family and went to an Ivy. My parents paid about $1500 per year, and I left school with $12000 of debt; this includes cost of living, not just tuition. (This was before those schools got into a price war and increased financial aid packages dramatically.)

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Those were the four best years of my life. It's not so much that I had access to information that I wouldn't have had otherwise; rather it's the chance to interact with the people there that made it great. I got to know some of the smartest people out there, and they taught me how to think critically and how to learn.

There are some public universities that can compete with the Ivies in terms of quality of faculty, but none that can compete when it comes to class sizes. For someone like me, who was rather timid as an undergrad, this made all the difference in the world.
posted by epimorph at 8:58 PM on March 7, 2006


Does anyone know why the price of a college education has grown so rapidly

BECAUSE WE ARE SUCKERS.

US students pay more for a summer abroad than their European counterparts pay for their whole university education.

...oh, but we had fun and met great people.
posted by pwedza at 11:47 PM on March 7, 2006


Budge: The failure rate of small businesses is so high that the only merit in that course is developing strength of character. In terms of setting you up financially for life, it's almost the diametric opposite of buying a house. Except when it works -- which is relatively rare. (There's an ideal [future] world that a lot of these scenarios are created in where the economy is comprised of a network of "small businesses" -- i.e., everyone is an "independent" "small-business" "owner". The Bushite "ownership society" canard is one variant of that ideal world. It will never, alas, come to be.)

I would never dis trade school. To me, that's of a piece with going to college: Educating yourself to make a place in the world. In fact, I've been to a trade school: In addition to my BA, I, personally, hold a NYS certification as a Word Processor, obtained through a secretarial school. And I'm not making an argument on behalf of the much abused "Liberal Arts" degree (though I could); I'm making an argument for giving yourself the bargaining leverage to make a better first place for yourself. That first place can make all the difference; if you don't get that training and certification (AAS, BA, BS, whatever), everythign is harder from that point on. I know this from my own experience; I know it from observing the lives of others. Just talk to any single mother.

As for the "early home ownership" scenario, it's so loaded with unstated assumptions that I don't know where to start. They have to have or get capital to buy the home; they'll need a good job to get that capital, or some kind of backing, say from parents with assets (which kind of screws the second through n-th kids of less than affluent parents). It's blue-sky in a rainy day world.
posted by lodurr at 4:55 AM on March 8, 2006


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