Koch’s Recipe for Reforming Higher-Ed

James V. Koch’s indictment of the U.S. higher education system can be summarized as follows: The cost of attending four-year public universities has soared in recent decades, creating an affordability crisis. Lower- and middle-income students and their families have coped by piling up massive student loans to the point where indebtedness has become a major social and economic problem. Higher-ed institutions, especially those with brand names and pricing power, have extracted wealth from its students to fund institutional priorities of bolstering prestige and influence.

The underlying problem, Koch suggests in his recently published book, “The Improverishment of the American College Student,” can be traced to an asymmetry in political and market power.

Undergraduate students come and go. They and their families usually focus intently on college costs for a period of one to six years. After this, their attention dissipates. There is no permanent constituency of interested parties or victims. … Hence it is difficult to organize student or parent pressure groups that might address tuition and fee issues…

By contrast, the institutional interests of colleges, universities, and their bureaucracies endure. Boards of Visitors, set up to provide oversight of ambitious administrators, are routinely captured and dominated by university presidents. Board members adopt the goals and priorities of the administration rather than those of largely invisible students and families.

“Many members of the boards of these institution have been co-opted by those institutions and their presidents,” writes Koch. “Too often, they act as if their primary duty is to find ways for their institutions, its administrators, and its faculty to prosper as opposed to representing citizens, taxpayers, students, and families.”

As former president of the University of Montana and then Old Dominion University, and as a consultant to dozens of institutions, Koch should know.

I’ve observed dozens of skillful college presidents fill the ears of board members with enticing, institution-centered narratives; watched them cleverly present their boards with leading questions and topics that demonstrated the “need” for their initiatives; observed them showing board members their institution’s points of pride; … saw them feed and entertain board members sumptuously; listened to board members being flattered concerning the value of their services; and, finally, watched skilled, charismatic presidents send their board members home happy with the thought their “their” institution was on the right track. …

Board members … are deluged with mountains of information, nearly always positive. Seldom are data concerning affordability and access part of their data smorgasbord. … In fewer than 20 percent of cases have I ever witnessed a meaningful board discussion (public or private) that either explored the basic purpose of the institution or elucidated the public responsibilities of governing board members. Questions of affordability and access seldom arise.

So, what is to be done? Koch does not believe that micro-management by state government is a viable solution. Rather, he says, the higher-ed system needs more transparency, different incentives, and governance reform.

The first step is to enhance transparency. Abundant information about individual colleges and universities is available online, but it is fragmented and scattered. “We need to find ways to make students and their families more informed about college choices.” Koch would like to see colleges publish sticker prices and net prices (accounting for financial aid) across income levels. He’d like to see student persistence rates, graduation rates, employment rates, and alumni incomes broken down by college majors. More radically,  he argues for posting complete line-item budgets online, making presidential papers public after a year, and opening up the deliberations of college foundations.

While transparency is desirable, Koch acknowledges, it is not sufficient in itself to drive change. Accurate consumer information can help discipline the higher-ed marketplace but it does not eliminate the causes of cost-inflating behaviors.

A second approach is to place prices on previously “free” resources. “A portion of the solution to the collegiate cost conundrum … is to have institutions begin to price heretofore free resources such as space, utilities, and computer support.” The “space” problem is a classic example. “Departments and programs seldom pay for their use of space and therefore often attempt to control as much space as they can and demand incremental space whenever possible.”

Third, the activities of foundations should be opened up to public scrutiny.

Fourth, states should promote stronger state oversight boards to restrain curricular and programmatic bloat. Koch describes the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, SCHEV, as a relatively weak board. “One can argue … that Virginia institutions have utilized their freedom to add expensive programs and complexity beyond what has been appropriate, and this is a reason why tuition and fees in that state not only are high but have increased more rapidly than the national average since the turn of the century.” However, he acknowledges that Virginia’s system allows more scope for innovation and differentiation between institutions. “Once must balance the costs of operating strong or weak statewide boards against their benefits.”

Fifth, states should reform governance.

To reverse the affordability crisis in public higher education, we [should] require governors to appoint board members who first of all have been educated to understand what has been going on in higher education, and second who view their major responsibility as being to citizens, taxpayers, and students rather than to a specific institution and its charismatic president. … Board members need an evidentiary look at trends such as administrative proliferation, the financial tradeoff between instruction and research, and the expansion of amenities.

As much as they need more information, board members need courage, Koch says. “They must be willing to ask probing questions at opportune times and look beyond institutional narratives and the rhetoric of administrators and faculty.”

Failure to reform higher ed, he warns, will make colleges and universities more unaffordable and less accessible, perpetuate economic and social stratification, and contribute to social discord.

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10 responses to “Koch’s Recipe for Reforming Higher-Ed

  1. Here is one thing Mr. Koch should add to his recipe for reforming universities:

    Here is an earlier comment, giving some of my reasons for opposing today’s college and university rating systems, found at post entitled What’s Driving up the Cost of Attendance at Virginia’s Colleges, November, 24, 2017:

    Peter –

    I agree with you that U.S News & World Report, its rating systems, and others like it, have reeked enormous damage on America’s system of higher education. These ratings systems prey upon the best and worst instincts of parents, who only want “the best” for their kids, but are grossly mislead by these rating systems as to what the Best in Higher Education really is, and how to find the best, and how to best take advantage of the best.

    These U.S News & World Report rating systems also reek havoc and otherwise damage most everything and everybody they touch in higher education, whether they be students, parents, taxpayers, college Boards of Trustees, administrators of all kinds, faculty of all kinds, and Alumni.

    So, for example, these U.S News rating systems prey upon the worst and best instincts of colleges and universities too, and ignite vicious cycles of bad habits by all concerned, including surging costs, mission creep, and lost of focus and lost of mission, that harms and corrupts all involved. And these ratings drive costs sky high while they drive down the quality of education that students receive at the vast majority of “selective” American institutions irrespective of their rank.

    As to how this works, and how it has happened over time, it is important to remember that US News & World Report’s annual rankings first appeared in 1983. By then the quality of undergraduate education in America was already in a free fall, and had been since the late 1960’s. The authority and control of Administrators to maintain standards of teaching and learning in their institutions had been in collapse since the mid to late 1960s. This collapse was concurrent with the rise of the radical left among the faculty during this time of great social and cultural upheaval in America generally, and on campuses in particular. (Recall 1968 Democratic convention, the Weather Underground Organization (WUO), and Jesuit Berrigan Bros, for a few of many examples)

    Much of this vast cultural shift within US higher education came to stay, ferment, and grow into a force of dramatic impact. This fueled the rise of post modernism – relativism, deconstruction, and critical cultural studies – that was well on its way in the 1980s to destroying traditional teaching of undergraduate Liberal Arts and Sciences on America’s campuses. The Western Canon, the best of that body of scholarship, writings, and traditions that had been built over the space of 2000 years was being trashed and discarded and replaced by an every growing hodgepodge of courses called “NEW KNOWLEDGE. This stuff was and is a complete impostor, little more than angry imaginings of maladjusted college professors using their axes to grind up the Canons of Civilizations on the altar of suddenly discovered grievances and injustices by abusive and oppressive types of people and cultures who over the past 2000 years of recorded history have inflicted a litany of horrors on ever expanding types and kinds of other oppressed peoples of other races, genders, ethic groups, cultures, classes, and others however slightly different. However valid originally, this has now reached the point of parody, if not now the level of the absurd, and obviously so.

    But this rampant claptrap fueled an explosion of research and research papers on the undergraduate level by the late 1970s, tripling and quadrupling the time faculty devoted to research and the spawning of New Knowledge courses that poisoned undergraduate level education at many American Universities. Indeed, as this research become ascendant and then dominant, the teaching of students, and the demands placed on student learning, in colleges and universities plummeted. Student skills in reading, and writing, and critical analysis and problem solving, began a long and decline that continues to this day, as did the decline in homework study and testing in the substance of whatever was taught in the classroom, not to mention the abrupt decline in the quality and substance of the courses taught in the classroom.

    Unfortunately, the US News and World Report Rating System put these bad habits on steroids beginning in the 1980s. The enormous power these magazine rating systems came to wield over the buying habits of students and parents (where students applied, and how they formulated their first, second, third, fourth, and back up choices) put the students and their desires in the drivers seat, in so far as concerned school administrators and faculty. It also turned the students into commodities whose every whim, and desire had to be catered to by the colleges and universities, to attract students to the school and keep them happy once there. For now, their student’s Advance Placement and SAT scores, and their application and acceptance and retaining rate, were critically important to an institutions national, regional, and local rating, which in turn could easily make or break a institutions success or failure in the market place. This launched a very costly building and amenities war. And, this destroyed the institutions and faculty’s ability of enforce educational and learning standards on students.

    Indeed now a professors main job vis a vis students went from teaching and challenging students to learn to entertaining students and keeping them happy, and this came to mean affording their students the most pain free ways of graduating with the least amount of pain, work, failure or effort. So, yet again, reading and writing, and serious testing and grades, went out the window in most courses but hard sciences, while entertainment and junk courses exploded in popularly throughout most college curriculum.

    In essence, what happened was that a peace treaty was signed between the school and the students so that each got what they wanted. The student got graduated and good grades with the least amount of work and the most amount of fun and recreation, while the faculty got ever more time away from teaching and grading students, and ever more time for faculty research and development of professor’s businesses, chasing grants, getting outside clients, and burnishing their professional chops while turning over ever more teaching, grading, and advising to adjunct non tenured professors, graduate students, and post graduate students, the vast majority of which are low salaried contract employee with little long future or security at the school.

    This gig, its big bundle of bad habits, went through the roof after the year 2000. This was fueled by the explosion of federal student loans and grants, and the vast increases in the federal funding of STEM research, and other projects that the federal government had an interest in, like defense, global warming, health care, alleged sexual abuse on campus, you name it.

    This only strengthened the hand of the Magazine rating power game that now forces Colleges and Universities to play its games, and to meet its demands, as well as the demands of the federal government, the students, their parents, the Alumni, and state governments, and big private interest investors and funders. Yet again this has ignited the highly expensive arms races among ALL THE SELECTIVE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES as they must built ever more expensive “five Star” facilities and student bodies to complete with one another, most particularly their peers, and impress their many masters, whether their race be for the TOP TEN in the Nation, or among those schools ranking between 140 and 160 in the nation.

    Meanwhile, students, now highly sought after commodities are wined, dined, and pampered to, not challenged, or made to work hard to earn good grades and so prove their competence, but it is their fate now to be entertained and catered to. Hence, today far too many students of all abilities become whiners and complainers, and fragile and fearful, or grossly incompetent but dominating until they fall apart when challenged. See for example the U Tubes screaming girl at Yale. And, it is for sure that far too many students today get no where near the education that they deserve and pay for.

    But at long last there is reason for hope. Signs that things are beginning to change. And that they can change as new leaders take charge and old leaders who have been fighting and holding on now re emerge after a long winter in the dark, into a changing social and political climate. Change is in the air.

  2. Here are yet more things Mr. Koch should add to his recipe for reforming universities:

    “Thirdly, research should not be allowed to impair education in the slightest. Now it impairs education grievously in most first tier universities. That too is an immoral disgrace. Not because research is bad. In fact it is critically important. But because our corrupt character as humans allow research to eat education of students alive in most of our elite universities today.

    Lets put some flesh on the bare bones of my above assertion.

    As well documented on this blog, today’s tragedy in elite higher education hangs between two central pillars of dysfunction – research and teaching. Today’s system of higher education forces research to war against teaching. As a result, the great bulk of money raised by, and spend on, our elite public universities fail to benefit the education of their students. Hence much of the vast sums of money ponied up by students, their parents, and taxpayers is wasted or at best spent in highly ineffective and unfair ways.

    As a direct consequence, Higher Education fails to educate the vast majority of elite students, whether it be in terms of any verifiable results, and/or in improving the quality of the teaching they receive in the classroom, and/or in the amount of time that highly competent teachers devote to teaching them, and/or to increasing the quality and substance of the subject matter being taught students.

    In short, what elite Virginia education needs is better teachers empowered and committed to spending vastly more of their time and resources to personally teaching great and rigorous courses to willing and able students under a teaching regime where excellence is demanded on the part of teachers and students. And where results are verified. And consequences are rendered for failure.

    Why these failures in educating the great majority of our elite students? And why is it that the more money we spend, the less education most our elite students get? Again it is the war between teaching and research.

    Research inflates the status of professors. It drives up their pay, reputation, security and tenure. Thanks to ill-conceived rankings based on false values, this research also drives up the status and prestige of their university. This drives professors and universities to do ever more research, irrespective of the quality of its outcome, and to do ever less teaching that drives down their status, power, and salary.

    These powerful forces, working in combination, also breed junk research that undermines good science. And it forces universities to subsidize out of its own pocket ever more research. Since the cost of most research far exceeds the revenues it generates, this drives up the cost of tuition, while it drives down the quality of the teaching of students as the university diverts their tuition monies from paying teachers to paying research costs for ever more equipment, labs or researchers salaries. This is a death spiral. It forces costs ever higher. Meanwhile it drains ever more funds away from teaching. And the adverse consequences are cumulative, spiraling outward. For example, the death spiral forces ever more students to saddle themselves with ever more debt to feed the beast they keep trying to ride to get a degree whose value declines year by year. These death spirals always end in the collapse of the system. Why? Because the system operates on a lie. It is a Ponzi scheme. The lie is the asserting that elite students are paying these high and ever rising tuition costs in return of their own world class education.

    While is this a lie? Where is the proof. Consider this contrast professors:

    Teaching deflates the status of professors. Teaching drives down their pay, reputation, security and tenure. And, as tenure and tenure track professors at elite institutions flee teaching for research, the elite universities are forced to hire more and more low wage and low benefit, short-term teachers to teach ever more students in ever fewer classrooms, for cost efficiencies at the expense of learning. This forces these low wage low security teachers into a nomadic existence, often traveling between universities weekly, to earn enough to live on.

    This also puts these teachers increasingly at the mercy of student evaluations. Grades inflate and junk courses spread as demands for study, testing and learning all plummet. And, as tenured and tenured track professors flee the elite classrooms, entertainment venues spread throughout the classrooms and campuses of elite universities to fill the vast gaps of empty time that open in the students’ day, given the lack of serious resources and energy and demands then devoted to teaching. Here we see binge drinking, partying and sex hook ups, and students plunging into virtual realities. This breeds bad lifestyles in students, causing them harms of all kinds, damage done to them at universities that can easily last a lifetime, as our universities strip their students of their culture, education and character.

    Thus, the harm spreads and compounds as research and teaching war with one another. And, all involved suffer, save for the few elite who run this system at the expense of everyone else as costs go through the roof to keep this Ponzi scheme running to enrich those few rulers.

    But why should we be surprised. Institutions and the people who run them without accountability can never be trusted. This is particularly true for people who act in secret while they refuse to be held accountable.

    For more see:
    SEE https://www.baconsrebellion.com/making-case-higher-ed-investment/

  3. I wonder what Dr. Koch would say to a proposal that college and university presidents be appointed by the Governor, rather than the governing board of the institution? After all, it was not too very long ago that many agency heads were chosen by their boards. That method was ended in the early 1970s when the General Assembly adopted the recommendations of the Hopkins Commission. Maybe it is time to reform higher ed in the same manner.

    • A very interesting proposal. State colleges and universities are subdivisions of the state just like other agencies and local governments. A fair argument can be made that the Governor should make the appointments. I wonder whether any other states do this.

    • I agree, given how weak, compliant, and self seeking many university boards appear to be today. But I believe it is true that the governor appoints the boards at many of these institutions in Virginia, so perhaps remedies need to go deeper.

      One step would be to force the players to decide what priorities should universities serve first, namely educating students and proving it, or alternative serving the interests of those who run these institutions and their business allies, including research and other self seeking programs. Another words, we need to change the way Administrators and Boards think and operate, establishing the fact that, and proving it, that their obligations run first to the students, the students parents, and the taxpayer. Why cannot a candidate for Governor, and other elected officials run for office on such a platform. I would think that, if that were presented properly, including making the facts of what is going on now properly known, this could be a powerful election campaign promise.

      • Here are some earlier comments on this blog to help throw light on subject:

        From Bacon’s Rebellion post “Professors Teaching Less, Students Studying Less”

        Recall Jim, that UVA’s Department of English lists some 110 professors and instructors to teach less than 4oo English majors, including some 155 graduate students in English.

        Of these 110 professors are some 64 tenured or tenured track professors who claim to teach primarily on the graduate level. The rest of “the faculty” are professors are adjunct, term limited, or graduate teaching assistants, many of whom are shuttled in to fill the voids caused by tenured professors who are taking ever more frequent year long sabbaticals. Meanwhile the undergraduate students who now participate and major in English courses nationwide at the elites universities have plunged in numbers. Their English Departments, as are much of the humanities, are shadows of their former selves.

        From Bacon’s Rebellion post “Stop Destroying Our Diploma Value!”

        Your comment as usual is excellent, but my central question is does it cover all the bases of quality, performance and cost. And if not, does it miss the forest for the trees.

        Here I speak generally given my lack of knowledge on W&M. Another way of expressing my concern is what do ratings miss altogether, thus miss the major elements of the fair bargain – a very good assured education of your kid at a reasonable price.

        Another words, if I am a paying parent, I need to ask:

        1/ How much of what I pay goes to directly educate my child, and how much is spend on costs irrelevant and/or harmful to my child and his or her education.

        2/ What is the quality of my child’s education, the quality of the courses, the quality of the teachers, the habits and culture they are taught and learn by example. Such as: If you don’t work or study, hence don’t learn, you funk out.

        Another words, beyond the two primary questions, what do other statistics matter? And why?

        With that in mind, I asked on an earlier post:

        “How do you do a cost benefit analysis of a system that is totally broken? Where all but a few learn nothing or close to nothing in undergraduate school. See books Academically Adrift. A system where most research is driven not by a quest for truth but an affirmation of tenured professors ideology and/or self interest and/or angst. Where peer review punishes any views different from rigidity held ideology. A system where costs per student and per activity are hidden from public view and misstated to force benefits and other peoples money into some parts of the curriculum while punishing and blowing up altogether other peoples education, including many disciplines of former study that now no longer educate, but instead entertain or promote grievance or political advantage. (Such Studies Departments driven by post modernism, and Identity and Grievance Politics.) A system that produces little or no education at all so there is a great shortage of qualified people in most fields of employment. A system of learning with no standards of performance, or coherence at all, save that of keeping students tied into their seats long enough to suck up their money while diverting most of that money away from that students education and shoving it instead towards feeding the voracious needs of tenured faculty and university administrators who refuse to teach students, only use them.

        And of course why do we see what is right in front of our noses?

        For example, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that well educated humanities students were most valued by first class high paying employers if any such well educated humanities students could be found. But finding them was increasingly rare. Thence they were precious commodities wherever found as the shortage of honest to goodness educated college and university graduates of any sort was reaching critical proportions, now indeed a national emergency.

        All this said, … At lease you can test an alleged engineer or computer scientist and their ilk. Only God knows about everyone else since they all get at least Straight A (and Bs) …”

        See also: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/business-and-computer-science-majors-are-the-biggest-bargain-in-higher-ed/#comments

      • Here is a 3rd installment of earlier comments on this blog to help throw light on subject:

        From comments to Bacon’s Rebellion Post “About those WSJ College Rankings”

        RMF 3rd said:
        You reference an excellent article. It’s required reading for anyone seriously interested in the scam called “higher education” in America today.
        It helps to show how far too many of our current institutions have lost their mission to educate students. How we’ve replaced that mission with a system that far too often wastes the precious time, talents, energy, aspirations, opportunities, financial resources of our students while it steals from them the chance for an education they desperately needed to succeed.

        And it casts a bright light on how this corrupt system works by illustrating that even strong efforts to cut its costs does ever greater harm to the already abused students while its protects and enhances the wealth and security of those scamming the students they’re bound as fiduciaries to serve.

        Here we speak of the college administrators and elite members of the Academy, the tenured professors, and their parasitic functionaries who live off the fat of today’s system of “higher education”, collecting high pay for very little work and almost no results at dysfunctional institutions that today perpetrate a vast hoax on generations of young Americans.

        Remarkably, this corrupt system is increasingly funded and enabled by our Federal Government via its public funding of loans or grants or its underwriting of private ones that serve to feed ignorance and bad habits to our nation’s young, killing their future while their teachers claim it an education.

        There are many aspects of this problem. One is the ever growing cost of elite universities. Every year these institutions teach ever more ignorance to many of the brightest kids on the planet, the kids who often succeed because of their God given talents, and do so despite their education, and because at graduation they receive a jump to the front the line not because of what they learned at their elite university, but because they got into it in the first place. After all grades are meaningless when all are inflated to absurdity.

        But the greatest scam is the one imposed on so many less talented students such as those “accepted or recruited” into those many institutions of higher learning in Louisiana where the goal is simply to fill up seats and keep students sitting there pretending to learn while going deeper in dept, when they should be somewhere else learning a trade or skill or work ethic and confidence necessary to not only survive but to thrive as productive fulfilled adults.

        NOW from comments to Bacon’s Rebellion Post “Yes, Virginia, Faculty Productivity is Quantifiable”

        It is often said that most public research universities are at a great competitive disadvantage versus private industry research because these universities are “neither fish or fowl.”

        Thus, consider the first two paragraphs of my comments immediately above posted on Feb. 27 at 2:41 p.m., namely:

        ” … adjuncts typically have no right to do research, but by contract can only teach specific courses that typically they are not allowed to create themselves, in contrast to many tenured and non tenured professors and doctorate and post doc instructors, who can teach their own junk for their own amusement, while others must teach courses they have no interest in or enthusiasm for. So there are whole hierarchies of job functions and methods and taboos, that are written into each professor’s or instructors contract.

        Another example, many high powered researchers, and low powered researchers, are protected from teaching, or not allowed to teach. It is written into their contracts. Many others negotiate their teaching obligations way down, to say 6 or 9 teaching hours per week all semester, and get a semester long paid sabbatical every 5th semester. Many other tenured professors work these 6 or 9 hours a week and no one is sure how they spend the rest of their time, although I suspect this is declining in public research schools that now are run like businesses, or try to in any case.”

        What does this mean? For example: These complex hierarchies of job functions and methods and taboos that are written into each professor’s or instructor’s contract are refinements made over the past 40 years in an effort to get a teaching university structure to act like a highly efficient business corporation. In all but a few cases, however, these efforts have failed. Instead, these efforts have created highly dysfunctional institutions across the board, in teaching and research, and in costs versus benefits.

        At base, these efforts have failed because they disguise and twist, rather than transform, the public research university. A disguise is necessary because the university must create the fiction that their primary mission remains to teach students, when, in fact, this is not true. The reverse is true as the disguise of teaching must be maintained to generate revenue that is ever more critically needed to support the universities “real mission,” that is research that cannot support itself financially without the subsidy of student tuition revenue.

        Thus the whole institution gets twisted out of shape. Researchers and doctoral students pose falsely as excellent teaching professors when they are anything but. Meanwhile, great teaching professors lose status and respect.

        Why?

        Because, low wage contract workers are increasingly hired as mercenaries to replace great teaching professors, and thus do what great professors used to do at a far lower cost, namely teach students. This awkward set up causes enormous dislocation. It breeds chronic inefficiencies. It also generates unhappiness on the part of all involved, across the board.

        For example, administrative bureaucracies grow huge to manage these unwieldy structures of dysfunction while weighing them down instead.

        For another example, tenure now is controlled by administrators at Virginia Tech to assure business efficiency in servicing federal grants and business partners instead of teaching excellence that is being reduced to a bureaucratic function to raise tuition to support ever more research revenue that can’t be profitable but must be maintained to support high priced researchers and their infrastructures that do not teach students, but do maintain prestige under the standards of a fatally flawed ranking system.

        One could write a book on this subject. For now, consider professors like Dr. Bodovski who “really” want to teach but must spend the great majority of their time not teaching, but sitting on endless committee meetings trying to figure out new research projects that might win more revenue producing grants in a dwindling marketplace for grants. Or the millions of dollars recently spend out of UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund to support “committees of professors” trying to figure out how to win ever more Federal grants and business consulting contracts away from competitors like Virginia Tech, and how to divvy up the spoils between all the professors and their programs competing within UVA for the work …

        Absolutely I knew it. For only one of many examples, adjuncts typically have no right to do research, but by contract can only teach specific courses that typically they are not allowed to create themselves, in contrast to many tenured and non tenured professors and doctorate and post doc instructors, who can teach their own junk for their own amusement, while others must teach courses they have no interest in or enthusiasm for. So there are whole hierarchies of job functions and methods and taboos, that are written into each professor’s or instructors contract.

        Another example, many high powered researchers, and low powered researchers, are protected from teaching, or not allowed to teach. It is written into their contracts. Many others negotiate their teaching obligations way down, to say 6 or 9 teaching hours per week all semester, and get a semester long paid sabbatical every 5th semester. Many other tenured professors work these 6 or 9 hours a week and no one is sure how they spend the rest of their time, although I suspect this is declining in public research schools that now are run like businesses, or try to in any case.

        As regards professor Bodovski, I can only speculate. But, on one level, she may have experienced the mid life burn out most all of us have. Or perhaps she couldn’t stop this working to exhaustion because of a deep seated fear that she would be turned down for tenure if she did not exhaust herself and, after she got tenure, she couldn’t stop what had become obsessive compulsive behavior. But, in any case, the horror stories are endless. And much depends on whose running what departments. Some departments and leaders have long histories of abusing all subordinate teachers and researchers from doctoral students all the way up to tenured professors. But the biggest crime is that teaching in the lowest and most abused status, hence students suffer nearly criminal treatment and neglect while they or their parents pay all the bills for a lot of useless busywork driven by a lot of nonsense, or by a lot of money making by a few at expense of many, despite what so many of them say.

      • Here is a 4th installment of earlier comments on this blog to help throw light on subject:

        Comments of Earlier post on Bacon’s Rebellion “UVa Snags $27.5 Million Computer Research Grant”:

        Lift – You made a whole series of excellent points above. My earlier comments to your important observations were riddle with typos, syntax problems, and false auto corrected words, and were otherwise incomplete.

        So here I will start again, trying to do justice to your thoughts. The echo chamber you speak of is one reason why far too often there is far too little imagination and innovation at public research universities. This is because so many researchers within our public research universities are caught up among the echoes of those chambers they labor in, echoes that dictate to them political correctness and ideologies, and a litany of other strict markers that have been laid down by the ambitions and work of their superiors who hold their futures and reputations in their hands.

        All of these echoes and markers create demands the breed within junior researchers a chronic lack of innovative scientific or humanistic thinking, as well as an inbuilt fear of writing down truly independent thoughts on paper for fear that these notions will aggravate one’s superior and thereby cost one his or her one chance at tenure, or even any future recommendation at all within the Academy. Hence most of those who are coming up within the Academy fear challenging most all kinds of group think they encounter and fear to in anyway give even the appearance of interfering with or undermining the work of their superiors and/or the expressed goal of a sponsor’s research project. The great majority who succeed in such a system thus become ideologues and sycophants at the same time.

        Hence public research universities waste vast amounts of other peoples money doing busy work or chasing lost causes as their researchers nevertheless get paid ever more money, and waste ever more costs in their pursuit of their futile work done while running down wrong rabbit holes and spending other peoples money, including vast amounts of undergraduate and graduate students tuition, that goes into the pockets of those falsely claiming to be their professors while it amounts to a total loss to their students, taxpayers, and indeed often sponsors and funders of all sorts. And here this includes not only taxpayers and students whose monies subsidize the work without in their knowledge, much less consent, but also Alumni giving gifts, and some well intentioned sponsors. Hence, too this often illicitly sponsored research can easily run amuck as it hardens these awful trends Academia in group think, worthless research, and harmful research that validates nonsense or bad science.

        Indeed, history has proven over and over again that this fatal flaw in endemic to the Academy and the way it has worked since Copernicus, Galileo and before.

        For another modern day example, take peer reviewed papers published by tenure track professors. These junior professors writing these papers are far too often captives of the research system of higher education, most particularly captives of the marionettes who too often run the corrupt system of tenure primarily for their benefit. The last thing these superiors want to see is their own prior work and reputation undermined. Their greatest ambition instead is to see their life’s work praised, reaffirmed and built into a history of their field of research and study.

        Thus the most serious and ethical of doctorate students and post doc graduates, the best young people in the field, far too often quit the system altogether. They simply refuse to live the lie imposed on them and their work. And those who stay willingly behind within the system are typically corrupted, forced by their tenured masters to become supplicants, instead of independent searchers of the truth who break the molds of bad science. The ranks of these weak left behinds includes not least, those junior post docs and tenure track professors who become ever more captive of the past as they specialized ever more deeply in the nonsense built by their masters, as, seeking tenure, they must keep working the holes, trenches, ruts and rabbit warrens dug decades before yet going nowhere but into new absurdities.

        Hence, too, there are produced thousands of heavily researched books and papers that no one reads, or that lead others on still more fools errands. Hence, the result is ideologues that run so many of these programs and departments, indeed whole colleges and universities today.

        It is a horribly corrupt, wasteful and inefficient system. It is Medieval, often like the dutiful scribe monks chained to their desks in the Middle Ages, working away their lives rewriting the same manuscripts telling the same old tales of their masters over and over again, mostly rubbish. Yes, a few of those manuscripts are priceless today, and some of those too are tragically lost, often intentionally destroyed to make space for the most recent rubbish despite the work of scribes protected for generations by the ramparts of isolated places of rigor and faith.
        But now, like most often back then, our modern system of higher education, run by an entrenched academy, is busy burning the great works of the few great men who went before, so as to madly make space for more high priced rubbish of their own, earning often for themselves fortunes for their private advantage, while costing the public ever vaster amounts of money to keep this corrupt and voracious system going for the benefit of those few high priests running their corrupt game.
        And, like so often in the past, what makes matters far worse in the long term is the fact that typically the corrupt one are the ones that inherent the power and ill gotten prestige of an ever more refined corrupt system. So the most corrupted individuals rise to the top of Academy while the best people leave in disgust for real work, or are destroyed by it.

        A perfect example of high corruption in high places is when all but three percent of those said to be in the field of research are said to have reached consensus on a broad and major issue that creates a problem only they can solve at the great expense of everyone else, and enrich themselves alone, irrespective of the cost to everyone else. This is much of what we see at work today in the Academy, the one place where real profit and loss is irrelevant, while revenue and reputation are paramount.

        Of course there is fierce competition between public research universities. You see it today between UVA and Virginia Tech. Each one running after the same often dwindling amounts of limited research opportunities. This causes the game to spin ever faster, and more viciously.

        In this buyers markets huge amounts of direct and indirect research costs are being paid for not by the sponsor of the research but by the university itself, using student tuition and taxpayer monies to make up the shortfall, because only then will that university, and in particular certain professors and allied enablers, get the work, instead of a competitor university.

        So everyone, including the university, far to often take a big loss but for the professors grabbing the work, the Administrators overseeing the monies, the president and CFO seeking revenues and rankings, and the sponsor’s who are seeking to avoid risks and cost with the lowest bid, and hoping to getting rich himself off of massive public losses. Meanwhile, the public universities lose ever more money, while those running the show within and outside the system get wealthier and wealthier.

        These comments are taken from the Bacon’s Rebellion Post, “When Virginia Universities Fund their Own Research, Where Does the Money Come From?

        In reply to Izzo’s comment that:
        “If you dig into footnotes and OMB guidelines, you can see tuition can be a source of “institutional” funds, but the amount is not given. If you dig further, into university finance, like I did for Virginia Tech, it then becomes clear that the only way universities could fund this huge level of institutional funding of research would be through tuition and unrestricted appropriations.”

        Yes, you are totally correct. There is simply no way that vast amounts of undergraduate Tuition is not going for graduate level professors research. It plainly is. And this diversion of undergraduate student tuition away from their education is a national scandal that has been hidden for decades, and now is reaching crisis proportions, on many fronts.

        But I suspect this is in one sense the tip of the iceberg. That from a financial point of view, it is quite likely that there is a great deal of DOUBLE DIPPING going on here. This is when the tenured or tenure track professor gets paid twice for the same hour of work. And that this is why I suspect that professors so often claim to be working 70 hours a week, namely 40 hours as professors (instruction, teaching, and instruction related research) PLUS an 30 additional hours a week as sponsored researchers and administrators.

        Have you ever tried to work 70 a week as a lawyer and administrator? I have. It near impossible for all but a few people … but all these tenured professors seem to do it with ease all the time.

        What I am saying here is that I suspect we are dealing with a massive cover-up and fraud. Whether that is true or not, we need to get to the bottom of it, and expose the truth of what is going on in the Academy to the light of day.

      • Here is a 5th installment of earlier comments on this blog to help throw light on subject:

        Comments earlier made to Jim’s post “The Accounting Games Universities Play” 2018/02/16 at 3:07 pm

        The import of this post of Jim Bacon’s is something we knew all along, and also something we did not know, but now know, something new that doubles the fraud I have long suspected.

        I have long assumed that the 50% of the typical tenured or tenure track professors “research” time, falsely called “instruction”, came out of his salary, and also that the 25% of his time devoted to “Administrating” came out of his salary too. And that his salary came primarily, if not exclusively, out of student tuition. And that much of this research and administration had nothing to do with teaching the students who were paying for it through tuition. That is FRAUD NUMBER ONE. I’ll supplement fraud number one later today with a I comment I made a week or two ago on this very subject.

        FRAUD NUMBER TWO is a surprise to me. Namely that this kind of research and administration paid through tuition is reported as serious independent Research costs expended by the university for the purpose on pumping up the institutions rankings. How much of it is built into the $18 Billion annual research expenses reported by the National Science Foundation for 2018? I am not sure. What I am sure of is that here is yet more proof that the claims made by these public research institutions of higher education are to a surprising degree built on illusions built on a series of outright lies, thus frauds.

        I am also even more convinced that ever that likely less that 5% of our public research university’s energy and money go into teaching students. And the other 95% of the money and energy goes to sustaining a system that is build primarily to line the pockets of those people in power who run these places.

        I had a conversation today with a health care professional. In her early thirties she has a masters degree in her profession from Penn State. She had just read my article published yesterday. It reminded her of a tenured professor of hers who introduced himself to her first class of a semester long course on Kinesiology, saying “This classroom is the last place I want to be. I was hired and I am paid to do research, but I have to teach this class to meet a minimum amount of time pretending to do something I dislike, teaching.”

        This about sums up in a nutshell the mindset of today’s public research university in America.

        Comments earlier made to Jim’s post “A College Ranking to Virginia’s Liking.”

        How some reasons why its ridiculous and dangerous. Do you do a cost benefit analysis of a system that is totally broken? Where all but a few learn nothing or close to nothing in undergraduate school. See academically adrift. A system where most research is driven not by a quest for truth but an affirmation of tenured professors ideology and/or self interest and/or angst. Where peer review punishes any views different from rigidity held ideology. A system where costs per student and per activity are hidden from public view and misstated to force benefits and other peoples money into some parts of the curriculum while punishing and blowing up altogether other peoples education, including many disciplines of former study that now no longer educate but instead entertain or promote grievance or political advantage.

        A system that produces little or no education at all so there is a great shortage of qualified people in most fields of employment. A system of learning with no standards of performance, or coherence at all, save that of keeping students tied into their seats long enough to suck up their money while diverting most of that money away from that students education and shoving it instead towards feeding the voracious needs of tenured faculty and university administrators who refuse to teach students, only use them.

        And of course there is all the evidence happening every day and plain to see right in front of our noses.

        For example, The WSJ recently reported that well educated humanities students were most valued by first class high paying employers if any such well educated humanities students could be found. But finding them was increasingly rare. Thence they were precious commodities wherever found as the shortage of honest to goodness educated college and university graduates of any sort was reaching critical proportions, now indeed a national emergency.

        Here I believe that the base problem is how the system today is set up to fail. The current system of higher education demands that university Research be a war with, and ultimately destroy, the teaching the students, and other subjects they must master.

        Indeed today’s system is set up to almost insure that the ever increasing demands of research destroy the integrity and viability of all the other components of a students education, those critical teaching and learning experiences and tools that students need if they are to have a good chance at a real education: to find out who they are, who they want to strive to be, what they valued at their core, and how to go about the vital task of building an examined life worth living. One that can give their life and their work that meaning that can only grow out of their own core convictions that they have settled upon for themselves after their own hard work, instead of the those dictated to them by the neurotic ideologies of their professors.

        Today’s system of higher education also insures that university Research will fail totally, collapse in upon itself, driven to absolute corruption without the check of the Humanities and a healthy society outside and apart from research.

        So, for example, we need to toss out the “Psychobabble” that today fake professors use to eat the Humanities alive each day as surely as the Taliban blow up artifacts of ancient civilizations such as the Syrian City of Palmyra. At the very same time we must restore the Humanities to their rightful and critical roll in American education as these Humanities are timeless, the very foundation and living lifeblood of our Western Civilization, or all our labors will be lost.

        See more comments taken from Business and Computer Science Majors are the Biggest Bargains in Higher Ed posted here on April 27, 2017.

        Comments made to Jim’s post “Let’s Collect Higher-Ed Employee Productivity Data”

        However, as has been discussed on this blog, I believe that many University professors, including many with unimpeachable credentials, believe that effective and productive university research is under serious threat today. That today’s overweening research ethic, combined with the overbearing dominance of research in the hard sciences (STEM) and related fields, in today’s larger institutions of higher education, threaten and have damaged the quality of teaching across the board in higher education. And that this combination has helped to largely collapse the quality and substance of today’s teaching of the Humanities, and that it has contributed mightily to the proliferation of junk research and junk courses “taught” in many of today’s academic institutions.

        Indeed, a significant and growing number of highly regarded professors feel that these all consuming trends in research funded by mass amounts of money by special interests, including a highly politicized Federal Government is on the way toward the serious corruption of science research itself in our nation.

        We’ve kicked this around for some time on this website. I suspect that some of these concerns are not given their due within this Post on building and enforcing productivity models for higher education.
        This would include, for example, adding the Capped material into:

        “Adjuncts function as a financial pressure-relief valve for universities, allowing tuition dollars to flow to other priorities — administration, recruiting, athletics, student clubs and services, AND RESEARCH OF ALL SORTS BY OTHERS WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY — while keeping down the student-faculty ratio, heavily weighted in college rankings,” writes Paul H. Tice, an investment manager and adjunct faculty member at New York University’s Stern School of Business, in the Wall Street Journal.”

        Your pick up some of the slack within this concern in your next paragraph. But I would reverse the assumption therein to read:

        “Tice offers three suggestions for putting adjunct faculty on more equal terms with tenured faculty, who spend a small fraction of their time teaching and more of their time conducting research (some of which, in my observation, constitutes what most people think of as real research and THE GREAT MAJORITY of which consists of churning out articles for obscure academic publications that nobody reads).”

        I suggest Mr. Tice’s second remedy is quite dangerous, namely that:

        “Second, all university instructors, tenured or not, should be forced to compete for students and curriculum airtime, then paid equally on a subscriber model based on student demand.”

        This student demand for junk courses and easy inflated grades is out of control today, and reeks great harm on the ability of professors to teach substance and to enforce real standards of learning and proof of learning. This profession of teaching is not a popularity contest, despite the fact the great professors of great courses are often popular.

        You say, “Tice provides a remarkable statistic — that only 30% of every tuition dollar goes to teacher wages and benefits. I don’t know where he gets it, and I don’t know if it applies to Virginia colleges and universities, but it is extraordinary if it is true.”

        Obviously this figure can vary, but I suspect that in many cases the figure is substantially below 30%. Most all tenured or tenured track professors in most research universities are not paid to teach, and teaching is considered quite demeaning within the ethic of most large universities. Indeed teaching harms the status of professors among their peers and administrators, and harms their chances for advancement. Hence most keep teaching to a a absolute minimum. Sad but true. Hence the demand for low wage Adjuncts, and other doctorate and post doctorate instructors on short term contracts.

        You say: “Low teaching loads may be judged acceptable for professors who conduct research funded by outside organizations — typically by faculty in engineering, medicine and the hard sciences.” Why? Unless this funding cover costs, which in the great majority of cases it does not, and often exposes the university to substantial risk while diverting critical resources.

        You say: “Low teaching loads are less forgivable for professors in the social sciences and humanities whose salaries are funded entirely through tuition payments.”

        I suggest that is an understatement. Traditionally these social sciences and humanities professors spent 50% of their time on research, 25% on Administrative and “other activities” and 25% on teaching and related student interaction. It is my sense that these percentages no longer apply in the research university’s typical scenario. The share devoted to teaching and mentoring students by tenure and tenure track is today far lower.
        I do not want to paint all professors in such a bleak light. There are many very fine tenured and tenured track professors, including star researchers and scholars in the fields who are great teachers. I am discussing trends.

        Far more action is required to reverse these trends that have been growing and deepening for over 40 years. Hence student achievement has plunged since 1970 and never recovered.

  4. “Koch does not believe that micro-management by state government is a viable solution. ”

    geeze – ALL of his “reforms” call for the government to require things like “transparency” and “oversight” though… not sure what “micro-managing” means in that context. Basically, he’s calling for the government to do stuff.

    I just want to remind that this is the very same “government” that has given Dominion carte blanch AND has screwed up transportation , etc,

    The “problem” is really one of all higher-ed competing to provide more/better programs, sports, high-end dorms and food courts to appeal to students – who, by the way, have amply demonstrated that they’re more than willing to pay more for these things by putting it on their credit card.

    This is really not surprising. People do the same things for cars and house especially if the government (that same government folks say would “help” with reforms) – incentivizes/subsidizes with loans and tax deductions.

    I’m all for the transparency by the way. When you get a mortgage these days, you gotta sign dozens of pages that “inform” you of what you’ve “agreed” to but it don’t stop people who also sign up for Google and Facebook by clicking “agree” even though it means those companies will mine your data.

    Let’s face it – people have choices. They don’t have to pay the prices charged for the gold-standard of college. Many do not. They make rational decisions about costs and act responsibly.

    What this is really about is “protecting” people who are not financially responsible because only the irresponsible would go into debt (for any purpose) to the degree that folks (who are offered low cost loans) will do.

    We essentially want govt to “make” these entities not charge what the going rate is .. that these entities KNOW they can charge and customers will line up to pay for.

    And it’s coming from folks who say over and over that govt should stay out of the “market” but the caveat is that is the govt funds some of it then that justifies them telling these entities what they can and cannot do.

    We have the wrong model for that

    If thats what we want – then we need to do it like Medicare where the govt says how much they’ll reimburse and the rest of it is on you and no they won’t loan you the money,

    We have irresponsible folks complaining that they want the govt to “fix” their problems.. GOOD LORD!

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