Real Instruction

Reviewing the new book, Higher Education?. by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein hones in on a familiar conservative trope: tenured professors are entitled, unpractical or just plain lazy. (Of the many segments of American society that conservatives love to hate, college professors rank up there with New Yorkers, Federal bureaucrats and members of Journolist.)

Typically, conservatives base their distaste for academia on memories of 60’s campus radicalism and politically correct reading lists from 1987. But, in this case, the criticism is practical and not political. Bauerlein points out that professors are being paid more to teach less. The average tenured social science professor makes $81,626, up four percent from just the year before it. Yet,

In 1975, 43% of college teachers were classified as “contingent”—that is, they were temporary instructors and graduate students; today that rate is 70%. Colleges boast of high faculty-to-student ratios, but in practice most courses have a part-timer at the podium.

This is what is deceptive about college teaching expenditures.The Delta Cost Project, a non-profit organization focused on college costs, lists “Instruction” as its own spending category. Instruction spending is comprised mainly of faculty salaries. In 1995, the average private research university spent $15,476 per full-time student. By 2006, these universities spent $19,251. On the face of it, this was a good thing, particularly compared to increased spending on fountains, campus shopping malls and football teams.

But this is not the case; increasingly, paying for “instruction” doesn’t mean paying for more time in the classroom.

Paul Craft

Paul Craft is an intern at the Washington Monthly.