Category Archives: Penn State University

A non-presidential post from Steve Hicks

Sometimes even the most official officers need to say things that they prefer not to have attached to their offices. [OK, I’m done with that riff!]

Since the state APSCUF blog has rules, particularly governing length of posts, I wanted to offer this forum to Steve to say some things that aren’t within that limit. So here ya go. You can read the original version here. Or here:

Over the past week plus “at APSCUF” (which is less of a place than a state of mind — sort of), quite a bit of time has been spent looking at PASSHE’s new system of performance funding, which goes into effect this fall.  New in this system is a series of optional choices for the universities.  One of those — under “Stewardship” — is “Instructional Productivity.”

(Digressive paragraph) Several times at this weekend’s APSCUF Legislative Assembly, faculty went to the microphone to tell us “that’s a horrible term, don’t use it.”   One speaker suggested, strongly, that we use “workload” instead, because “that’s what it is.”  The problem with all this argument about terminology is that it isn’t “our” (as in faculty or APSCUF’s) language, it is PASSHE’s language, codified in PASSHE documents, approved by PASSHE’s Board of Governors (in January 2011), and used in all the documents forwarded by the Dixon Center for universities to use in determining their performance indicators.  They will continue to use it, no matter what we call it.

(Back to central point) This discussion of instructional productivity, er workload, centers on numbers from the state system showing the average CalUP faculty member generates 758 credit hours per year.  That’s #1 in the system by almost 2 standard deviations — next is Slippery Rock at 652.  Cheyney is lowest at 469.  At Assembly our most knowledgeable person said that Carnegie II.A institutions have an average of 589 — which is East Stroudsburg’s average (they rank 9th in the system, telling you how well we do; our unweighted average is 599).

Should instructional productivity be a performance indicator?  Probably not.  But our best early analysis of the options to university managers is that this is one they will all pick.  It is one that is clearly attainable (many other options seem unattainable).

This morning on *CBS Sunday Morning* they had a piece on college costs.  They interviewed the president and a student from Sarah Lawrence, amongst others — the most expensive college in the country, according to the story — and both talked about how the personalized attention from faculty was the great attraction of the university.  The president said it wasn’t faculty salaries that drove their price so high, but the fact they had to hire LOTS of faculty to keep that small class experience.

The point was made on the Assembly floor that CAL no longer can claim that kind of experience.  758 represents an average of 21 students in EVERY class CAL offers.  Of course, that would mean that EVERY faculty member teaches 12 courses, that no one has any release time to run a program, chair a department, do research…which we know isn’t true.

It means that every student sits in a class with a lot of other students — not Sarah Lawrence.  What it IS like is Penn State — a comparison made on the floor as the 758 number is almost exactly what the behemoth university in State College has as their average, too.  Although we hate it, WE ARE PENN STATE!

This is where we are in public higher education in Pennsylvania, and the US, today.  In the *New York Times* today, Frank Bruni cites an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development statement: Thirty years ago, the U.S. led the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with the equivalent of at least a two-year degree; only Canada and Israel were close.  As of 2009, the U.S. lagged behind 14 other developed countries.”  We don’t generate the number of degrees we need to stay with, let alone ahead, of the rest of the world because we make higher education both unaffordable and inaccessible.

How?  By defunding higher ed, both in Pennsylvania and across the country.  Last year PASSHE took an 18% cut in funding from the state; we’ve been asked to give back 5% more this year; and for 12-13 the current proposal from the Governor is a 20% cut.  This is after what even the State Senate  Appropriations Committee has admitted has been at least a decade of defunding.  Tuitions have risen and PASSHE’s Board and then the universities have responded with higher tuition AND a cut in their needed expenditures (it’s known in budget-tuition talk around the System as “the Gap” — the difference between the income from tuition and state appropriation and the real cost to sustain the current apparatus — and it’s been over $20 million every year I’ve been state APSCUF president).  It’s a squeeze from both ends.

This squeeze leads to more “productivity,” which, yes, means more faculty workload.  There’s no one else to squeeze in an academic institution: there are only so many copiers, paperclips, and backroom workers.  The real business is students and faculty.  Though you’d be surprised how little of an institution’s budget is actually for that part of the business (one set of numbers makes it to be in the 20-30% range and declining annually).   Classes grow, faculty have more students, the way we teach changes.

Who wants to go to college to sit in a large class, or sit in their dorm on their laptop in “distance” learning, or go to college where no one connected to the university even acts like they want to know their name?  College education is a labor intensive exercise.  As the labor economist from George Washington University said, we haven’t found a way to make it anything but labor intensive.

It serves no one to be more productive at some point: even an English professor (like me) understands the rudiments of the law of diminishing returns.  There’s a reason that all the PASSHE institutions have long advertised themselves to students (who are either the consumers or the product in the productivity model — that one can’t tell says much about how well the model applies) as familiar, know-your-name, private school model institutions.  No one has ever said “we are and want to be like (Carnegie) research (i) institutions, with large lecture halls and grad students in front of smaller classes.”

Cal has reached the point of diminished returns.  PASSHE should be careful about walking the other 13 institutions in their footsteps, given their current financial state.

Our students deserve quality education.  They deserve personalized attention.  They deserve a real opportunity to become what they want to become, not the plumber or carpenter that is the Corbett Administration concentration (which is NOT what students who choose to go to college want to do).

Using instructional productivity to distribute dollars and to show who is performing best will not have a positive outcome.

We all deserve better.

— Steve

 For what it’s worth, I couldn’t agree more–except for one thing. While Steve is certainly correct that PASSHE uses the term instructional productivity to describe, um, whatever it’s describing by using a term that means nothing, I was one of the people on the floor of the Legislative Assembly cheering the call to reject the term as often and loudly as possible.
Of course, that might be why I’m not President of anything. And that might be for the best.
–Seth

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget Cuts, CFHE, Collective Bargaining, Corporate University, deliverology, Education reform, Inside Higher Ed, Instructional Productivity, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Performance Funding, Privatization, Tom Corbett

A friendly reminder about PASSHE tuition

I’m reposting this morning’s new post on the state APSCUF blog for a few reasons:

1. So that you’ll click on the link to it and subscribe to the state APSCUF blog yourself.

2. So it’ll go out to Facebook readers who wouldn’t otherwise see it.

3. So I (Seth) can assert the privilege of being the person who does most of the writing for this blog and editorialize a little about the issue in a way that is NOT NECESSARILY the official APSCUF stance.

The short version of the message is that even accounting for the coming increase, PASSHE’s tuition is below the national average for public universities, and significantly below the PA state-related universities.

I (personally) believe strongly that if you’re paying tuition (for yourself or for anybody else), it’s appropriate to be upset at the increase. Just keep in mind where the target of your animus ought to be. Our schools aren’t getting less expensive to run (and they can’t get less expensive than they are right now if we’re going to protect the quality of what we do), and you’re not paying less to go to them.

I’ll leave the rest of the math up to you.

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Filed under Access, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, PASSHE, Penn State University, Tuition increase, University of Pittsburgh, West Chester University

How academic managers SHOULD feel when they fire people

Via our comrade Kevin Mahoney at KU–

Graham Spanier, President of Penn State, said in a recent interview that the PSU funding cut is like to cost jobs “in the scores” in the university’s Agriculture school (it has to do with the fact that the positions aren’t funded such that increased tuition can recover them–there’s not a lot of detail in the article).

Anyway, as opposed to ANYTHING I’ve heard from PASSHE management as they’ve been retrenching faculty, fighting the union to stop us from getting preferential hiring for retrenchees (as the CBA demands), waving around the threat of further retrenchments as a negotiations tactic, and generally behaving reprehensibly cavalierly about other people’s lives…

pant pant pant…

… Faced with looming layoffs and firings, President Spanier says:

“The longer it takes, the longer we postpone getting to the savings. At the same time, we’re trying to be very fair to our employees and come up with ways to help them find other positions, severance, health benefits,” he said. “These are good people who work hard and really care.”

As I said on Kevin M’s Facebook page when he posted the article this morning, why the hell does Spanier sound downright heroic simply because he acknowledges that firing people is bad for them?

All I hear from PASSHE management is that the top priority is to “protect educational quality” in face of budget cuts. At the local level (and presumably at the state level also, but I haven’t talked with anybody about this), we’ve been pushing at every Meet and Discuss for management to recognize publicly that protecting jobs is also a high priority. While management nods and smiles, the commitment magically never gets made.

Graham Spanier is no hero. But at least he recognizes, and is willing to say so, that there’s a very high human cost to the state’s attacks on higher education.

It’s long past time for PASSHE to figure this out and to act accordingly.

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Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Graham Spanier, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Retrenchment, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

Tentative Budget Deal Reached

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting on Friday morning that the PA Legislature and Governor Fracker have reached a tentative deal on the state budget.

The preliminary reports are not good for us, although the numbers aren’t yet very precise. The article indicates that the “state-supported” universities will take a 19% hit, but doesn’t distinguish between PASSHE and the state-relateds. So we don’t yet know exactly what will happen to us.

If that 19% is even close to what we see when the numbers are released, we’re going to have lots of work to do protecting our system from the kinds of Draconian cuts we all know PASSHE already wants to make. Yet again, our state government has provided the cover under which our Chancellor and Board of Governors can radically overhaul our whole system, while pretending that it has anything whatsoever to do with economics.

As a pacifist, I usually am very stridently resistant to military metaphors, but in this case, … Oh hell, I still can’t do it.

But now at least the circular logic of management is laid bare: “We can’t afford to pay for anything [except more managers and management salaries]. Why not? Because we just gave all the money away. See?”

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Filed under Access, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Public education, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

Follow the money!

I’m sorry to title this post with such a tired cliche, but dagnabbit, it’s right on target again!

As you’re likely aware, Governor Corbett is attacking not just public higher education but all public education in PA.  There’s legislation pending in Harrisburg that would transfer a huge chunk of the money Governor Drill-and-Kill (Drill the Shale, Kill the Schools) wants to cut from K-12 education into a voucher program.

From my early morning cruise through the blogosphere, two articles that help debunk the notion that vouchers are anything but money-stealers from public schools for private interests:

1. In Testing for Thee, but Not for Me, Kevin Drum reports the results of a study from Milwaukee Public Schools indicating (not for the first time!) that voucher-eligible schools are producing test scores that aren’t any better than their public school counterparts. So, all those lazygreedyunion teachers wouldn’t seem to be the problem, would they?

2. If you follow the KUXchange blog, you’ve seen them developing arguments, based on Naomi Klein’s notion of the Shock Doctrine, which holds (in simplistic terms) that the powerful often use rhetorics of crisis and disaster (shock) as smokescreens behind which they accrete power to themselves while people aren’t watching.  In Monday’s HuffPost Education section, Timothy Slekar from Penn State-Altoona applies the Shock Doctrine directly to Governor Drill-and-Kill’s K-12 budget proposal.  His most interesting finding, in my estimation, is that the voucher program in SB1, along with increased (you gotta be frackin’ kidding me!) testing requirements that add nothing to education, will ACTUALLY COST MORE than the proposed cuts would save.

Sometime later today, I’ll see if I can find this again, but about 6 weeks ago, I found evidence that the second largest individual contributor to the Corbett for Governor campaign is the guy who owns the Charter School Management firm that would profit the most from Drill-and-Kill’s “education reform” package.  Gee.  We’re surprised, aren’t we?

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Follow the Money, K-12 Education, PA Senate Bill 1, PASSHE, Penn State University, Public education, research, Shock Doctrine, taxes, Tom Corbett, Uncategorized, Vouchers/School Choice

Change of Date for Chester County Rally for Public Education

As soon as I can make the technology work, I’ll post the flyer for Sen. Dinniman’s rally at the Chester County Courthouse, the date of which has MOVED–

New Date: Wed, April 27

So you can have Wed, April 20 back for yourselves, but the 27th?  We need you there.

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Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Communities, K-12 Education, PASSHE, Penn State University, Public education, Rally, Student activism, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, University of Pittsburgh, West Chester University

The good news is good BECAUSE of what we’re doing. That means we need to keep doing it.

This article from CBS Philly should sound two chords at once:

1. PASSHE’s position in the Legislature is improving; even some very conservative Republicans, who otherwise don’t support much public anything, seem to be on board with protecting at least most of our budget allocation.

2. The reason the Legislature is coming around to this position is that WE ARE MAKING THEM. It’s our efforts on the streets, in the press, in hallways, and everywhere else that are pushing an otherwise not-often-friendly legislature in the right direction.

The upshot is, as our colleague Cherise Pollard (who pointed me to this link) put it, we have to keep working.  We should take this news as ENCOURAGING, but it’s encouraging us to KEEP PUSHING.

Tired of getting yelled at in ALL CAPS?  Show us what you’re doing to protect our schools and we won’t have to :).

 

 

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Links, PASSHE, Penn State University, Student activism, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, University of Pittsburgh, West Chester University