Featured Post


In a recently released Lumina Foundation policy paper, Sara Goldrick-Rab and Nancy Kendall reveal their plan to give Americans a free 2 year college option (F2CO).  That is, the 13th and 14th years of (postsecondary) education at community college would be free, which under F2CO means:
“…students will not face any costs for tuition, fees, books or supplies, and will receive a stipend and guaranteed employment at a living wage to cover their living expenses. Unsubsidized, dischargeable loans of a small amount will also be available for those who need them.”
In a number of important ways, this plan is inferior to the professional model for higher education that I propose (referred to here as, PSA). Having made this claim in a tweet to Sara Goldrick-Rab, her reply was that PSA is:
“…not adjusted for increases in enrollment and persistence rates; would result in declining per student $ over time.”

By the Numbers - Key Data for the PSA Model

I have been updating some of the numbers that support the PSA model. I decided to post my calculation document in raw form. The numbers speak for themselves, but I’ll provide a little elaboration.

All calculations are based on 2015 data for the public sector of US higher education (HE) and are given in averages and full time equivalent (FTE) measures, unless otherwise stated. The data sources are the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the College Board (CB). Calculations do not include weighting for 2-year vs. 4-year institutions or undergraduate vs. graduate level of study.

Two notable calculations:
a)Tuition-free HE is possible across 2 and 4-year HEIs for 61-77% less than the $31,806 expenditure per student of the current model. b)Expense-free HE is possible across 2 and 4-year HEIs for 18-33% less than the current model expenditure per student (Note: expenses include: tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, transportation, and other).
These claims are true even if…

PSA - Man + Machine + Model

In their bestselling book, The Second Machine Age (2MA), MIT Professors Brynjolfsson and McAfee, invite “more novel and radical ideas – more ‘out-of-the-box thinking’ – to deal with the consequences of technological progress.” (pg.245-246)

PSA Facilitates the Work of Professors

Though I long for serious critical dialogue on PSA, I have yet to receive it. So, in proper academic form, as a philosopher, I must independently generate criticisms. Here is one potential criticism of my alternative model for HE: PSA cannot facilitate the full spectrum of work performed by professors.  So, can PSA facilitate the work of professors? The answer is, yes. In fact, it can do so better than the traditional HEI model or the emerging tech-models (e.g., MOOCs). Moreover, PSA can provide greater control over and better compensation for this work, while it opens the doors to as many individuals as want to be professors.

Meranze of UCLA Calls For A New Social Contract

This is in response to a recent post by a fellow advocate for HE reform, Michael Meranze of UCLA.
Hi Michael,
I wonder, what is the disposition of Conservatives and Liberals toward professions? Equally inimical, I suppose? Trump can treat HE the way he does – as can any government – because the current HE model substantially depends on public money. I gather you would like to increase this dependence, since you would like to see increased public funding for this model.
You say, “A new social contract that preserves access, funds quality, and ensures academic and intellectual autonomy must be developed and fought for.” I have developed such a social contract. And as I can, I have fought for it.

The PSA Tax Relief Master Plan for California HE

The Reclaim California Higher Education (RCHE) Master Plan maintains that an additional $48 in annual taxes per median household would be enough to fix the system. The organization claims that this additional tax revenue would make all college and university education tuition-free and restore state funding to the 2001 level of 1.17% of AGI.
For several reasons, I think this “$48 fix” is broken. As an alternative, I will present the financials for what might be called, the PSA HE Tax Relief Master Plan.
My model – the Professional Society of Academics (PSA) – does not require additional tax money, but rather far less public money than is currently spent on HE. Of course, even if PSA were implemented, the government would not reduce taxes or give out refund checks; but nor would they be legislating new taxes, as RCHE recommends. And anyhow, one of the benefits of PSA is that the tax money it saves and earns the state can be used to improve the finance of other valued social goods such as …

The $48 Fix Is Broken

$48 per median household is what Reclaim California Higher Education (RCHE) estimates is needed to restore postsecondary education in the state. They claim the $9.43 billion in new taxes would not only restore state spending on HE to the 1.17% of AGI it enjoyed in 2001, but also provide tuition-free HE to all qualified in-state students. Importantly, the only new money in the Reclaim Master Plan (RMP) is $4.71 billion that RCHE calculates would restore funding to comparable 2001 levels, since even without their plan, by state or by student, $4.72 billion in tuition revenue will find its way to institutional coffers in 2016-17.

I like the RCHE approach to this problem, using straightforward, basic funding calculations, rather than administrative or bureaucratic redesigns. Weissmann, from The Atlantic, has made similar calculations in support of nationwide tuition-free HE. His estimate is an additional $62.6 billion in public funding. And across the country there are other initiatives th…

Paying the Price with Vulnerable Funds

Sara Goldrick-Rab's book, Paying the Price, underscores how the crisis in HE severely impacts the personal and academic lives of students. Her student-centered research provides perspective that helps shape her reform recommendations. This approach to HE reform is not a new tactic.
The data-driven personalization offered by such advocacy research is also popular with those that hope to reform HE through the faculty narrative, who, like students, both have a stake in HE and suffer the current crisis. In concert with faculty-centered researchers, Goldrick-Rab calls for more money to fund the reforms she believes will improve the current HE model.
In the introduction to, Paying the Price, she says, “The price of college must be lowered much further than the current system allows. Money must be brought to the table - there is no way around it.”
This current system is institution-centered, expensive, underfunded, without sufficient transparent information and complex in terms of its fina…