generation limbo: 20-somethings today, debt, unemployment, the questionable value of a college education

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sund4r, the big idea is that when (most of) the rest of the economy *does* have productivity gains and this field doesn't, the wage might increase w/ everything else because a tenured professor won't work for 20k if she has better options

this is only one way of looking at the problem, I think the cost of non-academic faculty is prob more relevant. also it ignores how much of the 'people who are teaching' are getting paid...welll, 1980 wages.

iatee, Monday, 14 November 2011 19:24 (eight years ago) link

Anyway, I've never been to Finland but I generally tend to think that this sounds right (from http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2011/11/04/a-two-tier-system/ ):

James Côté, who literally wrote the book on student disengagement and the quality crisis, takes an even bolder approach. He says that many students shouldn’t come to university at all, but, instead, be streamed into vocational trades, diplomas and four-year applied degrees that match their interests and abilities better than research degrees. In order to do so, he agrees with Hallgrimsson that we need a culture change, that non-academic skills need to be highly prized in our society, like university degrees.

A country that does things better, in Côté’s mind, is Finland. In many cases, only those who score in the top quartile on matriculation exams get into universities. But by the time students write the exams, roughly half of students are well on their way to a job already, as vocational training is provided to them in high schools. The other half, who were in the academic stream, have the option of attending polytechnics should they not get into universities. The benefits, says Côté, are no $50,000 bills to pay at graduation (tuition is free), those who do attend research universities get a rigorous education, and those who don’t can get jobs earlier, rather than making up for lost time after university.

It’s not surprising that Côté has the word “elitist!” hurled his way, as disadvantaged groups will inevitably end up in vocational streams more often than in universities. His counter is this: “If you take all these students and give them a B.A. Lite, they graduate and get jobs they could have done with a high school diploma, but the difference is they’re $50,000 in debt.” He wonders whether social justice has been achieved.

(Cote's and Allahar's book Ivory Tower Blues was quite good.)

xposts

EveningStar (Sund4r), Monday, 14 November 2011 19:25 (eight years ago) link

Thanks, iatee, but, yes, this was one of my key issues: it ignores how much of the 'people who are teaching' are getting paid...welll, 1980 wages.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Monday, 14 November 2011 19:26 (eight years ago) link

err 'how many'

iatee, Monday, 14 November 2011 19:27 (eight years ago) link

(Maybe Tuomas could fill us in re Finland.)

EveningStar (Sund4r), Monday, 14 November 2011 19:29 (eight years ago) link

I am getting 1890s wages

average internet commentator (remy bean), Monday, 14 November 2011 20:13 (eight years ago) link

i've been thinking lately about what it's like to be a teaching assistant, since i've had one working for me recently. at many graduate programs they work teaching anywhere from 1-3 discussion sections from their very first semester on campus. that seems to me somewhat like if we expected college freshmen to also, during their first week of classes, start (with no previous experience) acting as assistant teachers, but under basically their own direction, with no in-class oversight, for a roomful of high school students. it's no surprise that it can be stressful for many of them and that often they respond, or appear to respond, by 'not doing very much'. those who ARE doing a lot are doing far more than their students probably realize, given how much catchup with this strange new kind of responsibility can be involved for early-career graduate students.

j., Monday, 14 November 2011 20:15 (eight years ago) link

I've always found the system absurd for basically that reason. I'm not that old, and I went to a large public university, but all my undergrad profs were tenured or tenure-track afaik. This was what was great about the experience: these people had jobs where they had the security to do active research or creative work in the field; this informed their teaching. If I'd been taught by grad students and per-course migrant contract workers, I really don't think I might have decided that academia was a life I wanted (which might mean that I would have gone on to a much more promising career path...)

EveningStar (Sund4r), Monday, 14 November 2011 20:30 (eight years ago) link

(I did have TAs in discussion sections and labs.)

EveningStar (Sund4r), Monday, 14 November 2011 20:34 (eight years ago) link

being a TA is p stressful imo, i was lucky enough that my funding package allowed to work as an RA/professor's assistant my first year in grad school and had solid ground under my feet before i had to start running tutorials and labs. but there is a p wide range in the amount of work required to TA a course tho, i have a third year course w/ no labs, no assignments and sparsely attended office hours that i skim the reading for each week and thats abt it and i have first year survey course that is like a part time job all on its own

808 Police State (Lamp), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 03:13 (eight years ago) link

another problem is that most grad students aren't gonna be rewarded for being amazing teachers - my best TA in college, who was a far better teacher than any of my tenured profs, couldn't find a permanent academic job after he graduated.

iatee, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 03:31 (eight years ago) link

Everything I hear about the European system (um, except for devastating budget cuts) makes it sound better. What do Europeans on this board think?

xpost Yep.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 03:32 (eight years ago) link

the european system is better for your average student but america has 'the best universities'. I think we need to look more at 60s-era american universities more than 2010-era european universities, cause it's not like we don't do some things pretty successfully, we just have no price control mechanism and we've vastly underfunded our public universities. again, good comparison w/ health care. (tho europe does probably just do that better at this point.)

iatee, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 03:38 (eight years ago) link

i try p hard to be a good TA and be an asset to students but realistically i think im there to help the professor first. idk... my last corporate job before grad school was in like the v bottom rung of mgmt but i had a p good report w/ the ppl that i worked with but those skills have not really translated to teaching.

anyway this is p pointless post but being a ta isnt the hardest work but its still p shitty

808 Police State (Lamp), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 03:41 (eight years ago) link

My TAs have sections of 10-15 students, and grade 3 papers, a midterm and a Final- they have to hold regular office hours, attend my lectures, and contribute some paper topics. I don't ask them to give a lecture. I do worry about their compensation, and their treatment, and I host two "grading parties" (one for the midterm, one for the final) at my home where they do the grading with me present so that I can adjudicate borderline cases and so that we can get people's grading ranges more or less in alignment across sections. I take them out for dinner at the end of the semester. I know they're paid far better than I was at UC Berkeley, but I do wonder about the way that academia mostly exists to perpetuate itself, and so the sense that "this is job training for your future career" is supposed to float freely around our interactions, as if we weren't all aware of the shrinking job prospects that surround them. It's a painful time to do this job- I thought my generation of folks going out on the market were about as demoralized as we could be, but it really has gotten worse. I'd say "it's tough all over" and bitch about how much harder it is now to get a book contract but that's a first world problem . . .

the tune is space, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 03:55 (eight years ago) link

aw, drew you sound like one of the good ones. my advisor at my program was like that, too, always taking grad students out to dinner and fretting about her role within the system. i think that's the best you can do, really. i'm sure your TAs notice and appreciate it.

horseshoe, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:06 (eight years ago) link

lol one time she asked me to look in on her cats for a week while she was out of town and compensated me outrageously well for it

horseshoe, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:06 (eight years ago) link

the european system is better for your average student but america has 'the best universities'.

Ha, at this point, I was actually thinking about 'better/fairer' for junior faculty and graduate students.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:10 (eight years ago) link

(Marking parties are the only way to go btw.)

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:10 (eight years ago) link

I believe it's very tough to get a position in europe too. I'm basing that mostly off what I know about the french system.

iatee, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:12 (eight years ago) link

It is.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:13 (eight years ago) link

Oh, I meant it's tough if you're not from there. I don't know what it's like if you're a citizen.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:14 (eight years ago) link

I know people who could get academic work here but not there, if that says anything

iatee, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:14 (eight years ago) link

(french ppl)

iatee, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:14 (eight years ago) link

this thread is just bumming me the fuck out rn :/

808 Police State (Lamp), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:16 (eight years ago) link

Yes, I was supposed to do a Ph.D... too bad academia doesn't exist in the US anymore.

― burt_stanton

buzza, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:20 (eight years ago) link

haha I know someone applying to philosophy phds and law school at the same time now

iatee, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:21 (eight years ago) link

he says I'm "really a downer"

iatee, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:22 (eight years ago) link

Close race for worse idea there. At least there is some chance of getting funding for the PhD.

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:41 (eight years ago) link

that said, our grad students do get jobs- there are jobs out there- it's just really, really competitive and hard, and likely to stay that way as the adjunctification / "casualization" of the academic labor force continues to widen the gap between the haves and have nots

the tune is space, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:51 (eight years ago) link

http://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/files/2010/12/tenure_dies.png

iatee, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 04:58 (eight years ago) link

That graph is missing some context. Would really like to know how the increasing proportion of part time faculty relates to the increasing student population, what institutions are adding those jobs, etc.

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:03 (eight years ago) link

My college (which, ugh, mistake) was something insane like 95% adjunct, which they sold as "nearly all our instructors are working artists, imparting real world knowledge [like how to survive at 38 with no health insurance]"

ENERGY FOOD (en i see kay), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:13 (eight years ago) link

(95% is an exaggeration, it's more like 75% now that I actually look)

ENERGY FOOD (en i see kay), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:15 (eight years ago) link

I almost want to try founding a college if I finish my PhD. Academia could use some entrepreneurism, and not the evil kind.

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:16 (eight years ago) link

Pipe dreamin'

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:16 (eight years ago) link

::6 years later silby, now dreamless and pipeless, takes a lucrative job in consulting, hoping to own a new pair of shoes for the first time in half a decade::

jon /bia /tche 2.0 (Lamp), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:20 (eight years ago) link

My current shoes are over two years old!

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:28 (eight years ago) link

silby, vanderbilt is offering me a half-tuition scholarship + an ipad, can the university of silby match their offer?

iatee, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:36 (eight years ago) link

We will have a room at the community center and free water fountain water.

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:38 (eight years ago) link

…need to get in to a PhD program first…

whoop, up the butt it goes (silby), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:46 (eight years ago) link

My college (which, ugh, mistake) was something insane like 95% adjunct, which they sold as "nearly all our instructors are working artists, imparting real world knowledge [like how to survive at 38 with no health insurance]"

― ENERGY FOOD (en i see kay)

ha, i wonder if we share an alma mater or if many art schools operate this way (which wouldn't surprise me).

1staethyr, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:53 (eight years ago) link

#2

iatee, Tuesday, 15 November 2011 05:57 (eight years ago) link

even most of the course heads in my school were part time

plax (ico), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 09:29 (eight years ago) link

Suggest Ban Permalink

the european system is better for your average student but america has 'the best universities'.

Ha, at this point, I was actually thinking about 'better/fairer' for junior faculty and graduate students.

― EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, November 15, 2011 4:10 AM (7 hours ago) Bookmark

If you're any sort of scientist, PhD funding is relatively easy to get (and not tied to TA-ing) and there are still quite a lot of postdoc positions. However, permanent jobs in my corner of Europe are few to none.

fun drive (seandalai), Tuesday, 15 November 2011 11:38 (eight years ago) link

yep

caek, Wednesday, 16 November 2011 16:16 (eight years ago) link

most of the course heads in my school were part time

"Part-time employees" is so gauche. It's high time we started calling them "itinerant scholars".

Aimless, Wednesday, 16 November 2011 18:52 (eight years ago) link

The young man, who requested anonymity in order to speak openly, graduated with more than $100,000 in debt. He has now whittled that amount down to $80,000.

He does not particularly enjoy his job and he's actively searching for other opportunities. He says the management team at his company isn't helping him grow, and many of his daily tasks are "monotonous" and focused on "damage control."

He wants to make sure his next step is the right one before leaving. But part of the reason he's stayed for three years is because the job compensates well. Between his salary and annual bonus, he's making about $85,000 a year.

I so do not buy the "nyc has such a high cost of living" excuse

iatee, Wednesday, 16 November 2011 21:27 (eight years ago) link

is that pre or post tax

dayo, Wednesday, 16 November 2011 21:28 (eight years ago) link


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