Blaming the Messenger — Again

Last Friday, students at the University of California staged a protest and pelted the house of the university chancellor with rocks and other projectiles, breaking windows and causing not-insignificant damage. According to various reports, the students were protesting teacher layoffs and furloughs, canceled classes, and high tuition and fees. The latest protest followed earlier occupations of halls on the Berkeley campus designed to call attention to the student grievances.

While I happen to agree with the anger and concern about the cutbacks in higher education, these protests, as with so many student protests over the years, are aimed at the wrong people. No state college or university administration has that much control over the rising costs of education. Nationally, over the past three decades, the percentage of college costs at state institutions of higher education paid for by state governments has dropped, often precipitously, from a national average of around 40% to far, far, less — in some states dropping below ten percent. During the same period, various additional requirements and mandates have been imposed on state institutions by both federal and state governments, and governments at all levels have pressed for more and more students to attend college. In general, the increased costs do not come from significantly higher faculty and staff salaries. While the salaries of football coaches have soared, so have administration salaries and costs, largely in response to all the mandates and administrative paperwork and “accountability.” On the other hand, faculty and staff salaries, in general, have not kept pace. Over the last 15 years, for example, faculty salaries at my wife’s university have been frozen four times, and the average raise in the years when they were not frozen has been around three percent. Similar figures apply to other state universities in the region. With the contribution from state governments dropping yearly, and legislative mandates to “do more,” the only way state institutions can meet their budgets is by increasing tuition and fees — or by cutting faculty and part-time or student instructors.

Blaming the administration, whatever the faults of those administrators may be, doesn’t get to the heart of the problem. Those students would be better served by asking their parents and their friends’ parents, “Why don’t you support more state taxes to fund higher education?” Or… they could accept the fact that, if they don’t want to pay for education through taxes, they’ll have to pay higher tuition and fees… or allow the universities and colleges to raise the bar for admission and reduce the number of students.

Destructive rioting in front of a chancellor’s house isn’t going to do anything except make already intransigent legislators even less willing to grant funds to a state university… and all too many of them don’t like finding higher education anyway.

4 thoughts on “Blaming the Messenger — Again”

  1. Nate says:

    To a T, sir. To a T.

  2. Iron Sparrow says:

    It all comes down to this:

    "Those students would be better served by asking their parents and their friends' parents, "Why don't you support more state taxes to fund higher education?" Or… they could accept the fact that, if they don't want to pay for education through taxes, they'll have to pay higher tuition and fees… or allow the universities and colleges to raise the bar for admission and reduce the number of students."

    Nobody really wants to be the one to pay for things, they just want some nebulous "other person" to foot the bill. I do have one quibble though. It's my understand that booster donations specifically oriented at helping the football program are largely responsible for funding the soaring coach salaries.

  3. BlackMarbleConsulting says:

    I have to say I agree with yours and the other's comments. Quite honestly most student's and their parents have an "expectation" that the school is responsible for much more than providing an environment conducive to learning. Doesn't it seem odd that these student were missing class and creating a disruption during the term when they are supposed to be most focused on achievement and learning? As for the focus of their attack, we all love a target and most people are too lazy to really consider finding the right target for their rage.

    The deeper question might be, if you are that upset with your educational experience, than why are you there? We have a fundamental fallacy in our nation – that going to college is a prerequisite for success. I know many people who are financially successful by pursuing a trade and learning a craft rather than an abstraction of learning. As a dual major in chemistry and philosophy as an undergraduate, little of the technical understanding of either subject is of much use to me, while the application of the trained ability of "how to think" is far more useful.

    As a society, we need to begin to ask the question of who we want to educate rather than simply indicating all "deserve" to be. That is simply not true.

  4. hob says:

    Perhaps the students should ask for detailed records of anual state spending–people pay taxes for schooling, health, roads, etc. That is what taxes are for. My regret is you will most probably find large orders of useless items that have curiously been bought multiple times.

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