Posts Tagged ‘American Universities’

‘Break up the Ivy League cartel’

April 26, 2021

One encouraging thing is the growing bipartisan sentiment for breaking up giant corporations such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Walmart.

Matt Stoller’s BIG Substack blog is good source of information on business monopoly and the anti-monopoly movement. 

A guest poster, Sam Haselby, pointed out the other that the Ivy League universities are very like monopoly businesses. 

They have positioned themselves the gatekeepers to the affluent life.  Like the big retail chains and tech companies, they are able to thrive because of their financial strength, while their smaller competitors, with smaller margins of survival, go under.

Here are some highlights of his post:

Since the pandemic began, 650,000 jobs have disappeared in American academic institutions. More than 75% of college faculty in the U.S. are contingent workers or non tenure-track.

Meanwhile, as of 2020, the aggregate value of the endowments of the richest 20 U.S. schools rose to over $311 billion, all of which are subsidized by taxpayers through the tax-free treatment we offer nonprofit educational institutions.

The common joke, that Harvard is a hedge fund with an educational arm, is not so far off.

[snip]

In 1940, the acceptance rate at Harvard was eighty-five percent. In 1970, it was twenty percent. This year, for the class of 2025, it was 3.4 percent.

On the surface, a far more selective Ivy League seems to support the notion of meritocracy as something approximating what Jefferson characterized as the purpose of (unrealized plans for) free public schooling in 18th century Virginia: “the best geniuses will be raked from the rubbish annually.”

In practice though American meritocracy has become skewed to elite reproduction.

The economist Raj Chetty has found that nearly 40 of the country’s elite colleges and universities, including five in the Ivy League, accept more students from families in the top 1% of income earners than from the bottom 60%.

Computer scientist Alison Morgan recently released a study examining 7,218 professors in PhD granting departments in the United States across the arts and sciences.  She found that the faculty come from families almost 34% richer than average and are twenty-five times more likely than average to have a parent with a PhD.  Faculty at prestigious universities are fifty times more likely than average person to have a parent with a PhD.

American meritocracy has become a complex, inefficient, and rigged system conferring a series of “merits” on ambitious children of highly educated and prosperous families.

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The twilight of the American university

December 11, 2020

When I think of the wonderful experience I had attending a university in the 1950s and the great teachers I had, I grieve for that this experience is rarely if ever available today, except for a few pockets where scholars stubbornly value learning for its own sake.

The faculty and administrators of the University of Wisconsin stood up for the right to tell the truth as they saw it, and not just for the rights of tenured faculty, in the era of Joe McCarthy.

Now college professors are under pressure from two directions—pressure to refrain from scholarship that is threatening to business interests, and pressure to maintain an ideological orthodoxy regarding race, gender, etc. These two pressures are not incompatible.

When I was a newspaper reporter, from roughly 60 years ago to roughly 20 years ago, there were only three categories of people I could interview who would speak their minds without fear—owners of successful businesses, members of strong labor unions and tenured college professors. Add to that civil servants talking about their areas of expertise.

The fear factor was much greater when I retired than when I started out. I am pretty sure it is not less today.

Universities are part of the institutional memory of civilizations. Their decline is one reason for the historical amnesia that exists today.

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Neoliberal US colleges prefer rich foreigners

July 1, 2016

I came across an article in the Washington Monthly from a few years back as to how many U.S. universities are recruiting rich Chinese and other foreigners who can pay high tuition that middle-class and working-class Americans cannot afford.

This fits the neoliberal philosophy, which measure merit in terms of revenue (in this case, tuition X enrollment) and profit.

LINKS

International Students: Separate But Profitable by Paul Stephens for the Washington Monthly (2013)

How Chinese Students Saved America’s Colleges by Justin Fox for Bloomberg News.