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Higher Education: Capitalism At Its Most Despicable


Higher Education: Capitalism At Its Most Despicable

Paul Buchheit

Rating capitalist despicability is a daunting task with Big Pharma and High Finance in the running, but Higher Ed's betrayal of a century-old trust with young Americans vaults it toward the top of the list.


Lot's of good perspective here, Dr. Buchheit. To your analysis, I'll add the manner in which many, if not most, university administrations hyper-responded to the U.S. News & World Report's annual university rankings. More effort was expended to appear good than to be good. Trying to maximize malleable metrics charted by some drunken sailors in committee stupor, leadership disappeared and management stepped in its stead. The resulting corporatization model has paralyzed a great deal of the nation's higher education system. It would take a long time to undo the damage even if the will could be summoned.


The celebration of macho prowess and/or brute force as projected onto football fields the nation over is the natural segue-way into militarism, or "theaters of war."

"All the hundreds of millions of dollars have allowed universities to increase head football coach salaries at a rate 20 times that of college professors."

The fascination that mostly American males have with football is part of the Mars-ruled culture.

In many ways, Mars, as warrior is the son of Cronus, the stern father god who devours his own children. Cronus, also known as Saturn is the mythological entity tied to the conservative sign of Capricorn. And it's the sign that upholds old, paternalistic traditions: root system of patriarchy.

This also befits Conservatives and Saturn/Cronus:

"Older, established, and largely white male America has taken the greater part of our nation's wealth while scamming college kids with dreams of success in an unregulated high-tech sharing economy."

The following are or were Capricorns:

J. Edgar Hoover, Barry Goldwater, Karl Rove, Richard Nixon, Rush Limbaugh.

This group practically invented the modern Conservative: protectors of the rich white men's club. None are friends of children... or students!


While there are many ills associated with big time college sports there are also many positives. First of all, in schools with some of the most successful football programs the money taken in from football pays for the entire athletic program. This allows the school to have two or more dozen men's and women's teams in a wide variety of sports without using any money from tuition or state funding to pay for it. Also, of course, big time sports teams keep alumni interested in the school which can translate to large sums of alumni donations. Also, there are a number big time football programs such Virginia Tech and Penn State where the players must perform well academically and many of their players take difficult majors, not simply easy majors like sports management. Another benefit is many of the player could not afford to attend college without receiving the full scholarships. Since most players do not go on to be high-paid professional athletes, obtaining a college degree for these students can be the difference between living in poverty or having rewarding careers. What is needed is for the NCAA to get tougher on schools who are basically exploiting athletes and not educating them. The NCAA has in recent years taken some positive steps in that direction but overall it does not seem to believe in its own rhetoric about studend-athletes although some of the member schools do take that concept very seriously.


The ultimate irony, Alabama wouldn't admit African-Americans in 1963 and now the almost all white student body cheers for an almost all black football team. No one cares to mention the abysmal graduation rate for these star athletes as most leave early for the pros. Modern day slavery for the university that reaps huge financial rewards. Players remuneration, nice try Northwestern but you perform for the paying audience.


Most football players at the big time schools do not leave early for the pros and most of the ones that do already have degrees. Remember that most of these players are red shirted so they don't play the first year and they all take courses during the summers when they have training. Many players are actually working on masters degrees since the have already graduated. A few are even working on second masters degree. The players are not employees of the university, they are students taking courses. The NCAA recently allowed them to get a little more spending money. While players do not get salaries they are often at the school for five years and their full scholarships can be worth from about $20,000 to $40,000 per year depending on the tuition. And, their degrees can be very valuable in the job market if they don't become pros and even after their pro careers are over which is usually in only a few years. I am most familiar with the Big Ten schools and I know the graduation rates of football players from schools like Northwestern and Penn State are very high and this true for their black athletes as well as white. It might be hard to defend the some of the SEC schools but I think you will find a more positive situation in the Big Ten. It is might of interest that the famous "We Are... Penn State" cheer had it origins in the late 1940s when Penn State was invited to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas but they could only play if they left their black players home. The school refused to play. This led to view at the school that Penn State was something special and not just another state school and the students took pride saying we are Penn State.


This is a conflict between private property and the Individual over the commons and society.

Those that advotacte for the "free market" calling it a debate about "freedom and liberty" are simply advocating behaviour freed from the restrictions of society.It every bit an extreme a behaviour as is one in which the State dictates all. As wth everything BALANCE is needed something our First nations peoples understand and the example of how balance works is around us each and every day if we simply open our eyes to the natural world which through that balance promotes life in all of its diversity.


The flip side was San Francisco City College which lost its accreditation for spending too much on instruction and not enough on administration!


Higher Education is resolving into a two-tier system in which the wealthy can afford the elite institutions while the rest are going to be tracked into vocational classes at public colleges. None of the latter are cheap, either--Higher Ed took a page from go-go eighties Reaganomics: eliminate unions or union effectiveness where possible, change educators into "contractors" or part-timers or temps (you now have adjunct faculty at 70% of all Higher Ed)--In conjunction with the attack on tenure--simple, slow down or stop hiring tenure track--attrition will eventually eliminate tenure!--Further increasing digitization of education will eliminate those pesky buildings and grounds and all the personnel required for their upkeep--
Look at the endowment funds of Harvard or any other elite institution--they're awash in liquidity--thanks to the Dole-Bayh legislation of '80--and still they hold down wages of University employees and also continue to raise tuition, fees etc..
Education has been transformed into Big Business--there was always a tension in America between the business and the education sectors within the sector--but the Business side has triumphed, to our discredit as a society.


"As administrators grew at ten times the rate of tenured faculty positions"

As more and more students can't afford tertiary education, universities need less and less tenured staff, surely, and of course universities, which really are a business after all, need the appropriate plethora of management and also management consultants popping in and out just so the universities remain viable businesses in a competitive world. It's like the British National Health system. If it is doing its job properly, there should be fewer and fewer patients and therefore there needs to be fewer and fewer beds and therefore nurses and doctors aren't needed but the hospitals still need managing so that they achieve maximum efficiency by having no patients at all.

Don't the people who write for CD go to Business Management Schools in universities and get Degrees in Human Resource Management and MBAs? They should; otherwise how can they relate to the real world?


I read all 11 comments, searching in for something sensible. So I will offend all. And, you can reply that I am the stupid one.

I was on the faculty at several universities and helped numerous young scholars get into graduate programs. Dr. Buchheit hit the bullseye with this column. There was a form of democracy in governing US universities. Permanent, tenured faculty participated in departmental and college committees to keep institutions competitive and honest. This has been lost, mostly, as faculty have been relegated to what is now called "the gig economy." They are hired for a narrowly defined temporary job, at low wages, so they do not get involved in policy matters. As tenured faculty are replaced by temps, the administrators are freed to do what they think best. And, they have been taken care of themselves, screw the rest.

I point the finger at government. Congress reduced funding for basic and long-term research. State legislatures followed suit, often because they needed more prisons and were afraid to raise taxes. Others may blame others, but I blame conservative legislators.

More important, what to do now? I do not have an answer. Like some writers, I want to subject college athletics to academic objectives. I don't buy the line that big time college football or basketball belong on college campuses, or that the "loser" sports must die without their revenue. Roman gladiators, blood, and salivating spectators: what does that have to do with academics? Entertainment for the carnivores, yes, but teaching or research it is not.

Administrators will not curb themselves. Libertarians might assert that privatization would use competition to drive down prices, but for profit universities have instead boosted some salaries and conspired to screw the government out of bigger subsidies.

Here's a model. Tenured faculty organize the university as a cooperative. They elect a governing board. The board hires the administration it needs. Can you imagine the layoffs in administration? Would athletics continue? Would students enroll? I picture a small, austere environment -- like a monastery? -- and with nerdy students and faculty. What do you think?


I think education is not a business. Only an MBA attempts to define life as a business. Well. other degrees that attempt to transform the joy of life into electronic digits might be as myopic as an MBA, especially in a world economy that requires 1,5 Earths for pollution recycling and resources. Who can grow to infinity fastest on a finite planet wins? Heck, that's a simple no brainer for a business person. Go for it.

Socialized medicine if it really works should run itself out of business because everyone is healthy? Very funny.


British irony at work in my comments. Alas that it fails to be recognised in non-Commonwealth countries.

I have seen the user-payers nonsense that has hit British, New Zealand and Australian universities. I applaud the former British system of government paying fees for students and also giving them a cost-of-living grant based on their parents' income, once the students had jumped through the hoops of A-level exams and university interviews. This, like many things, died under Thatcher's gentle ministrations. Your ideas and comments have my sympathy.

As for what to do now. Simple. Adopt the pre-Thatcher British systems for education and health-care. They worked. Or look to Sweden in the 1960s-early 1970s. That worked, too.


I think the there are pros and cons to big time athletics on campus. It certainly can energize a campus and bring a community of students together and even a local community unlike probably anything else. But it does have a corrupting influence as many people are willing to go over the line to win and the TV stations have turned it more and more into entertainment. But I think the basic problem at research universities is the the only thing that really matters is research and teaching takes a back seat. I don't think it is has been proven that big time research and undergraduate teaching are compatible in the same institution. Unless somehow professors are rewarded for teaching, undergraduates are not going to get a good education unless they take the initiative and spend a lot of time and energy to seek it out. The only thing that seems to matter to many professors is their status as researchers and their particular area of research and the only thing that matters to research universities is their national and international status as research universities. Teaching seems to be something that just has to be done and handing it off to graduate assistants and adjuncts or putting online seems to be the way things are going.


You and Dr. Buchelt seem to have overlooked the root of the problem. CAPITALISM and its ruling elite. In 1973 David Rockefeller and Zbig convened the Trilateral Commission to determine the cause of the "Crisis of Democracy" i.e. the unrest of the 50's, 60's and early 70's. The commission determined that it was the education that was then available to almost any intelligent person that was the root of the problem, I well remember because I was at Berkeley and it cost me $60/ semester in student fees not tuition, that was free. I could cover that with 40 hours of work at minimum wage. It was a heady time that unfortunately led to the election of Reagan as governor, He ran on a platform against those unruly and ungrateful children and the faculty that supported them at the universities who wanted outrageous things like free speech, civil rights, and in general liberty, justice and equality for all.
Tuition is now $12,000 plus. Minimum wage would have to be $300/hr to make the education as accessible as it was to me and my cohorts. The 1% want a high tuition because among other things it means less competition for their children for the few lucrative positions still available.
They have also managed this by restricting the supply. In 1964 there were 9 campuses in the UC system and now there are ten and the population has more than doubled. In the same time period the prison system went from 7 to almost 40 prisons. Those numbers don't represent impersonal market or social forces They are the result of conscious decisions on the part of the 1% and their mercenaries and minions.
What is the solution? Simply stop cooperating, Shut down the machine that has become so odious that you must throw your body on the gears and levers. To paraphrase Mario Savio when the students and faculty at Berkeley did just that in 1964. That generation unfortunately went back to being good little boys and girls for the most part. Bettina Aptheker and Angela Davis became faculty members of the UC system though they are still cogent analysts they don't attack capitalism as vociferously as they did.


There is nothing like being an enrolled student and watching this unfold around you as I did in the late 1980s at the University of California, San Diego. Much of the excuse given was that the campus had to stay competitive with other similar level destinations to attract students.
Endless glossy literature, rec centers, food courts, unnecessary remodel jobs, on and on. Presided over by the growing administrative class that seemed more intent on building a commercial residential/consumer/shopping environment than anything else. I even recently saw a glossy magazine designed for these people with instructions on how to do all of these decorating tips for colleges. A whole sector of people and activity we never needed before, now they are entrenched in the "magic marketplace" that our public universities have joined.


The faculties of most universities are, in one way or another, third-rate hustlers who let this happen. The best thing that could happen is for about 60 percent of US colleges to close their doors. (And that may be coming.)


Not just higher education. They are doing the same with schools. Slowly, but surely.


"Older, established, and largely white male America has taken the greater part of our nation's wealth..."

I am one of those described in this passage, being in my 50s and already comfortably retired. Yet as I've gotten older I've found my politics moving ever leftward to the point where even Bernie Sanders is too much of a centrist for my taste.

Point being, I've been perfectly willing to support any viable political movement that would end white male economic hegemony in this country even if it means I would have to pay substantially higher rates of taxation, but there just isn't any. That lack of any real protest against such an unfair system by those being the most hurt by it continues to baffle me.