Friday, July 30, 2010

College mathematics or math about college

The other day mail came with the most expensive DVD we have ever purchased.  I'll better will not add up because it has not been paid all at once, but it is many thousands of dollars. Have you guessed what it is?
 DVD of my daughter's commencement.

It brought back some of my thoughts from the time when I was full time teaching 120 students. Each student means around $3500-$4000 paid tuition per course. You think I had a fantastic salary?  I cannot blame you for this misconception if your answer is yes.

If you are not a contingent college professor then your image of college professors may be is made up by movies - like a classical one "My Fair Lady" - have you noticed all the staff Professor Higgins had at home?

"My Fair Lady" is my favorite movie but my salary was nothing compared to Prof. Higgins means or any other more recent movies depicting college professors in fashionable home interiors (for example,"Chloe").
In reality my salary for teaching 120 students (do math yourself how much tuition it is) was not enough to cover the tuition for that same semester for one of my children but I had two in college... I felt that something is wrong, very wrong. I am not complaining here that my salary was low (there are many colleges that pay even less per course to contingent faculty), but I thought and think that tuition in American colleges is way too high. If my teaching a class is a product and that is sold to students for 10 times more - the question arises - why are the universities called non-profit organizations? 

I am not alone in my feelings. In a recent public survey report by Squeeze Play 65% of respondents are saying that higher education are rising at a faster rate compared with other things and 74% of them say that this rate is the same or even higher than that of health care costs. In a recent issue of Academe (July-August 2010)  If the costs are rising so rapidly, there should be raised question about the quality of the product that has been sold for such a high price. The whole issue of the current issue of Academe is called "What do faculty owe students?". There is an interesting article by Peter Sacks where he talks that "access to higher education is not determined simply by one's ability to pay for college.Some children are born on the right side of the class divide ...Despite what we may believe about our higher education system's role as a great equalizer for social and economic mobility in the United States, we have created a highly structured system of colleges and universities that, more often than not, actually perpetuates inequality."
May be it would be smart to skip the college? This is one of the questions Rebecca Mead raises in New Yorker because odds of getting job (any job) for class 2010 are lower now than one imagined four years ago. Are colleges responsible for preparing students with degrees that are useless? Why not - parents have paid thousands of dollars or students have taken student loans that have to be paid (even in case a person dies, then this loan passes to the next of kin!!).
There is an interesting discussion about the real cost of college textbooks which also talks about financial burden of college education.When I searched Google for college affordability first jumped out this report - it is from 2003! What has changed except prices are even higher?

Is all what is left is to console ourselves with this Your new college graduate - parents guide?

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