This week is one of those rare occasions in which the blog post for both sites I manage is the same. My reason for this overlap is the severity of the crisis we face in Higher Education in the United States. In the last thirty years, public funding for Higher Education at the state and federal level has consistently been reduced. Private colleges have also been squeezed more each year by a decline in alumni giving and the investment returns from their endowments.
With colleges and universities living in a constant state of budget crisis, students are more dependent upon loan debt rather than scholarships and grants to finance their education. A recent study conducted by the non-profit Institute for College Access and Success indicates that the average student indebtedness in the United States is around $26,000. In my home state of Illinois, 62% of college graduates reported owing some form of debt upon graduation. That is up from 46% in 1990.
Students are also becoming part of the low wage economy through work-study jobs that not only have no connection to their studies but have unwittingly helped dismantle blue-collar employment on campus. Who wants to pay $45,000-$65,000 a year to clerical and service workers when the same work can be done by an undergraduate for pennies on the dollar.
Colleges were forced by circumstances to find ways to “economize” and “monetize” their existing assets, but inviting corporate logic into the realm of Higher Ed was like welcoming the fox into the hen-house. Higher Education has now become a factory that turns out graduates while remaining agnostic about their fate subsequent to graduation.
In order to address this crisis, Occupy Education, a branch of the larger Occupy movement, has called for a National Day of Action to be held on March 1st throughout the United States to draw attention to the problems we face and hopefully prod those interested towards crafting a solution.
Here in Chicago a number of rallies are planned throughout the city. I will be at events taking place in the Loop beginning at 8:30am and ending around 4pm. Here are a list of those events:
8:30am– A panel led by Diana Vallera, the president of Columbia College’s Part-Time Faculty Union (P-Fac), and Curtis Keyes, the lead organizer for the union at East-West University will be held as part of the National Education Association (NEA) convention taking place at the Palmer House Hilton. That panel will address the current crisis in Higher Education and the work that unions have been doing to combat it.
11:00am–A rally will meet outside the Palmer House as Curtis Keyes speaks with members of the student group C.A.C.H.E. (the Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education) prior to marching south to the main offices of Columbia College at 600 South Michigan Avenue.
1:00pm–C.A.C.H.E. will continue its march to Congress and Michigan and hold a rally.
These are just a few of the events occurring that day. Hundreds more will pop up all over the city so keep your eyes open. If you are unable to find or participate in one of these rallies, check out these facts on Higher Ed and share them with a friend or coworker. Together we can insure that college education is available for all who want it and maintain the educated citizenry necessary for a healthy republic to survive.