ONE of the oddest things about the brutal post-crash economy is that the average-is-over cries by neoliberals to educate the workforce for a global world have accompanied hard times for many educated people. It’s especially true for academics caught in the adjunct trap, though it is not unique to struggling scholars. It’s certainly an issue with troubling implications for the creative class, both those who’ve sought a berth inside the university system and those who haven’t.
A new story by a very tough-minded journalist I know slightly, Alissa Quart (who often writes about nonconformity and poverty; her most recent book is Republic of Outsiders) recently went up. (Originally in Elle, this link is to The Investigative Fund’s site.) Here’s her lead:
Professor Bolin, or Brianne, as she tells her students to call her, might as well be invisible. When I arrive at the building at Columbia College in Chicago where she teaches composition, I ask the assistant at the front desk how to locate her. “Bolin?” she asks, sounding puzzled, as she scans the faculty list. “I’m sorry, I don’t see that name.” There is no Brianne Bolin to be found, even though she’s taught four classes a year here for the past five years. She doesn’t have a phone extension to her name, never mind an office.
You can probably guess a bit where it goes from here, but the storytelling is really strong. I can only link to part of the story here — the rest is behind a paywall — but I assure all that is worth a read.
How did we get to a place where the stock market triples in just a few years time, with income at the top surging, while median income goes down? Or with universities — even public universities — jacking their prices way beyond what middle-class folks can afford, while professors with advanced degrees and years of experience are treated like this?
Another bit from her piece:
Much political rhetoric these days is devoted to the importance of broadening access to college—and there is plenty of evidence that it’s still better financially to have a degree than not—but in the postcrash world of 2014, a good education may not keep you from hovering near the poverty line. The number of people with graduate degrees receiving food assistance or other forms of federal aid nearly tripled between 2007 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census. More specifically, 28 percent of food-stamp households were headed by a person with at least some college education in 2013, compared with 8 percent in 1980, according to an analysis by University of Kentucky economists.
Simply appalling. Please read Alissa’s story.
UPDATE: The full story is here.