Monday, December 08, 2008

"Separate but Equal" in American Higher Education?

Mark S. Langevin teaches political science at the University of Maryland's University College. He published an oped in today's Baltimore Sun arguing that adjunct faculty are part of a "separate but equal" system in American higher education:
In some ways, UMUC is similar to the East Louisiana Railroad car that Homer Plessy boarded on June 7, 1892. Just as railroads served to propel the U.S. toward progress in the 19th century, UMUC plays a key role in creating a future of global opportunities for thousands of adult students in Maryland and throughout the world, offering bachelor's and master's programs, a doctoral program and a multitude of certificate programs and numerous online offerings. Last year, UMUC enrolled more than 90,000 students in three continents. UMUC could grow by 50 percent in the next decade, by far the largest increase in the University System of Maryland. Unfortunately, the burden of such expansion will fall upon those least able to afford it: students and faculty.

UMUC resident students pay 400 percent more toward their educational expenses than the state's share. At College Park and Frostburg State, students pay only 80 percent of what state taxpayers do. Multiplying the inequality, only 33 percent of UMUC undergraduates receive financial aid, compared with a majority of students enrolled at peer institutions. It gets worse. UMUC has no tenured faculty, only a tiny team of full-time professors with short-term contracts lost among the legions of part-time faculty. More than 80 percent of UMUC faculty are contracted one course at a time.

UMUC's faculty model doubles down on inequality by forcing students to the back of the higher-education bus along with their part-time professors who earn only a third of what full-time professors at peer schools in Maryland earn for comparable work.