I doubt that many college presidents listen to country music, but perhaps they should.
Country music is full of lyrics about people getting in trouble because they made poor decisions. In Mama Tried, Merle Haggard admits he wouldn't be in jail if he had listened to his mother. And of course, there are hundreds of country songs about guys who lost their marriages because they hung out in honky-tonks with loose women.
American colleges and universities, like country-music singers, have made spectacular mistakes. But unlike the hillbilly bards, college leaders won't admit it. They just raise tuition and go on wild building sprees. Now they can't pay their bills.
As Jon Marcus wrote for The Hechinger Report, higher education's bad choices left it dangerously vulnerable when the coronavirus pandemic became its black swan. What did the universities do wrong?
First of all, colleges continued hiring faculty even though they were attracting fewer students. As Marcus pointed out, overall enrollment in American colleges and universities shrank by 12 percent since the last recession (2008-2009), while higher education increased the number of employees by five percent.
In particular, many colleges didn't decrease staffing levels for programs that were in decline. Fewer and fewer students choose education or liberal arts as their major. Still, many institutions did not reduce staff or eliminated majors even though the professors had fewer students to teach.
Second, Marcus correctly noted that the trustees at many universities abdicated their leadership role to be "boosters, cheerleaders, and donors." Many college boards paid their presidents lavish salaries with overly generous benefits, bonuses, and hefty retirement packages. For example, Penn State University and Michigan State paid departing presidents millions of dollars in golden-parachute money after they left their positions in the wake of explosive sexual-abuse scandals.
Rather than trimming their financial costs or operating more efficiently, most colleges responded to rising costs by raising tuition, forcing students to take out larger and larger student loans. As students reacted to sticker shock, the colleges switched tactics by offering huge tuition discounts of 50 percent or more to lure students into enrolling. That didn't work out well for most higher education institutions. Their tuition discounts didn't reverse their financial woes, and revenues continued to drop.
Now the coronavirus has become an expensive problem for colleges and universities. Many of them will close. But they can't blame COVID-19 for their misfortune. A lot of colleges were "dead men walking" even before the pandemic showed up as a black swan event.
Friday, August 7, 2020
Thursday, December 19, 2019
You don't know me but you don't like me,
You say you care less how I feel
How many of you that sit and judge me
Ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?
Streets of Bakersfield
Sung by Buck Owens
I love California, which I've visited many times. Napa Valley is lovely and produces terrific wines. The landscape around Santa Barbara is the most beautiful in the world, surpassing Tuscany and the Li Valley in southwestern China, in my opinion.
Unlike (I suspect) California's politicians, I appreciate the great literature of California. I've read Frank Norris' The Octopus, Nathanael West's Day of the Locust, some of Joan Didion's essays, Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, and many of the works of Jack London and John Steinbeck. I love T.C. Boyles' California novels, particularly The Tortilla Curtain and Budding Prospects.
And Californians are great people. Although I haven't met them all, I've never met a Californian I didn't like. (I might not like Charlie Manson or HarveyWeinstein, but we don't run in the same circles.)
But let's face it. The Californians insist on sending wingnuts to Congress, and these nut jobs are ruining the country. I'm talking Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Maxine Waters, etc., etc. It's got to stop.
So let's vote California off the island. I realize a state can't secede from the Union, but with a constitutional amendment, we can surely vote to kick a state out of the club.
Who could oppose such a move? Texas? North Dakota? Hell, the Californians would jump at the chance to have their own nation.
If California was a country it could do whatever it damn likes. It could have open borders, free sex-change operations for illegal immigrants, and no-charge facelifts. It could require corporations to put convicted rapists on their governing boards and make it a criminal offense for Christians to go to college. The People's Republic of California could give citizens the constitutional right to crap on the sidewalks instead of restricting that privilege to San Francisco. What's not to like?
Of course, my proposal has some limitations. First of all, the town of Bakersfield--home of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and the Bakersfield sound--would continue to be part of America. And the Ronald Reagan Library. That goes without saying.
And America would keep the military bases and Disney Land. But Hollywood would be happier if California were a separate nation, and Americans are tired of Hollywood movies anyway.
Think about it. Kicking California out of the USA would solve a lot of problems, and I can think of no downsides. And if Americans get nostalgic about the old California, they can watch classic movies: Vertigo, The Big Lebowski, and The Maltese Falcon.
|The Dude abides, man.|