Showing posts with label University of Texas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label University of Texas. Show all posts

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Preparing for an academic career? Better have Plan B in your back pocket

As reported by the Star Tribune a couple of weeks ago, the University of Minnesota will not accept new students into many of its liberal arts programs in the fall of 2021.

The university is stopping admission in twelve programs, including history, political science, theater arts, and gender studies. New enrollments will be limited in 15 other programs.  No program outside the university's college of liberal arts will be affected.

Universities across the nation are making similar decisions--cutting or reducing programs in languishing liberal arts disciplines.

Interest in the traditional fields of liberal arts has been declining for decades, and job opportunities in these disciplines have dwindled.

I recall sitting in Professor William Stott's graduate-level American Studies class at the University of Texas more than 30 years ago. Professor Stott handed out the vitae of about a dozen candidates for a history professor's job at UT. Every applicant had a Ph.D. from an Ivy League school: Harvard, Yale, Brown, etc.

Dr. Stott didn't have to say anything to make his point. How can you compete with a Harvard Ph.D. holder for a professor's position with your doctorate from a less prestigious public university?

I took the hint and went to law school. And I have never been sorry.

Without question, there will be fewer faculty positions for liberal arts professors in the years to come.  Many of these positions are in second- and third-tier liberal arts colleges that are experiencing enrollment declines--especially those located in the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic states.  

If you take out student loans to get a Ph.D. in history or political science, you will find yourself in serious trouble if you can't find a position in your chosen field.

You may think a Ph.D. will get you an excellent job of some kind, even if you can't find one in academia. But you may be wrong. Employers may be reluctant to hire an employee with a doctorate in medieval history, thinking that such a person is overqualified or will be unhappy working in a mundane bureaucratic job.

Paul Campos, writing about the job market for lawyers in his brilliant little book Don't Go to Law School (Unless), advised law students with mediocre grades at bottom-tier law schools to consider cutting their losses dropping out before graduating:

 [G]iven the state of the legal market, most people at most law schools who find themselves in the bottom half of their class after the first year would be better off dropping out.

As bad as it would be to have student loans and no degree, he pointed out, it might be worse to take out more loans to get a J.D. and then be unable to find a job.

These are volatile and unstable times for American higher education--especially graduate education. Don't be lured into an expensive master's program or doctoral program with a vague sense that another university degree will somehow improve your job prospects.

You could be wrong--terribly wrong. And if you wind up with a graduate degree, no job, and six-figure student-loan debt, you will have doomed your financial future and perhaps the future of your family. 


A cushy professor's job: You probably won't get one.








Sunday, January 5, 2014

"Ye shall know the truth . . ." Have our great public universities lost touch with the people they were founded to serve?

Americans revere our Ivy League universities. Hundreds of American cities have a Harvard Street or a Yale Avenue. I live in the College Town subdivision of Baton Rouge, and Harvard Avenue is just a few blocks from my house.

But American adoration of the Ivy League colleges is misplaced. The real jewels in the crown of American higher education are our nation's great public universities: University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, University of California and a few others. Founded and funded by state legislatures, these public universities were intended to be places where young men and women could receive a first-class education in their home states. 
University of Texas
"Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."

University of Texas, where I attuned law school, certainly ranks with the University of Michigan and the University of California as one of the nation's leading public universities.  At one time, bright young men and women from the cities and small towns of Texas could enroll at UT at very little cost and see a whole new world open up--the world of great ideas and great ideals.

In North Toward Home, Willie Morris, who later became a noted journalist and editor of Harper's magazine, wrote of his experience at UT in the 1950s.  Morris grew up in the small town of Yazoo City, Mississippi and attended the University of Texas in the early 1950s. He later made his home among the intellectual elites of New York City.

Years later, this is how Morris described how the University of Texas changed his life. "I believe now," Morris wrote, "that the University of Texas was somehow beginning to give me an interest and a curiosity outside my parochial ego."  It was at the University of Texas, Morris reflected, where he came to accept the notion of ideas "as something worth living by."

I first read North Toward Home while a student at UT, and my experience was similar to Morris's.  I still recall standing in front of the University's Main Library and reading these words above the steps, chiseled in stone in letters two feet high: "Ye shall know the truth and the truth will set you free."

Those words thrilled me then, and I must say UT kept its promise.  The law school opened a whole new world for me--a world of disciplined and clear thinking, academic rigor, and a reverence for ordered law.

I attended UT Law School at minimal expense; tuition was only $500 per semester. At that time, the Law School existed primarily for Texans. In fact, the law school was legally obligated to admit 85 percent of each entering class from among Texas citizens.  I met young men and women from all over Texas: African Americans from Houston and Dallas, Latinos from the Rio Grande Valley, Anglo men and women from such small towns as Vernon and Longview.

Today, I fear, the great American public universities have morphed into entirely different entities from the ones envisioned by the state legislatures that founded them.  As state funding has shrunk, the universities have become more and more dependent on tuition, endowments, and research funds.

Over time the great public universities have become to look very much like our elite private universities. They have lost their connection to the people of their respective states.

I see this phenomenon illustrated by rising costs and by the elitist posturing of our major public universities on social issues.  At their best, these universities once offered an education to the bright young men and women of their states--regardless of race, class, or wealth.  And tuition was kept down so the cost of receiving a college education would not be prohibitively expensive.

Today, the law school I attended for $1,000 a year charges Texas residents $36,000 a year in tuition, and it takes race into account when making admission decisions.  In fact, I believe all the major public universities have aggressive affirmative action policies in place. Until the policy was struck down by the Supreme Court, the University of Michigan even had a point system for admitting undergraduates that gave special preference to minorities.

Our great public universities are not only obsessed with race, they have increasingly become hostile to tradition religious values. The University of California's Hastings Law School refused to recognize a campus chapter of the Christian Legal Society as a student organization on the grounds that it declined to accept members who did not subscribe to traditional Christian doctrine on sexual morality. The University of Texas tried to bar a student group from handing out literature opposing abortion.

Today, our major state universities still describe themselves as public institutions but they increasingly look like the elite private universities in terms of their values.  Serving the common people of their respective states is too parochial for them.  Leave that to the regional institutions like Sam Houston State University in Huntsville or Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

This is fine, I suppose, but university leaders should be honest about their institutions' new identities.  Our most prestigious public universities now serve to advance a global culture of postmodernism and not the people of their states. In my view, state legislatures should cut all ties with these universities--formally designating them for what they really are: elitist private institutions.

 References

Christian Legal Society Chapter of the University of California v. Martinez, 130 S. Ct. 2971 (2010).

Gratz v.Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003).

Justice For All v. Faulkner, 410 F.3d 760 (5th    Cir. 2005).

Willie Morris. North Toward Home. New York: Delta Books, 1967.