Thursday, January 8, 2015

Krugman brings the data

Paul Krugman, though often shrill, nevertheless is an economist who pays attention to the data (see here).  The graph below should make everyone involved in the debate (perhaps, a kind description of what passes for this in America today) think twice about their rigid views regarding fiscal policy.

Krugman says:

The point is that 2010 was a real moment of truth. Were you going to go with the logic of more or less Keynesian macroeconomic models, or were you going to decide that loose psychological speculation about confidence trumped the arithmetic of spending? Being a forthright Keynesian at the time meant sticking out your neck quite a lot: you were running very much counter to what the Very Serious People were saying, and you would have been ridiculed and possibly suffered some serious career damage if US or UK interest rates had soared the way the VSPs warned, if inflation had taken off, if the correlation between government spending and GDP had turned out to be negative instead of positive.
As it turned out, however, the Keynesian view came out looking very good, and siding with the VSPs was not a good move after all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Some troubling data

The graph below is quite troubling to me - I just don't know what to make of it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Data on Grade Inflation in American Universities

Tim Taylor (see here) points us to research by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy regarding grade inflation (see the following graph).

Rojstaczer and Healy state:

Even if grades were to instantly and uniformly stop rising, colleges and universities are, as a result of five decades of mostly rising grades, already grading in a way that is well divorced from actual student performance, and not just in an average nationwide sense.

Taylor notes (see here)

Like so many other bad habits, grade inflation is lots of fun until someone gets hurt. Students are happy with higher grades. Faculty are happy not quarreling with students about grades...

To me, the real and practical problem of grade inflation is that it causes students to alter their choices, away from fields with tougher grading, like the sciences and economics, and toward fields with easier grading. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Executive Orders

I "don't have a dog in this fight" as the saying goes, but for the record:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The fall of "faculty governance"

Timothy Taylor (see here) has a new post entitled "Administrators Take Over Academia."  Using recent research and data, he details how the notion of "faculty governance" - once a cornerstone of higher education - has declined to the point of irrelevance in some Universities.  It seems to be the norm these days as universities continue to spread the "we are a business" propaganda without ever making clear what they mean by that.  He shows the graph below which details the rise of this philosophy.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

More on the Changing World of Higher Ed

In my previous post I highlighted a new report from The Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes of Research (click here for the report).  Below is another graph from the report:

Here is some of what Timothy Taylor (from the blog the Conversable Economist) says about it:

The picture that emerges from all this is fairly clear. When it comes to employment, colleges and universities have tried to hold down faculty costs in dealing with the expanding numbers of students by the use of time-contract faculty and part-timers. The nonprofessional staff are dealing with the increased number of students by using improved information technology and other capital investments, without a need for  a higher total number of staff. But the number of professional staff is rising, both in absolute terms and relative to the number of students. Desrochers and Kirshstein report these patterns in a neutral tone: "Growing numbers of administrative positions (executive and professional) and changes in faculty composition represent long-standing trends. The shifting balance among these positions has played out steadily over time in favor of administrators, and it is unclear when a tipping point may be near. Whether this administrative growth constitutes unnecessary “bloat” or is justified as part of the complexities involved in running a modern-day university remains up for debate."

I'll only add that institutions are defined by their people. As the full-time and tenured faculty become a smaller share of the employees of the institution and the professional administrators become a larger share, the nature and character of the institution inevitably changes. In this case, colleges and universities have become less about faculty, teaching, and research, and more about the provision of professional services to students and faculty. As far as I know, this shift was not planned or chosen, and the costs and benefits of such a shift were not analyzed in advance. It just happened.

His last paragraph is quite telling, since it is pretty clear to me that the "character" of many institutions has already changed.  For example, the practice of management in higher education now operates as a kind of "corporation envy" and the administrators view themselves as industrial managers in a "command and control" environment, not as colleagues engaged in the practices of teaching and learning.  One example of this:  the idea of "shared governance" is already diminished as faculty are increasingly viewed as "contract employees" who are necessary for the delivery of service, but unnecessary for the maintenance of the culture of the institution of higher education.  Whereas faculty tend to view their responsibility as educating students, administrators see their role as placating customers.  Whereas faculty tend to see the development and propagation of quality as a major challenge, administrators see "brand management" via "happy customers" as the key challenge.  The disparity of these two views of the role of institutions of higher education leads to predictable dysfunctions (for both faculty and administrators).