Category Archives: Money


A Field Guide to American Higher-Ed Reformers

This short and easy-to-use field guide is designed to help both academics and lay audiences quickly identify some of the important species and subspecies that now occupy the higher-education landscape in the United States. Recognizing these various species, many of which are new to this environment, has become particularly important in this period of drastic university climate change and species migration.

1. Venture philanthropists and foundations

Species: Benevolentia disrumpo

Habitat/range: F…


Institutions’ Misplaced Fear of Fossil-Fuel Divestment

The campus divestment movement is losing. The wealthiest, most prestigious colleges and universities are declining to divest. News reports indicate that Harvard actually increased substantially its holdings in oil and gas companies in the fall of 2014. The message is clear. Market logic rules. Profits come first, even for not-for-profit institutions.

Well-publicized estimates of endowment-income losses at Swarthmore, Wellesley, and Pomona, coupled with threats to financial-aid and compensation b…


Welcome to Ohio State, Where Everything Is for Sale

I’m excited to announce that my university has changed its motto. Out with the old and in with: “Omnia Venduntur!

Our old motto,Disciplina In Civitatem,” or “Education for Citizenship,” just sounded so, you know, land-granty, so civic-minded. It certainly doesn’t capture our new ethos of entrepreneurial dynamism and financial chicanery. Besides, the state legislature here, dominated for years now by the GOP, hasn’t been interested in either education or citizenship for a long time.

So instead…


A Librarian’s Defense of Despair

So an executive falls asleep on his private, three-engine jet. He awakens to a loud noise. Peering down is his pilot, a bright-yellow package clasped to his chest. Yelling to be heard over the cacophony of multiple alarms, the pilot reports that engine No. 1 is belching smoke, engine No. 2 is in flames, and engine No. 3 has fallen from the wing. Pointing out the window, through which the onrushing ground appears at a 30-degree angle, the pilot offers to sell the executive the yellow package for …


The Lonely Shame of Student Debt

The phone rings. I answer. Credit-card collector—again. A pleasant voice on the other end of the line: “Can you please verify the last four digits of your Social Security number?” I verify. The voice then asks me if I consent to letting them use my phone number to contact me about my credit-card debt. I say no, I do not consent. “Well, how would you like us to contact you to give you updates about your account?” You can send the updates in the mail, I tell the voice. “Very well, plea…

Welcome to the Big-Time College-Sports Sausage Factory

At midafternoon on Wednesday, on a day that had dawned crisp and clear, with fall clearly in the air, Carol L. Folt, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spoke to the press. Her comments seemed to personify a sense of resignation at the release of the long-anticipated Wainstein Report, which found that the department of African and Afro-American studies had created no-show classes to help athletes remain eligible to play: “I think it’s very clear that this is an aca…


Untie the Knot Binding College Sports and Educational Values

As most of us are well aware, important challenges to today’s existing order in athletics are under way, from the court system and through the widely discussed National Labor Relations Board ruling that Northwestern football players are employees of the university and have the right to unionize. Regardless of their final outcomes, these challenges are long overdue. I believe they represent an inevitable recognition that the oft-acclaimed “amateur” status of big-time college sports is a sham.

We …


Dealing With Student Loans One Mess at a Time Hasn’t Worked

Americans are beginning to realize that student loans pose a big problem. Total student-loan debt is now well over a trillion dollars (and is predicted to hit two trillion around 2020). About a third of young people who are supposed to be making payments on their loans are delinquent, and there is every reason to suspect that a large chunk of what is owed will not be repaid, with taxpayers picking up the tab. How did we get in this mess?

During the 1950s and 1960s, federal student-loan programs …


Outbreaks, Ethics, and Economics

Starting today, nearly 6,000 students at Princeton University will be offered a vaccine against bacterial meningitis—one that is not approved for use in the United States. This highly uncommon action comes in response to an outbreak of the rare but extremely serious disease that began last spring on the New Jersey campus.

The vaccine in question, Novartis’s Bexsero, was approved this year by regulators in Europe and Australia. Its use at Princeton has been facilitated by the Food and Drug Admi…


Who Earns More: Professor or Fry Cook?

The high cost of college makes people think that most faculty are overpaid. Let me debunk this myth. Nearly all funds from recent tuition hikes, state-allocation increments, and record-breaking fund raising do not go to most educators.

I’m a tenured professor of history of science and mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin. I finished high school 25 years ago. What if instead of attending college I had worked at McDonald’s?

The company brags about opportunities for promotion. Many mana…