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Fixing Higher Education Part 4
More Accreditation Fixes

By Professor Doom


Last time I introduced the “brilliantly original” concept of having penalties for violating accreditation. The only reason it hasn’t been tried is because the same people that run the institutions run accreditation, and they certainly see no reason to penalize themselves.

This is probably the largest part of the corruption of accreditation: the self-feeding nature of accreditation. Accrediting agencies are staffed by the same type of administrators that work at the institutions. Faculty, the ones doing the educating, need to return to having a bigger part over the agencies that certify the education is legitimate, and what the standards are for a student to come into college. Faculty don’t want to do this, but faculty ceding this responsibility to administrators is what led to accreditation becoming meaningless, with the rules for accreditation today utterly laughable compared to the rules of accreditation a century ago.

At the very least, the aspects of accreditation that relate to education should be controlled in a near death-grip by faculty, only being alterable by agreement from representative faculty at the institutions that are accredited by the agency, instead of being casually changed by the stroke of a pen from an administrator. What it means for a student to be able to take college classes (i.e., not remedial classes), and what should be in a college class, should be addressed at the accreditation level. If faculty members agree to make their institutions more, or less, respectable in terms of quality of the education the member institutions provide, or to change what knowledge an educated person should have, it should be allowed. But only if the actual educators want it, as opposed to what administrators want.

Such agreement would be difficult to get, but in the past, there was some loose agreement on the body of knowledge an “educated” person had, and that can serve as a foundation for today. By ceding what constitutes an education to administrators, what constitutes a college education has been whittled down, and down, and down over the years, to what we have now, no more than what the student learned coming out of high school. If it is continued to be left in the hands of administrators, education in the future will be no different than the dreaded diploma mill: any student willing to just turn over his student loan money will be handed a degree without question, without gaining any skills or knowledge.

Teaching was my passion, and mentoring,” he said, fighting back tears. But as a part-time adjunct professor, he didn’t make enough to live on, let alone service the $100,000 in student loans he’d racked up earning his doctorate. “If I’m only teaching two classes, after taxes I bring home a paycheck that would be about $1,100 a month,” he said. “No one can survive on that in the Bay Area.”

--these types of horror stories are now common in higher education. It’s pretty amazing schools can charge $20,000 or more for a tuition, put 40 or more students in a class…and pay the teacher $2,000 or so. Hmm, where does the money go…

Additionally, protections for faculty need to be hardwired into accreditation. If accredited institutions truly are supposed to be about education, they should be willing to show as much by treating educators and the educated with some sort of respect. The current situation of administrators controlling all aspects of faculty employment conditions has led to abuses without number; faculty have tried to respond by forming unions, but with administration wielding such unassailable power, these have only been minimally effective, and then only at select institutions. Accredited schools should be boasting of having the best faculty, willing to work there because of decent conditions, instead of the situation today, with institutions embarrassed at what they have done to what used to be a respectable position. If accreditation can mandate 25% of coursework for a degree being done at an institution, it can just as easily mandate 75% of the coursework be taught by full time employees instead of using mostly deplorably paid adjuncts. Accreditation always could have done such a thing, but with administrators in control of both institutions and accreditation, it’s never even been on the table.

Administrators are not only well staffed, they are also well paid. Vice presidents at the University of Maryland, for example, earn well over $200,000, and deans earn nearly as much. Both groups saw their salaries increase as much as 50 percent between 1998 and 2003, a period of financial retrenchment and sharp tuition increases at the university.

--no money at all for faculty, however.

Administrators, with only bogus educations, have no problem making the rest of education bogus; educators are likely to feel differently. Administrators, often cheaters themselves, will never figure out what an educator knows: cheating is bad. Administrators can treat educators like garbage, draining their pay to nothing while fattening their bank accounts; one expects nothing less from mercenaries, but I suspect educators will be less avaricious.

So, in addition to tossing cheaters, that’s my next fix: you can’t work at an accrediting agency without actual experience as faculty at an institution, and you can’t spend more years as an administrator then as a faculty member. The American higher education system became the world standard when higher education was run by faculty that worked as administrators, instead of today’s system of mercenary professional administrators plundering at will. Another “brilliant” idea: only have people that actually have experience in higher education be the ones that do the work in higher education.



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