At one time, professors had the easiest profession working for the academe. Although professors did not earn high salaries, they received excellent benefits. Once students left the university for break, the professors could leave too and go on vacation. Professors worked light schedules, taught from two to four courses per semester, pursued research that interested them, and received health care and retirement plans. Nevertheless, the academe began changing similarly to private companies in the information age. I list seven reasons why the academe has become a poor choice for a career.
Reason 1: The days are long gone when a university hired a professor and kept him or her to retirement. Many universities have thrown job security out the window. (Another casualty of the information economy). They boost hiring of adjuncts and contingent teachers who have no job security. University also does not pay benefits such as health care insurance and retirement plans. Under the new Obama healthcare plan, adjuncts must pay for health insurance out of their own salary. Universities pay adjuncts and contingent labor an hourly rate for contact hours in the classroom, where the adjuncts stand in front of the class and teach the students. Furthermore, some universities demand adjuncts hold office hours, perform research, and advise students without compensation.
A person can start a good career by taking an administrative position in a university. Careers in the university bureaucracies continue flourishing. Administrators continually expand their bureaucracies and hire more bureaucrats. Subsequently, they work full time and receive health insurance and retirement plans. They also can take out their wrath on the professors by imposing more rules and forcing them to write more reports.
Reason 2: Leaders' moods and temperaments change radically daily at a university. For example, a private university in Australia, plunged in its 2013 rankings. University took a beating for employing professors who contributed little to research. Administration started purging and eliminating the unproductive faculty during 2014. Unfortunately, the university has fired some of its older faculty including tenured professors in their 40s and 50s. The university has thrown them into the unemployment market as the professors search for new employment along with young people.
University administrators have lost their dedication to the professors and view them as commodities. Imagine you work for a university for 20 years and the university dismisses you. Many employers refuse to hire workers over 40 years old. Either the employers must pay a greater salary for their experience, or they have difficulties training the new employees. Without question, young people learn technology quicker than older people.
Reason 3: Many universities lost sight of their business. Public universities receive funding from the state to educate the state's citizens. Governments subsidize universities to reduce students' cost of receiving an education and to ensure their country and state have educated citizens to attract the high-tech industries. Furthermore, universities being nonprofit organizations may not pay income taxes to the government.
Many universities, unfortunately, place a low priority on teaching. Universities reward professors who engage in research while administrators look the other way if a professor teaches poorly. Day after day, I hear – research, research, and more research. That becomes the crux – research brings in limited funding for most universities but reflects a university's prestige. (Research also helps a university get accredited). Although teaching is the university's primary money maker, many universities view teaching as secondary. Unfortunately, professors who teach well win few accolades from the administration.
Many PhDs and professors are generating and writing research paper after research paper. Therefore, the number of journals and research articles has exploded, and this knowledge has inundated universities and researchers with too much information. Universities have taken the next step to make sense of this excessive information. Administrators know the majority of research is shit. Now, they started ranking journals, calculating a journal's and a research article's impact on scientific knowledge. In the old days, everyone could easily spot excellent research.
Reason 4: Universities are expanding online learning, where the students do not meet the professors face to face. Universities can hire adjuncts, graduate students, and staff to manage and grade the online courses. Thus, the universities make the professors develop the programs and then let the non-professors teach the course.
Reason 5: Many professors in the United States have delayed their retirement after their retirement plans experienced beatings from the 2001 and 2007 recessions. Many professors lost half the value of their retirement plans after the 2007 Great Recession. Furthermore, people cannot afford to retire in the Bush or Obama economy (depending on your view which president had damaged the economy the most). Many retirees complain they thought they saved and invested enough, but they started paying many unexpected costs and expenses. Even if professors do retire in large numbers, universities can hire retired professors to teach part time.
Reason 6: Many universities and colleges will shrink in size because they dumped thousands upon thousands of college graduates onto the market. For example, the United States has 25% of the population over age 25 who have at least four years of college. What would happen if the United States raises this rate to 50%? United States will still employ janitors, store clerks, fast food workers, street cleaners, farm hands, etc. These jobs do not require a college degree. Moreover, many employers require skilled workers for auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, air conditioning/heating techs, etc. Universities do not teach these skills, but tech colleges do. Our .society could crumble and fall apart because our citizens have the wrong skills to make our society function well.
How do we know we have too many college graduates in the United States? Only 40% of graduating students find jobs directly related to their college major. Young people will start viewing higher education as a bad investment. Thus, universities will lay off professors as student enrollment plummets.
Reason 7: The last reason relates to graduating too many students. The college bubble has reached its climax in the United States, and is on the verge of bursting. Universities cannot trick students in taking out massive loans to finance their education. Students applying for student loans have made a vital decision that impacts their living standard and incomes for decades. If they chose the wrong program or university, their decision will haunt them for decades and will ruin them financially. In 2014, students have borrowed $26,000 on average to pay for their college while PhDs and law school graduates can accumulate over $100,000 in loans.
After the 2007 Great Recession, many students are entering an abysmal job market. Some students cannot find employment while others find low paying jobs. Unfortunately, some students have defaulted on their loans. Over time, the U.S. government will tighten student loan standards as the default rate soars while students graduating from high school avoid student loans by not enrolling into the universities. Again, universities will lay off professors as student enrollments plunge.
I am not against people who want to improve themselves by pursuing higher education. I was fortunate and earned my PhD from a national public university. Moreover, I worked full time for several universities and repaid my student loans in full. (I accepted some lucrative contracts). However, I have no job security as I float from university to university across the world. I am riding this awesome wave that I know will crash. Thus, I am saving for a rainy day that is coming, and it will pour.