Thursday, June 28, 2007

Governor Crist makes it official: pony up time for students and their families.

Tuition goes up to pay for more faculty who probably will not have to teach enough to lighten the teaching load significantly, although that is how the U bigwigs sold it at Wednesday's meeting, no doubt. Students and their families' wallets will be much lighter.
Tuition will jump at 3 universities
June 28, 2007, Luis Zaragoza and John Kennedy, Orlando Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE - Thousands of new college students will start paying a premium next year to attend a trio of Florida's top-ranked public universities.

Gov. Charlie Crist unexpectedly reversed his opposition to legislation that will allow the University of Florida and Florida State University to charge up to 40 percent more than the state's base tuition rate. The University of South Florida will be able to charge a 30 percent premium...

Crist had earlier vetoed a 5 percent, across-the-board tuition increase for the state's 11 public universities, saying he opposed hiking costs for students and their parents...

Crist huddled behind closed doors Wednesday with Florida's university presidents and told them that he would sign the bill...

UCF President John Hitt said after Wednesday's meeting that the loss of the anticipated money for growth translates into dozens of faculty members whom the school won't be able to hire and hundreds of courses that it won't be able to offer.

The way that you can see their nefarious selling strategy is: John Hitt's statement. When he says, "dozens of faculty members whom the school won't be able to hire," it is code for dozens of expensive-to-hire hotshot research faculty who will have light teaching assignments. President Hitt and UCF do not care much about faculty who teach lots of students. Ask any faculty member at his university. These U bigwigs only care about researchers who can give them the reputation of "elite, research-oriented public schools in other states." I wager that the governor got sucked in when they dangled elite in front of the governor's eyes: dollar signs, national recognition, national office, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue etc. etc. Cf., e.g., the 4th chapter of Matthew for an anecdote from the past of an amusingly similar blandishment:

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
And if you want to find the devil here, look in the numbers. We do not know the exact numbers the U bigwigs quoted to the governor, but we can make an estimate.
  1. Dozens of faculty ←for a conservative estimate, let's call that 24 faculty.
  2. Hundreds of courses ← for a conservative estimate, let's call that 200 classes.
The approximate teaching load for these new faculty would be about 8 classes per year! NOBODY teaches 8 classes per year, not even the lowest ranking lecturer on punishment.

Or put it another way: $70 million annually for this new fee for the three schools, once it is fully in effect. Let's say that they share the money equally, and use it for 24 new faculty at each U. Under this estimate, $70 million between 72 faculty members, comes out to about $97,000 per faculty member. But not all of that goes to salary. Part of that $97,000 goes to benefits like health insurance, some goes to overhead like office and light bill and so on. And that is only if there is ZERO "startup package" for the faculty member. Not many faculty will be happy with salary that far south of $97,000 and no startup. Recruiting will be tough.

So the numbers paint a picture of impending failure. No new faculty will want relatively low pay without startup package for the privilege of teaching 8 sections per year.

But the governor did not catch that, or he ignored it. Or perhaps they gave him different numbers, shorter numbers: some of the science departments across the state can break into the first rank nationally with just a few more research faculty.

But the public purpose, to help the teaching of students, is going to suffer.

They should be building up both kinds of faculty, hotshot researchers and faithful teachers and, best of all, faculty who do both tasks well.

For the reporters and editors of this article, the embarrassment is that the person who pays, the persons who receives this service -- the student and his family -- are left to the last few lines. But I will make them prominent here:
Teri Stonebraker, a Kissimmee resident who will have two children enrolled at FSU this fall, said she understood how the increasing cost of keeping quality staff and programs in place could raise costs for students.

"I just wish the state would find other ways to allow all students to get an education," she said.
Even for the Orlando Sentinel editor, this looks like an afterthought. But the teaching of students should be the priority, top of the article, not at end of page two.