Post-Secondary Schools Also Feeling the Budget Pinch.
Franklin D. Roosevelt once advised Americans that “The school should be the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” Yet state governments, especially states recently administered by GOP governors, choose education as one of the first areas to cut aid. They blame the teachers unions for the shortfall in promised pension benefits. Last time we checked the news, teachers did not crash the stock market with toxic mortgages. Instead, many states used pension funds to invest in those toxic assets. In all fairness, the state pension administrators are not political appointees and were duped by the ratings agencies like Standards and Poor. But we do not need to rehash how states got to this point. What we need to do is take Roosevelt’s advice and stop the de-funding of education.
A recent article on MSNBC’s Today Show page quoted Manpower Inc. that there are employers who cannot find qualified candidates for positions. The article states;
With 13 million unemployed people seeking work in this country, it would seem like anyone who wants to hire someone would have little difficulty doing so.
But that’s not what many employers are saying.
More than half of U.S. employers surveyed by the staffing firm Manpower Group last year said they were having trouble filling job openings because they couldn’t find qualified workers. That’s a huge 38 percentage point jump from 2010, when only 14 percent said they were having trouble filling positions.
The frustration of what is happening to our primary and secondary schools is well documented, but the education problems do not end after high school. Recently, in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett has called for massive budget cuts to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), a system of 14 state-run colleges that offer quality, affordable education. Original proposals included calls for the closing of Cheyney University, outside of Philadelphia, and nearly a 30% tuition rate increase for all PASSHE students. Such an increase would cast aside many potential students who have the aptitudes for higher education, but not the monetary resources. Closing Cheney University would have also disproportionately affected aspiring urban students from Philadelphia. But do not take my word for it, read the op-ed written by Dr. Shannon Frystak, professor of history at East Stroudsburg University, the second largest state-run university. Below is an excerpt which summarizes issues currently being experienced in the PASSHE system.
I am committed to a rigorous pedagogical teaching style, which includes writing- and reading-intensive courses as well as discussion, lecture and the use of multimedia. In the past year, academics, businessmen and women, and philosophers writing in news outlets from The Wall Street Journal to Inside Higher Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education have all expressed the importance of critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills in deciding which new graduates to hire.
The most recent cuts have forced my university, as well as others in the state system, to increase class sizes and cut courses that did not meet, what I believe to be, unreasonable minimum numbers of students.
Moreover, administrators have failed to approve new hires for recent retirees; in the case of my department, the administration did not approve our request to fill the position of Larry Squeri, who taught some of the most well-enrolled and important core classes in the history major.
Dr. Frystak shares the frustration of many dedicated professors within the PASSHE system. There are other professors from different departments who left more prestigious colleges to be closer to their students. High quality professors for students at the undergraduate and graduate level are difficult to recruit to state colleges. Increasing class sizes and further cuts in curriculum and courses offered only exasperate the situation.
America is falling behind other developed nations in higher education. Every western democracy not named the United States provides post-secondary opportunities for their citizens, prepaid by revenues collected. Those nations have an understanding that higher education translates to higher salaries that boost revenues collected. In America, potential is wasted because many brilliant young people forgo college because they cannot afford exorbitant tuition rates. Pennsylvania has one of the finest state-run higher education system in the United States, providing opportunities for middle, lower-middle and lower-income students. How long Pennsylvania will maintain its position in higher education depends on how extreme Governor Corbett and his cronies drain the PASSHE of necessary funding.
Disclaimer: The author of this article is currently a student at East Stroudsburg University working on a Masters of History. The author is also a student of Dr. Shannon Frystak for the spring semester of 2012.
Article on shortage of qualified workers.
Report of Talent Shortage in the United States.
Home page of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
Full op-ed written by Dr. Shannon Frystak, Professor of History at East Stroudsburg University.