Could the UW become WGU?

We already have a model that shows us what will happen as we privatize the UW and its sister elite public schools ….

That model is the Seattle Public Schools.

With the best of intentions, the progressive community has created a school system perceived by our city’s liberal and literate class as not a good place to send their kids.  As a result, the same families now see the schools as a sort of charity, rather than as an object of pride. Middle class children in Seattle now go to private schools while their parents decide whether or no to vote for levies that support schools for the poor.  Taxes are paid grudgingly to support schools for the children of another class of people.

I see the privatized public universities as already heading in that direction.

There are symptoms of the same malaise at the UW.  Just as the city celebrates Garfield’s athletic prowess, we celebrate the Huskies. That is not news, but in the past being a star athlete meant coming from the Washington State community, not for some other place. The academic side of the UW is also coming to resemble the Seattle Public Schools.

Instead of accomplished faculty leading us, our high level administrators are chosen from career administrators whose records of achievement echo the Admiral’s words from G&S’ Pinafore:

When I was a lad I served a term
As office boy to an Attorney’s firm.
I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor,
And I polished up the handle of the big front door.
I polished up that handle so carefullee
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee! 

Any resemblance to Mark Emmert is entirely intentional.

Out state legislators do not evaluate the UW the same way that gives us a top rank among world universities. Why should they care?  The upper class kids of this state do very well at getting into private universities and, as Eugene Vance notes, those schools charge LESS tuition than we do!

Finally, we have the latest wrinkle …  Western Governors University.  Like a public school, brags that its faculty do not need to know their subjects.  Instead of learning math and writing from teachers who can figger and write grammatikaly correct sentences, WGU students get mentors, poorly paid and usually uncredentialed replacements for faculty.

Of course, WGU is “private,” though it lives of of tuition provided by military and Pell grants.  Is it hard to imagine WGU as replacement for UW?  All WGU lacks is a football team.

Oh yes, like Sir Joseph, the  ruler of the Queen’s Navee, the President of WGU has no academic credentials other than a doctorate he received for founding WGU.

WGU sounds like a model for the UW of tomorrow?

Posted to AAUP listserve.  To see full thread from the listserv, press the more button:On Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 12:42 AM, Eugene Vance <> wrote:

One of the paradoxes of the public/private aspect of higher education in the US is that most of the elite private universities admit students “blindly.” That is to say, they are admitted regardless of their financial means.

Students with small finanial means pay little or nothing for their tuition at an elite university. In other words, a gifted (and lucky) straight-A student in the State of Washington can be turned down by the UW so that a less gifted student from Massachusetts will be imported to pay thrice the tuition of the straight-A student.

Inversely, if the straight-A student from Washington were to be atmitted at Harvard, (s)he would therefore pay less than  (s)he would pay in Seattle.

And (s)he would also be improving the collective “mind” of the student body at Harvard, while we make do with the leftovers from Massachusettes.

The Washingtonian might also get a much better education Harvard as a bonus. That would especially be the case if that student happens to value the Humanities, given that the UW now has a stated policy of down-sizing (and downgrading) the Humanities, simply because their professors don’t conduct lucrative research that brings money to the University.

Some of most gifted faculty at the UW might also want to follow their unfavored straight-A Washington students to their elite universities elsewhere (but that’s an old story).

Because there is no income tax in Washington, an afflent family pays nothing to support higher education. As a result, the burden of higher tuition falls entirely on the students and/or their families, many of whom must struggle to pay for their education.

But consider this: if the university were to initiate a sliding tuition scale based on the income of their parents, that would be an indirect way of inviting affluent families (oat least those with children whom they want to educate) to contribute at least little more of their fair share to the support of education in this state.

Let’s look at it this way:  if the affluent family had to pay only twice the tuition of a financially strained student, that would still be a bargain: that affluent family would probably have to pay at least $55,000 per year to ship its child off to study in an elite university elswehere in the US.

Eugene Vance
Professor Emeritus of French, Comparative Literature
and Comparative Religion

On Sun, 3 Apr 2011, Ira Kalet wrote:

> If leaders believe in moving to a more progressive and more fair way of
> paying for things, certainly they should consider at the Federal level
> rescinding the tax cuts that have largely decimated our formerly (nominally)
> progressive tax structure, and at the State level, establish something like
> the income tax initiative.
> Just dreaming…
> Ira Kalet
> Trevor Griffey wrote:
>>   We should remain skeptical of the promise of “high tuition, high aid” to
>> turn double-digit tuition increases into, as Professor Fridley describes
>> it, “big first steps toward a more progressive and more fair way of paying
>> for a UW education.”
>> The fact of the matter is that the UW had a 33% cut in its state subsidy
>> the last two years, and is facing the prospect of another similar cut for
>> the next biennium.  There has been a 30% increase in undergraduate tuition
>> in the last two years, and some on campus are currently talking about 20%
>> increases each of the next two years to forestall worse budget cuts.
>> In this context, there is a well meaning but powerful institutional
>> incentive to preserve the functions of the university by passing the costs
>> on to the least-well organized and therefore least powerful group on
>> campus: the undergraduate students. This is much easier than, say,
>> challenging the salaries of tenured faculty and upper-level administrators,
>> or rethinking the financing of the UW’s ambitious capital projects funded
>> by mandatory student fees.
>> The promise of “high tuition, high aid” is that raising tuition will
>> actually be a form of social justice, so that what appears to be a form of
>> privatization is transformed into an innovative form of progressive
>> taxation. There is a degree of truth to the claim, and the possibilities to
>> mitigate the pain of tuition increases should of course be looked into. But
>> the potential for rhetorical abuse and obfuscation is almost boundless,
>> because no one in power wants to call what is happening privatization. I’ve
>> seen not a few state legislators already do just this.
>> So I’d recommend that we be cautious about embracing the promises of the
>> Husky Promise, while still exploring it as a policy option. The real test
>> of whether it is soaking the rich will be where the cutoff for aid is, and
>> how many families not considered worthy of discounts would be priced out of
>> higher education in the name of taxing the rich.
>> Trevor Griffey
>> PhD Student, US History

>>> Faculty Legislative Representative Jim Fridley writes in the Faculty
>>> Senate blog that the House may finally issue its proposed state budget
>>> tomorrow morning.  Both houses have been having trouble completing their
>>> drafts and observers worry that the legislature will not be able to
>>> resolve the budget before the official session ends April 23. Here is
>>> more:
>>> Under the title “A More Progressive Tuition Policy Please?”
>>> <> Fridley also analyzes the subsidy
>>> that goes to students from the state’s wealthiest families and makes the
>>> case for a high tuition, high financial aid model.  Included in the short
>>> piece is this chart prepared by Bill Zumeta (Evans School) showing the
>>> maldistribution of college degrees since the 1980s. In these nationwide
>>> data, only a small fraction of young people from poor and middle income
>>> families have been earning BA degrees, while graduation rates have soared
>>> past 70% for upper income young people. This is worth reading.

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