Are kids getting the college education they’re paying for? And is tenure a problem?

I wasn’t surprised to see my niece’s graduate school or my son’s undergraduate college on recent lists of most expensive U.S. campuses. A single year at both cost nearly as much as my first condo in Atlanta. However, I’ve been surprised how little students sometimes get for all that money.

At my son’s private college, popular and required classes fill so quickly that there are practically rugby scrums to elbow your way into them. He spends his first week of the semester racing to filled classes to see if a student has failed to show and the professor will grant him a seat.

My niece loves most of her academic classes at grad school, but found that some living legends of her department are only there because of reputation rather than teaching skills and put in minimal effort or appearances.

“Ultimately, the faculty are really what makes a school,” says Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of “The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For.”

“They have the most long-term effect on campus atmosphere and student’s educational experience,” she says. “Students on campuses come and go, but faculty are there forever in many cases.”

In her book, Riley deconstructs the cause of such faculty longevity, taking on one of the most cherished perks of high education, tenure.

She asks whether the awarding of jobs for life, often as a result of a professor’s research and publication in rarefied journals, leads to some faculty staying too long at schools and doing too little of what ought to matter most — teaching.

Tenure, she contends, is dragging colleges away from their original and most important mission, and stifling the young, innovative professors, in addition to cheating students of the education they deserve.

She said she wanted readers to understand “why the 80-year-old professor who doesn’t return phone calls or e-mails is in a classroom at all and why all the junior professors trying to be the best teacher are instead encouraged by the terms of tenure to spend their time doing something other than teaching.”

Riley advocates replacing lifetime tenure with multi-year renewable contracts.

A former Wall Street Journal editor and the daughter of academics, Riley maintains that parents and students often overlook questions associated with faculty and tenure.

“When they visit schools, they are going to need to ask questions that ‘U.S. News & World Report’ doesn’t ask for their rankings,” she said.

(She also wishes families wouldn’t visit campuses in the summer. “That is pretty much just a waste of time,” said Riley, in a telephone interview this week.)

While students often ask about social life or dining hall food, it’s far more critical that they learn how accessible professors are, whether the university rewards teaching and what goes on in classes, said Riley.

Too often, high school seniors attend a 13-student constitutional law seminar while visiting a campus when they should be observing the 600-person Intro to Political Science class, she said. That constitutional law seminar may be four years away for incoming freshmen. The big lecture hall classes are in their immediate future.

Students assume that for $45,000 a year, “the college will give them the best education that they can. In principle I agree, but in reality it is not the case. You cannot be passive about this,” said Riley.

One of trends she explores in her book is the increasing reliance on adjunct professors to teach college classes. Contingent faculty without tenure, adjuncts are no longer limited to community colleges; non-tenure-track faculty have increased 36 percent since 1990.

While some adjuncts are professionals in their fields, many are academics unable to secure a full-time post, in part, argues Riley, because tenure keeps professors in jobs for life, even when they’re past their prime.

Confined to this netherworld where they travel from campus to campus, adjuncts sometimes only get a week’s notice that they’ll be teaching a class, said Riley.

Adjuncts may not have spaceto hold office hours, and have to dash after class to a campus across town, causing them to be less engaged with students than tenure-track faculty who don’t have to scramble to knit together a livelihood or worry about their next post.

(I have to note there are exceptions. My daughter — a University of Georgia graduate about to finish a master’s at Georgetown — says the most talented professor she ever had was Edward Burmila, a UGA “temporary assistant professor” which is a non-tenure track position, according to the university.)

Riley’s main advice to students is to demand more of professors and treat them as resources. “Make sure professors don’t hide in their offices. Too often, students don’t want to bother professors. Go bother them,” she said. “You are paying for this education. You don’t get a second chance at this.”

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

94 comments Add your comment


July 16th, 2011
5:00 am

As an adjunct at a MOR university, I would put my skills & education against ALL of the tenured professors in my department. For this particular specialty, it’s important to be engaged in different ways of reaching the target audiences; most of the dinosaurs I work with haven’t a clue. Many of my students come to me for career advice because I still work in this sought-after profession, I look and act the part, I shoot straight with them and I’m available. I really try not to think about the pay because it is my choice and I believe I’m doing a community and industry service.

As for students getting the education for which they pay: I’d say that depends on them. Many students can’t be bothered to do more than the bare minimum, and that’s their choice. However, that also means they get the grades they earn.

I see both sides of this equation, and I know that from my private undergraduate and graduate experiences, if I wanted anything from my professors, all I had to do was ask. In many cases I didn’t bother, but I also knew that was my choice and I didn’t blame them when I didn’t do as well as I could have.

Even if I earn my PhD, tenure track is not a goal of mine. The politics and small mindedness in academia are as bad (or worse) as those in corporate America. I teach because I like it. As with any profession, there are good days and bad, yet I know it’s my choice to be there.

In the end, I’m pleased with what I do and I know that the level of education I provide to my students is preparing them to succeed in the classes and in life. Many students are already at a disadvantage because of coddling high school teachers, helicopter parents and NCLB. While I’m aware of those things, they don’t factor into my expectations. Students who go into my profession need to be smart and write well. If I’ve reinforced that notion thoroughly within a semester, they are either excited about this career, or they’re doing something that is less intellectually taxing.


July 16th, 2011
5:09 am

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Chris C.

July 16th, 2011
5:36 am

While I agree with some of the critiques of tenure and the worrying rise of adjuncts/temporary instructors, it’s up to the students to make what they will of their own education. Few students bother to take advantage of the office hours and opportunities that they already have to interact with professors. I’ve seen it at UGA, I’m seeing it now in California: an enormous portion of the undergraduate population refuses to take advantage of time that’s explicitly devoted to helping them. In the sections that I’ve TA’d, I’ve exhorted students to come to office hours, held extra hours before papers were due, bribed them with snacks, etc. and still get maybe 10% to show up over the course of the quarter. There are a few professors/TAs who are “bothered” and try to actively avoid undergrads, but most actually like to encounter intellectually curious undergrads (i.e. not students who just show up and ask what’s on the final) during office hours or even around campus at lectures, seminars, etc. At UGA, I never had a request for meeting with a professor denied and such meetings proved useful in almost any situation, from badly needed help with statistics to enjoyable discussions of obscure European wars. Rarely, if ever, did I encounter another student.

There’s a lot of legitimate blame to throw around when it comes to the state of the American university (I’d start with the skyrocketing bloat devoted to administration/non-academic student “services” first; see this interesting new book ), but I remain convinced that each student can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven at almost any decent institution. Which, interestingly, calls into question the huge amount of hype placed on the college search in the first place. But that’s another topic for another time.

Peter Smagorinsky

July 16th, 2011
6:01 am

I think that Maureen’s put her finger on a set of challenges that are important to consider, even if difficult to resolve.

Several of the challenges follow from how to finance higher education efficiently while still providing a quality education. As she notes, large lecture halls are the norm for the first 1-2 years in large state universities, UGA included. As someone who advocates for smaller class sizes in K-12 education, it’s hard for me to condone classes of 500 in universities. But breaking that group up into 20 classes of 25 students taught by 25 teachers involves a whole lot more cash, which presently isn’t available and never will be. No solutions from me on this one, since raising taxes and tuition to fund them would comprise the most direct resolution, and that’s not going to happen.

The question of whether or not a tenure-track or tenured professor is a better teacher than one who isn’t is an age-old dispute. No doubt some adjuncts, part-timers, and non-tenure-track professors–not to mention graduate assistants working on doctorates–teach more effectively than some full-time faculty members. And they’re regarded as great assets by the units that employ and rely on them; I’ve recently requested that a demonstrably effective part-timer teach more of our students. And yet it’s often the case that professors who do cutting edge research and care about their teaching (not always available in one individual) are terrific teachers because their knowledge base is advanced and their teaching reflects this attention to what is not only current but leading edge in their field.

At the same time, schools like UGA teach students at the undergrad, master’s, and doctoral levels. People without doctorates can only teach undergrads. People working on doctorates (often working simultaneously as GAs) should be mentored by active researchers (and there’s a standard, Graduate Faculty Status, that must be met in order to do so). So it’s important to keep in mind that land grant universities like UGA have multiple missions, so focusing on only one thing (such as the quality of individual undergrad classes) overlooks the fact that other sorts of courses must be taught, and other sorts of activities (research, publication, grant acquisition) are part of the work. You can’t have UGA’s growing national and international reputation, with the cachet it affords its graduates, without the status that follows from having a faculty that’s productive in terms of high-impact research.

One other brief point: Most places (including UGA) have post-tenure reviews every 5 years. Failure to meet whatever standard is in place can result in a restructuring of time and activity–see for a variety of listings on this topic.

Full disclosure: I teach at all three program levels (undergrad, master’s doctoral) by choice, since I agree with the university’s mission of serving each population.

Been There

July 16th, 2011
7:58 am

For many PhDs, the possibility of gaining employment in academe has passed them by, so tenure is irrelevant to them. Hundreds of people apply for every single tenure-track opening in the humanities, and search committees are faced with the sad task of choosing a winner from a stack of resumes which indicate that 98% of the applicants could do the job. There just are no tenure-track jobs. A vocational or trade school showing that 10-20% of its graduates obtained the job that they have spent years preparing for would be widely considered a failure, but that is just the case with many graduate programs in the humanities.

Secondary teaching could be a good possibility for PhDs with no prospects of employment in universities, and we all seem to agree that we need much better teachers than we now have. High school teaching often pays much better than college teaching. However, the culture of graduate school in the humanities holds that high school teaching is something far below what these people should be doing: anything less than obtaining one of the few tenure-track positions is considered a shameful failure. As a result, many PhDs struggle as adjuncts to put together a “career” that pays less than $30K a year and offers no benefits. Second, the colleges of education have a stranglehold over who gets to enter the teaching profession. The silliness, irrelevance, and lack of rigor found in education courses (and the extremely low quality of so-called professors who work in these schools) would drive most educated people quickly out of the door. People who might like to teach are put off with the stupidity of what one must do to be qualified to teach high school in the eyes of the educational establishment, even if one holds a PhD. One way to improve the teaching profession would be to open it to those who hold advanced degrees without requiring any education courses. Such people could make immediate and significant changes and contributions to our failing secondary system of education, something we would all like to see happen as soon as possible.

Sharon Pitts must Go

July 16th, 2011
8:20 am

Can you forward a link to the list of “most expensive colleges?”


July 16th, 2011
8:30 am

Chris C., few people will give your post much credit, but you know of what you speak. I, too, remind my students that I am there for them outside of our regularly scheduled class times but largely to no avail. If they come to see me at all it is usually when they have realized they are perilously close to failing the class.

My take on education appears at the top of every syllabus I hand out no matter what the class: “Education doesn’t just happen; you have to want to make it happen. The commitment you bring to your studies is directly related to the success you can expect to achieve. Educational success builds confidence; confidence is empowering. Get empowered!”

To be sure, there are tenured professors who go through the motions. But every occupation has slackers, and I have yet to see any evidence that slacking is more common among tenured professors than it is, say, among secretaries, sales clerks, office managers, etc.

Peter Smagorinsky

July 16th, 2011
9:16 am

parent of a georgia university student

July 16th, 2011
9:48 am

My question is this.Costs are going up but is education in the universities any better? The facilities seem nicer than when I went to school, but the professors aren’t paid more,the class sizes arent shrinking and students are still having to fight for the courses they need. Where is all the money going?

the prof

July 16th, 2011
10:04 am

Funny that this article begins with a lot of the basic problem of the perceptions of higher education… (relative, sibling, child) says that the professor(s) “are only there because of reputation rather than teaching skills and put in minimal effort or appearances”. This often translates to…. I didn’t put in the effort I am supposed to, didn’t receive the grade I should have, and it isn’t my fault!”

College prof

July 16th, 2011
11:10 am

Speaking as a tenure-track professor at a state college, I would like to see the tenure track expanded to include more adjunct faculty, and would even be willing to forgo pay raises to help make that happen (though how much money THAT would save would be nowhere near enough). For the record, those of us who teach at state colleges by and large spend 50%+ of our working time in teaching and teaching-related tasks, so please leave our tenure alone. Even the assertion that tenure for research faculty is a problem is questionable when the issue seems to be more about the reliance on outside grants and the pursuit of university patents, both of which undermine time spent in teaching at those types of institutions.


July 16th, 2011
11:16 am

As a retired educator who continues to be involved with the school system, I am in contact with many former students. The one complaint I hear is the hiring of professors with English as a second language and accents so heavy that they cannot understand them. My child who is a very good student has also encountered this but worked through this challenging environment. This semester, in a required course, the teacher cannot be understood, and in order not to jeopardize her GPA, I am paying $120.00 to $160.00 per week for a tutor to reteach the material. I would rather my child have an adjunct professor any day than one who cannot be understood.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

July 16th, 2011
11:37 am

Been There,

“One way to improve the teaching profession would be to open it to those who hold advanced degrees without requiring any education courses. ”

I understand where you are coming from; I myself found my educational courses somewhat less than challenging much of the time. However, I feel there is real value in having those who wish to become teachers take some courses in “education” and child development. Teaching children is NOT the same as teaching college students who are a self selected group. Some of my most intelligent college professors were also some of my worst teachers. They had no talent for being able to get their knowledge across to students. Teaching is far more than simply disseminating information – you really need to be able to connect with the students and recognize different learning styles.

Jerry Eads

July 16th, 2011
11:37 am

As you know, I’ll be headed for fledgling GGC in Lawrencevill next month. One of the surprises was that there is NO tenure there. Suits me. Tenure is an interesting game that in some colleges/universities is aimed almost totally at the publication game, with little focus on quality of teaching. Teaching seems like it’s simply a very bothersome evil that tenured faculty have to put up with, ratehr than the raison d’etre, which it seems to me it should be, much as I love ‘doing’ research. If I can’t do a fantastic job teaching, seems to me GGC has an obligation to its students to toss me out on my ear. Not sure that’s a given everywhere.

Georgia Coach

July 16th, 2011
11:49 am

@Been There The attitude you cite, PhD.s who think that high school teaching is beneath them, is precisely why many would not be successful teaching at that level. You can’t act you came down from Mount Olympus to teach kids, and they are priveleged to have you. Many of you college types would have trouble differentiating instruction and relating to students, not to mention managing a class behaviorally.

July 16th, 2011
12:28 pm

I had very few professors in my undergraduate college that were interesting enough to go talk to, and I admittedly did not seek the others out at all. In graduate school, there was one professor who seemed to care about what students thought, but most of the others were “My way or the highway” type of teachers; they were right, you were wrong, and if you disagreed publicly they made your life in class miserable.

If I did it over again, though, I would definitely meet with the professors more, if only to get more in-depth instruction. I agree with Chris C. that you get out what you put in (in college, as in life!).

July 16th, 2011
12:30 pm

@Jerry Eads, I have been listening to your interviews on the news lately with regard to APS; were you that critical of them when you were with the PSC? I am just curious about how vocal you were in your concerns while you were with the PSC.

This is certainly an off-topic question, so if you would prefer to respond privately, my email is Thanks!

Glad I can afford to send my children to Pvt School

July 16th, 2011
1:25 pm

40+ years ago I had a graduate course taught by Miller and Modigliani the fathers of modern economics, Modigliani could barely speak english but having a letter of recommendation from him got me a job with a 1st class consulting firm.

the prof

July 16th, 2011
1:37 pm

It’s interesting that this article begins with what is probably the largest problem in college instruction….that some professors are “are only there because of reputation rather than teaching skills and put in minimal effort or appearances”. My experience, both as a student and professor are that this line of thinking usually translates to….”I didn’t show up to class enough, didn’t get the grade I deserved, and it’s all the professor’s fault”.

the prof

July 16th, 2011
1:38 pm


July 16th, 2011
1:53 pm

Some people are so simpleton. Perhaps the university they attended were all tenured professors. I guess Maureen and AJC is now joining the Republican right-wing in just blaming workers.

What makes anyone think eliminating tenure will make college education any cheaper/better? Where is the logic?

I don’t think the purpose of university is not just educating students. University educators must continue to be involved in research – if there is any difference in teaching quality between K-12 and Higher Ed, it is that teachers in Higher Ed are required to continue research in their own discipline. Those who do not engage in research, either actually conducting research or at least continuously staying up to date by reading research reports, will be like stagnant ponds.

Ole Guy

July 16th, 2011
1:57 pm

Inasmuch as my collegiate/graduate days are from the last century, I cannot comment, wisely, on the quality of current-day college education. I will, however, offer my views on the “learnability” of people, particularly the current crop of kids: There are (have always been) two distinct types of learning: Passive and Active. As students, we all simply sit in a chair and listen (or at least HEAR as opposed to listen) to the guy at the podium. THIS is about as passive as it gets…while listening, one is bound to remember (as opposed to actually learn) something.

All that being said, I rather suspect that this type of “learning” comprises a great deal of the activity taking place in the hs/college classrooms across the Country. While the quality of professorship is indeed important, the best learning is based on student interest and motivation. The best professors in the world won’t even matter if that kid in the chair don’t care (hey, I’m a poet and didn’t know it!).Conversly, less than desirable teachers/professors can best serve as learning facilitators for the goal-oriented student who DOES the research, READS and UNDERSTANDS the material, DOES the assignments, and stays on track as far as scheduling of time and resources.

There’s nothing wrong with tenure. MOST good college instructors will embark, either voluntarily or as part of the employment agreement, on periodic “refresher” regimens. This could take the form of academic activity, OJT (on-the-job) training/retraining in speciality fields, etc. Contrary to career politicians whose only “refreshers” are “fact-finding junkets”, college professors, by far and large, take this seriously.

The old…but certainly not old fashioned…tenet will always apply: One get out of an education exactly what one puts into it.


July 16th, 2011
3:36 pm

some “research” at universities is valuable (science, etc.) but most is totally irrelevant to anything practical, but faculty get tenure and promotion based entirely on publication of worthless articles in obscure journals no one even reads.


July 16th, 2011
4:11 pm

If you want to have a professor in front of you as an undergrad, go to a teaching college. It won’t happen much at a public research university as a freshman or sophomore. Students have to understand where they rank on the academic food chain. And for an undergrad st a public university, you are pond scum. My kids all went to private colleges for undergrad and always had profs and never had trouble getting their classes or having grad student instructors.

Jerry Eads

July 16th, 2011
4:39 pm

My understanding is that tenure was originally created to protect freedom of thought and speech in our higher education institutions. It is interesting that, at least at some institutions, it appears to be a cattle prod to force beginning faculty to create mounds of published papers (number, not quality), as that is one of the primary rating characteristics for the “quality” of research universities. “Tier 1″ schools are at the top of the research reputation heap. A faculty member who is NOT granted tenure after the ‘test’ period (5 years?) is tossed, perhaps forever doomed to the dregs of adjunct work or to find work elsewhere (e.g., public schools or Mickey D’s)(NO, I’m not denigrating public schools here, I’m just being cynical about the attitudes that seem evident in many university faculty). Teaching seems to be sometimes a very distant second in the tenure process. I note that Peter’s as usual incisive thinking and reasoning notes variation even at UGA, which on this blog has of course also been criticized for less than stellar undergraduate instruction. Not all tenured faculty will be “Peters.” All these years on the outside looking in, I have known all too many faculty who seem to view undergraduate teaching as something akin to grubbing for rotten food in trash bins. Peter IS of course right – a Tier 1 has many responsibilities, including maintaining that reputation so that ALL of its students receive the benefits of that reputation.

For @honeyfern, yes, of course I was that critical of state and federal testing policy – NOT APS – while at PSC, but it was not proper for me to discuss those issues publicly. Now that I am of the university community, I believe I have the obligation to our society and our children to discuss these concerns openly. Our minimum competency policies have not worked for more than thirty years, the research incontrovertibly shows that these policies have not only not improved education, they have produced extensive harm. Yet we continue to think in terms of “pass or perish.” “Performance pay” based on tests that, again as research shows, cannot even begin to measure “achievement” accurately will still function as punishment because teaching is a cooperative, not competitive, enterprise. While I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the state and fed will continue on that course in spite of the evidence, I owe it to the children to try, just as has, for example, Fairtest for the last almost 40 years. My hope is that I will be skilled enough that my arguments will be as reasoned and reasonable as have been Peter’s.


July 16th, 2011
4:43 pm

However we are talking about considerable debt for tgeconvenience of finishing in 4 years and having the chance to engage in faculty tesearch. Sometimes you can accomplish these things at a public research university, but I don’t think it is common.(my kids went to small private colleges. O doubt it would be the same at Duke, for example)


July 16th, 2011
6:29 pm

WOW! It seems no matter what EDUCATION just ain’t what it use to be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And, yes FRED I said AIN’T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


July 16th, 2011
6:50 pm

I agree Lynn43. Colleges and universities are placing teachers in college courses who cannot speak English at more than a bare minimum. I have no issues with international teachers in the classroom. But, the colleges and universities are directly responsible for verifying that the teachers can communicate effectively. If a teacher is trying to teach a complex subject but cannot communicate students are often left with no understanding of the words spoken or the subject matter.


July 16th, 2011
7:02 pm

Talk about inflation….
Vacation or as APS calls it conferences…. many administrators take lavish vacations to conferences not just in US but around the world…it is either billed to Title 1 or their PTA the principal at our school has been to London, Singapore, Canada and all over the US…all expenses paid by parents and/or tax dollars. From what I understand there is a group attending a conference next week to San Antonio…and this is the NEW APS…some things never change

Been There

July 16th, 2011
9:37 pm

@ GA Coach: OTOH, a lot of people might think that the fact that you know about differentiated instruction is one of the reasons our education system is in such disarray. Personally, I would much rather that my children were taught by teachers who don’t know any educational mumbo-jumbo, but do know their fields. Wonder if that’s why you don’t seem to like “you college types”? But you do make my point: many teachers are afraid of people educated in content, instead of “education,” coming into the field, perhaps with good reason.

What does the fact that you cannot spell “privileged” correctly say about your abilities as a teacher?


July 16th, 2011
10:45 pm

I’ve had college professor friends tell me that they are now under increasing pressure to ’socially promote’ their students and keep GPAs high, maybe because of HOPE. So, those pressures are moving on up to the college level.


July 16th, 2011
11:04 pm

Interesting post. As to the question: “Is tenure a problem?” Yes.
Second: “Are kids getting the college education they are paying for?” No.

The State business model that is K-12 is further extended to higher learning. The difference is loans or cash is required to obtain information that is needed to obtain gainful employment. The question is, how can a student spend 12 years in government school yet not learn a skill that is marketable?

Current students often leave college with loan debt of $50,80, 100 thousand or more of debt, then hope to find a job to repay the loan.

Financial planners Ben Stein and Phil Demuth have stated that college is a highly ineffective on delivery of material and is not cost efficient. I would have to agree on both points. In a culture that mandates that you attend college to make more than those who do not, someone is gonna get hosed. College is a business model, and most people don’t need to go to college.

Learning is free, well almost. As long as you can read, you can learn. The problem is, you don’t get college credit, which is required to get the plum job. The European model is being an apprentice, learn the trade or financial profession and advance. In the U.S., unless you obtain a full scholarship or pay a substantial fee for tuition to obtain a “degree”, you’re not even considered for a position.

From the article:
“ Students assume that for $45,000 a year, “the college will give them the best education that they can. In principle I agree, but in reality it is not the case. You cannot be passive about this,” said Riley”.

Assume: A$$-u-me, better said by Forrest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does”.

Riley’s main advice to students is to demand more of professors and treat them as resources. “Make sure professors don’t hide in their offices. Too often, students don’t want to bother professors. Go bother them,” she said. “You are paying for this education. You don’t get a second chance at this.”

PERFECT ADVICE, for the above paragraph.


July 16th, 2011
11:09 pm

@science teacher, I have no doubt that this is true. It’s not about learning, rather, about keeping students in the educational pipe line.

I’ve had college professor friends tell me that they are now under increasing pressure to ’socially promote’ their students and keep GPAs high, maybe because of HOPE. So, those pressures are moving on up to the college level.


July 16th, 2011
11:18 pm

@ research,

Unfortunately, “worth” of any research can’t be predetermined. It is those people who think they can somehow decide what research is worth who are really dangerous to our society.


July 17th, 2011
12:31 am

As usual, the answers are not so clear, and it really depends on who you are asking. Personally, I feel I got every penny out of my education, though I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had taken advantage of HOPE and just gone to UGA instead of paying for private schools in the north. I try not to regret it since I’m happy but. . students who are well adjusted, keep an open mind, and feel comfortable at college will most always get what they pay for, no matter where they are.

Tenure is more tricky. It’s too political and too private a thing. Just look at all the problems surrounding the decision to not tenure Mark Warren at Harvard’s Grad School of Ed. I think tenure should exist, but that the decision to tenure should rest, in part, with the students who are actually taught by and have to read that professor’s work.

Former teacher

July 17th, 2011
1:32 am

I taught on the college level for many years, and feel strongly that tenure is one of the great strengths of higher education. Tenure embodies the democratic virtue to pursue research and teaching strategies without fear of being bullied, punished or fired by small-minded administrators, trustees or communities. Without tenure, college faculties would be like APS teachers: cowed and frightened to the point of cheating to protect their jobs. The real problem with tenure is that it is not awarded until 6 years or so following initial full time employment. In these first 6 years, tenure can be denied for virtually any reason by any one of several people up the line including the faculty’s committee, Dept. Chairs, Deans, Vice Presidents and Presidents. Thus the first 6 years (usually early to mid 30s) of an assistant professors’ life are spent in part looking over his shoulder and trying to do what pleases others instead of what is professionally, pedologically, or ethically best. Contrary to silly cultural mythology, tenure protects few idiots and fools. What there should be is for ALL teachers (K-university) to have Civil Service protection. This type of job protection, routinely given to asphalt pavers, clerks, and other lower-level government workers, allows them hearing rights and places burden of proof on employers. It protects workers from being fired for purely specious reasons, as well as for constitutionally protected reasons. However, those workers CAN be let go if they are not accomplishing their job. It is unbelievable that K-12 teachers and untenured college professors do not have the same job protection rights as the lowest of non-education government workers. Last, I agree with what prior blog profs stated: students willing to work to earn their degrees will do so! EARNING the degree is what makes it valuable. Social promotion catalyzed by the ridiculous NCLB has endangered this cherished practice, and NCLB-like funding schemes are disturbingly appearing in colleges now, with the predictable result being massive grade inflation with concurrent deflation of the worth of the diploma.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

July 17th, 2011
3:50 am

Are our kids getting the “first-rate” K-12 public school education for which their parents and grandparents are paying school taxes?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

July 17th, 2011
4:03 am


Had one of my mentors in the USG lament that some of his students were turning in written work which he’d bet that they had done.

Do you think his superiors wanted to deal with my mentor’s reasonable suspicions?

No more than they wanted to deal with my allegations about two students’ cheating on a test several years ago.

Dishonesty in Education is not unique to former administrators like Beverly Hall.

There should be no room in Education for liars, cheats, unrecovering alcohol-abusers/drug addicts, thieves, adulterers, cowards and those who are in it only “for Summer vacations,” generous retirement benefits, health insurance protection et al.


July 17th, 2011
7:59 am

I ran this past my husband, who’s a university professor. His take on tenure is that, yes, it’s a problem, but not in the way most people think. It puts a premium on research, rather than teaching. Universities are losing their root in teaching students, and tenure promotes that drift away from teaching and toward research. Many researchers, he says, couldn’t teach effectively if their careers depended on it (which, unfortunately, they don’t). Some students have difficulty getting accepted to graduate schools because their universities have a reputation for not preparing their students. Adding a parallel tenure track that focuses on teaching excellence, rather than research, would go a long way toward solving the problem. There are many excellent educators out there who cannot get tenure track positions because they teach, rather than researching.


July 17th, 2011
8:02 am


July 17th, 2011
8:32 am

Do you understand that world class ranking comes from publishing original research in highly regarded peer reviewed journals? Do you think the average community college instructor can or will do path breaking reaearch in the discipline? It is far more rare to find an individual who can construct a new hypothesis, develop a research methodology to test it, beat out a couple hundred other mogul highly qualified researchers to get the grant money to pay the cost(including graduate and undergraduate researchers), do the research that often takes years just to meet professional standards of reliability, publish the work in a journal that is duty bound to try to find evey legible flaw in that work (maybe it takes another year or two to get that done), and do all that for three to give projects at a time. Frankly anyone so with a masters can teach most intro undergraduate classes. If you are a department head you spend your scarce salary money on the faculty who are willing to work the 80 hours aweek it takes to be successful in research. I know plenty of people with PhDs who think they are as good as a tenured faculty member, but could not cut out in research. Iheard students all the 15 years I was on faculty at uga telling me they wanted more time with their faculty then failing to come to office hours, failing to show up for appointments, failing to come to class, not responding to email messages. And not once thinking that I might have anything else to do but wait around on them. Never in 15 years did one student even ask about my research. But you want world famous faculty to chase around after some self styled”brilliant” undergraduate like a high school football scout? If you want to show you are serious about a n education and not just grubbing for grades, volunteer to be a research assistant or do an independent project. Become a CURO scholar.

bootney farnsworth

July 17th, 2011
8:33 am

I an only comment about GPC, which doesn’t have many of the issues four year schools have, but…

All in all, I’ve have to say no. Maybe incomplete, with a passing grade a long shot.

Here’s why: we’re too busy keeping up apperances. Tricoli wants us to be the largest school in Ga, so we’re taking nearly anyone with a pulse.
And many of these students are not ready for the rigors of junior college. So teaching is dropped down to the lowest level possible to give these kids a chance to keep up. While its rarely discussed outside tight intimate circles, its well understood a high failure/repeat rate is not going to be recieved well.

The other main drag on quality is the heavy duty politizitation of the day to day life at GPC. When so much of the main real job responsibility it trying to get noticed by above, and above by the outside world, teaching becomes a very secondary consideration.

Exhibit A: The Atlanta Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning. At a time when the budgets were frozen, no one except the lucky few were betting raises or professional travel, GPC dropped around $1,000,000 to create something which a two year school neither needs nor can realistically support. And the place sits virtually empty two years later with at or near 100% turnover in staff.

The sad end result. Students who are at GPC to equip themselves to go to Georgia, GA State, ect and compete are having to spend valuable time away from the classroom/library/however they study to a what amounts to school compelled “volunteerism” to get a grade.

It’s one thing for Nursing, Dental Hygiene, Sign Language to do these things, as it can directly support their learning experience. But students doing basic core work?

But media and professional attention doesn’t come from helping the students who were used and abused by the PS system.

bootney farnsworth

July 17th, 2011
9:44 am

As to tenue, it is not a bad thing, but it does need tweeking.

The basic purupose of tenure is to protect faculty (and it should also
protect professional staff IMO)from the slings and arrows of outraged politicians and administrators.

Classic Example One: many Georgia remain driven by the creation vs evolution debate. Professor A does not teach creationism, only evolution in a genetics class. Because the political winds are blowing in his favor, State Senator X someone gets enough clout to push a rule requiring equal time.

Course work, class time, ect must be rewritten to deal with the whim of someone who may or may not have any ideas who Gregor Mendle was.

Classic Example Two: And I’ve seen this played out often in very public settings. Instructor B falls into or out of favor for some undefined reason with the powers that be. Instructor B teaches String Theory as accepted fact, a concept still very much under debate. But all other aspects of his/her class remain on solid intellectual footing. Instructor C sees an oportuity to try to get head at B’s ecpens.

Tenure has its issues to be sure. But it would create more harm then help doing away with it.

The Ghost of Lester Maddox

July 17th, 2011
10:02 am

Hmm…interesting piece….from the viewpoint of the student and their family….but, ulm…

….how about asking the professors about whether or not they see a growing sense of entitlement in spoiled, pampered, immature children who fully expect college level educators to (figuratively speaking) change diapers and hold hands?

Wonder where those students picked up that view of the world?


July 17th, 2011
10:11 am

Beverly Hall needs to be tarred and feathered with a “sky full of lighters”

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

July 17th, 2011
10:15 am

Been There,

“But you do make my point: many teachers are afraid of people educated in content, instead of “education,” coming into the field, perhaps with good reason.”

Personally, I am not “afraid” of anyone who is dedicated and well versed in their content area coming into the educational field. That can only be an asset to the profession. However, I am leery of someone who thinks this is ALL you need to be successful in the classroom. Knowing your content is great, if all of your students are easily able to absorb what you have to offer. However, knowledge of content won’t do you much good if you do not have the necessary skill set to get your information across to those students who might need accommodations. Are you prepared to “teach” your content to the student in the back with the 85 IQ? Can you modify your “content” for the child who has a learning disability and has been diagnosed with dyslexia? Can you get your information across to the ELL student with the limited vocabulary? Do you know how to present information through different modalities so that all learning styles can be successful? And by “teach”, I don’t mean just presenting the information, I mean getting the students to “learn” the information.

A combination of well prepared teachers with strong content area background AND a foundation of course work in educational best practices would be most beneficial to students. Either one alone will likely result in less successful teaching.


July 17th, 2011
10:17 am

Bootney, learn to spell before you pontificate on education.
BTW, my high school science teacher ascribed to the “ether theory.” Outer space was made up of ether, not a vacuum. He wasn’t much of a football coach, either, but I survived.
Don’t know about Georgia, but in Florida I attended Palm Beach Junior College and all my instructors were PhDs. No goofy assistants allowed. A bit different when I went to Florida Atlantic but most PhDs actually did the teaching.


July 17th, 2011
10:50 am

I am an older adult who took 28 years to finish my BA with 298 credit hours and then did my MBA. Yes, I stopped and restarted several times because of life and family issues. IMHO you get out what you put into education. I had many great professors and some duds along the way. I observed several things going back to school as an adult:
1. Most of the younger students need remedial help in basic math and English.
2. Most yougsters want the easy way out. think social promotion…..
3. NCLB and the feeling that “you owe me an A with no work none by me” is the root of the issue.

In my experience I never had issues getting to meet with my instructors (except freshman English with 400 students in the class). 98% were ready and willing to assist as needed (would not hand you the answers but guided you to them).


July 17th, 2011
11:17 am

The first mistake was letting women go to college


July 17th, 2011
11:49 am


Did you really fix your fingers to type this comment?

“The first mistake was letting women go to college.”

I would say that the first mistake was your parents producing you to have such comments and beliefs. It is apparent that you have had a difficult life and you not only have NO respect for women but least of all for your own mother.

I really don’t understand why people go through life with so much bitterness and inflict it on to others. Please Please people if you have had some hard times in life you are not alone. But, what can set you apart is to seek professional help. Life is not meant to be unhappy it is meant to live with peace and joy. If you cannot afford to seek professional help Grady is still a state hospital make an appointment. If you have medical insurance almost all insurance programs cover mental health. Life is toooooooooooooo short for the anger, bitterness, belittling, etc.

Here have a HUG on me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!