What Do Tuition Increases Accomplish?

Mind-blowingly, the normally right-wing Maclean’s somehow, doubtless by tactical mistake, recently published this article reviewing the data on how the astronomical tuition increases in Anglosphere societies is spent:

on bloated administration, bloated administrative salaries, lawyers, million-dollar managerial consultant firm fees, for-profit private training firm subcontracts, R&D subsidies to for-profit technology firms such as Monsanto, construction firm contract graft, and pre-professional sport feeder franchises.

These are heavy parasitic cost burdens that only aggravate the contemporary neoliberal problems we suffer, such as debt, academic proletarianization and deskilling, economic and political inequality, and social class sclerosis (immobility).

What do tuition increases accomplish in the neoliberal Anglosphere? Essentially, they increase the rate of exploitation.

Education is a social good, and its costs should be socialized and judiciously contained to education: teaching/learning, research, libraries, educator and librarian compensation and networking, student community development, minimal but sufficient technical, secretarial and janitorial support staff, and spaces and technology conducive to those activities.

The data suggests that of the Canadian university bloat costs, the greatest are administrative salary rents and the growing costs associated with research–supplying researchers and cheap student labor to private firms (as well as to a lesser extent state legitimation and social integration campaigns). It is very clear that legislatures, and not students, are acting irresponsibly as they privatize these massive costs–upon the backs of students, their families, and the future community. The university has a constructive function in society and should not be reduced to a black-box dumping ground for unpalatable, expensive legislative policy.

1) If legislators believe universities are there in large part to subsidize for-profit firms’ R&D, then the state, not tuition, should pay for that economic subsidy to capital. To do this, legislators should have to explain convincingly to the public why supplying public subsidy to for-profit firms is in the public’s interest, as they seek to raise taxes to cover the R&D subsidy costs. It’s a political question; don’t give it the form of a debt albatross and sling it around students’ necks.

2) There are not sufficient internal checks and balances on ballooning administrative salaries in Anglosphere university systems. That means the checks must come from the legislature. Only the legislators have the capacity to reign in administrative rents. If they refuse to do it, or refuse to design into university systems adequate checks on administrative bloat (eg. adequate faculty union oversight of administrative costs), we have to ask why. Are university administrative positions political dispensations, political patronage? Students should not have to take on economically-crippling debt to pay for a badly-designed institution and corruption.

Quebec students are in the right to disrupt tuition increases, which will only feed the neoliberal managerial and privatization-graft bloat machine.

There is a more socially-rational, efficient and effective model of higher education financing and spending: Sweden‘s. Slovakia could provide another more effective higher education model.

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