“Inspired by (Thomas) Jefferson, Americans expect higher education to boost the chances of disadvantaged people, but it seems to be failing in that task – and in some of the other jobs its customers want it to do.” – The Economist, Excellence v Equitythomasjefferson

“Higher education has two sets of customers: students and the government. Students want all sorts of things from it – to make friends, sharpen their minds and get away from home. But most of all they want it to improve their economic prospects – The Economist, Excellence v Equity

There goes that word again, “Customers.”

Does that mean that colleges and universities provide a vital service, and students and their families pay dearly (e.g., $1.2 trillion in cumulative student loan debt) for that end-product?

Wait a minute. Does that mean … (gasp) that students are our customers?

Let’s take that question a step further: Does the old adage the “customer” is always right apply on campus as well?

Gee, you could have fooled me … easily.

Lost count how many times being asked, if I work out at the college recreation center with … actual students (our customers)? The answer is … “yes.” Never really gave it a thought before, or pondered if this activity was even worthy of a question.

Some in the hallowed halls of academia may not want to hear this, but colleges and universities are in effect businesses providing services and deliverables to … customers, and that includes undergraduates.

Take Nordstrom as an example. The high-end department store chain is known for legendary customer service. The corporation employs skilled retail service professionals in suits, who are working the shoe department, and dressed to the nines saleswomen, who are serving customers at the cosmetics counter. Nordstrom includes spas and nice restaurants to make their lucrative customers feel as comfortable as possible.

A shopper looks over a shoe display as others walk past in the women's shoe department of the downtown Seattle Nordstrom store, Wednesday, May 17, 2006. Nordstrom Inc. releases first-quarter earnings. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

A shopper looks over a shoe display as others walk past in the women’s shoe department of the downtown Seattle Nordstrom store, Wednesday, May 17, 2006. Nordstrom Inc. releases first-quarter earnings. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Need to return a purchase? Absolutely no problem whatsoever.

In direct contrast to Nordstrom, the best-and-the brightest are NOT on the front lines teaching undergraduates.

And who is teaching the vast majority of undergraduates? Tenured professors?

Are you serious?

The answer more times than not is “non-tenure track” instructors for low pay on short contracts.

What this means is that students through loans and/or families digging ever deeper into their wallets are paying top dollar for their children to be taught mostly by the “jayvee team.”

Before you write a snarky response, please understand that the author of Almost DailyBrett served as a lowly paid, on-contract graduate teaching fellow or non-tenured instructor for almost three years. As such, your author knows first-hand that these instructors are doing their level best to carry the load.

God bless each and every one of them.

Forschung Über Alles?

“The call for effectiveness in the use of resources will be perceived by many inside the university world as the best current definition of evil.” – Former President of the University of California Clark Kerr

(Universities) “have the characteristics of a workers co-op. They expand slowly, they are not especially focused on those they serve, and they run for the comfort of the faculty.” – Former Harvard President Larry SummersSummers

And who do universities serve, Mr. Summers?

The answer points to those who require research (die Forschung) and education (die Bildung) in that order. As the stately The Economist declared point-blank: “Universities are paid on the basis of research (excellence), not educational, output (equity).”

Last year, 19-of-the-top 20 global entities that produced the most cited research papers came from American universities. As a world we are better for this as a large percentage of the breakthroughs in software and hardware technology, medical science, biotechnology, business systems and digital native communications come from ideas explored and nurtured on college and university campuses.

The Economist reported that since tenured faculty are promoted and paid on the basis on their research, there is pressure for them to curtail, if not give up teaching. And that leaves teaching to the jayvee team.teachingassistant

Yes, it is true that a college undergraduate degree produces on the average a 15 percent rate of return. Those with B.A. degrees earn on average, $68,000 per year; those with A.A. degrees, $48,000 per anum; and high school degrees, $38,000. These monetary gulfs are magnified when multiplied by 40-year careers and the fact that college graduates have discretionary income to invest in bullish markets.

The rate of return is there, but are undergraduates — our customers — receiving the best education possible for them to prosper in a professional environment and effectively compete, if more often than not, they are being taught by contract instructors and teaching assistants?

Is this right?

Is this the best way to run a business?

Is this the best way to serve your customers?

Nordstrom would probably emphatically disagree with this approach. Almost DailyBrett wonders out loud whether the educational establishment is content with the status quo. By all indications there is no inclination to rock the proverbial boat, even on behalf of customers, the majority of whom happen to be undergraduates.

http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21646985-american-model-higher-education-spreading-it-good-producing-excellence

http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/03/10/the-average-student-debt-load-in-d-c-is-a-whopping-40885/

http://larrysummers.com/press-contacts/biography/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark_Kerr

 

 

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