In August of 2012, the website The Homeless Adjunct ran the post "How the American University Was Killed, in Five Easy Steps." While "kill" might be a bit of an overstatement, the post definitely gives a picture of how US colleges and universities have been clobbered, and clobbered hard. Let's see if any of these steps look familiar two years later.
Here are the HA's five steps.
1) Defund the universities. This can be done in the context of "solving" any number of crises in public institutions (particularly those that show left-leaning tendencies). Yup. In PA. we've been slashing funds to colleges and universities like crazy, aided by a drop in the college-age population which exacerbates the same effect.
2) Deprofessionalize and impoverish the professors. This can take the form of shifting from full-time lifers to temporary adjuncts who are both paid less in the salary short term and cost less in the long term (no pensions or, in some cases, no benefits). This also goes hand in hand with creating a great mass of unemployed PhDs clamoring for the few meagre jobs available.
3) Move in a managerial/administrative class who take over governance of the university.Stop having universities run by academics and professors, and bring on the bean counters. Make a business style your priority. This helps re-inforce the first two steps, as bottom-line thinking keeps your focus on cutting costs.
4) Move in corporate culture and corporate money. "Academia should not be the whore of corporatism, but that’s what it has become." We've begun to see the stories of corporate sponsors making sure that economics, for example, be taught by professors who think the right way. Goodbye, academic independence; hello, corporate suck-ups.
5) Destroy the students. Well, leave them crushed by debt, anyway. Encourage them to over-extend themselves with a massive load of student loans. In return, give them a courseload that emphasizes spoon-feeding and regurgitation of basic ideas instead of thinking.
While the rhetoric may be a bit heated, the ideas are actually pretty recognizable to those of us public pre-college education. It's worth remembering that the reformsters are interested in "fixing" sectors of the education world beyond just public schools, and that public school teachers and college profs share, or should share, some concerns. From cutting funds, to bringing in TFA et al to minimize teaching lifers, to injecting corporate culture into schools through regulation and charterization, to trying to turn students into test-taking data-generation units, this all looks pretty familiar.
The writer develops these ideas with considerable more detail; this is definitely one of my "you should go take a look at this" posts.