Thursday, January 26, 2006

Economic Data on Teachers in Higher Ed in NYC

Andrew Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College CUNY and a columnist for Gotham Gazette, published an article this week on the salaries of instructional staff in higher education in New York City. The article contains data on all the higher ed institutions in NYC and sites our own GSOC strike (explaining it, in part, with the fact that NYC public school teachers earn more than the median higher ed instructor--$45,000).

Beveridge notes a second source of stress on us graduate student employees, which is that according to the book Leaving the Ivory Tower by Barbara Lovitt (a sociologist who is a senior research analyst at the Pelavin Research Center of the American Institutes for Research), half of all graduate students drop out before earning their Ph.Ds. Among her suggestions for improving retention rates (some of which can be see here, are paying graduate student employees a year-round living wage and paying graduate students who are instructional employees more than fellowship students who do not teach.

For a more local perspective, Beveridge notes that the average salary of the 1,906 full-time faculty at NYU is $90,132. This is higher than the average salaries of New York City faculty at all institutions except for CUNY Graduate Center and Columbia. And average salaries at NYU for full professors rise to $133,599 for the 675 full professors, higher than any other institution in New York City. The faculty who are our mentors AND our bosses, in other words, earn on average two to three times what we can expect to earn on average after graduation, if we can remain in the half of graduate students who finish and if we are so luck as to get a job.

9 Comments:

Blogger kstrna said...

But isn't part of the problem that there are too many people earning PhDs (at least under the current system)? Isn't supply and demand playing into why wages are so low? Too many people with PhDs looking to teach at universities is why people are willing to take adjunct positions. NYU has no incentive to change. Students are willing to come at the undergrad level in high numbers. Grad students are still applying at levels that allow for replacement of those that leave for various reasons. NYU keeps turning out products with their brand on it, money keeps flowing and the cost of labor stays low. The strike is not hitting NYU economically at this point. What is GSOCs plan to deal with the large numbers of people wanting PhDs? Aren't the ranks going to swell with higher wages/benefits?

1/27/2006 6:19 AM  
Anonymous Joel Schlemowitz said...

Yes, this is "part" of the problem. There are many parts. Someone else might speculate that with more PhDs we ought to see wages moving upward. But if it's an economy on the Wal-Mart model, then yes, wages are encouraged downward.

This only highlights the need for all of us to continue to support academic organizing as a whole. GSOC-UAW, ACT-UAW, GESO, AFT, PSC, AAUP, UFT, etc. It's unions that work to bring wages up.

In solidarity with GSOC,
Joel Schlemowitz of the adjuncts' union

1/27/2006 8:36 AM  
Blogger kstrna said...

"Someone else might speculate that with more PhDs we ought to see wages moving upward. But if it's an economy on the Wal-Mart model, then yes, wages are encouraged downward."

The Wal-Mart model is to go cheap with labor & cheap with everything else seeing labor as a cost & not an investment. The supply & demand is basic economics. Increasing the number of PhDs will not drive wages up unless such an aggregation of PhDs changes the dynamics such that there is even greater demand for PhDs. The reality is right now the balance goes completely the other way. Demand is low while supply is high. Same goes with qualified undergrad and grad school applicants. There are more qualified people than there are slots for. The student unions while pushing for better benefits (which is good) have been unable to do much else to change academia. The increased benefits/pay only encourages more to enter the system. The focus on being a "labor union" while achieving short term benefits is actually feeding the very system they say they are fighting. GSOC couldn't interfere with academic affairs, something they negotiated. What is needed is something more radical, student unions.

GESO at Yale has problems in the biological/biomedical sciences because relatively speaking benefits are good. What troubles most grad students is the training, the academic side of things. They want to be treated as students and not employees. Right now labor unions are not addressing that fact, to protect us as students. They can't because they maintain that they will not interfere with the academic decisions of the university.

The best thing would be for potential grad students to become teachers. It would have the benefit of raising the stature of teaching as a profession in this country while decreasing the oversupply of grad students. Improving education on two fronts. The questions are why do grad students continue to go to grad school with such poor benefits and poor job prospects? And why do undergrad advisors encourage students to go to grad school instead of becoming teachers?

1/27/2006 9:16 AM  
Blogger Bread and Roses said...

Well, for one thing (considering that this blog is run by sociology graduate students), there are very few opportunities to teach sociology as a high school teacher, and almost none that focus on sociology full time.

On the other hand, I have heard stories of people in natural/physical sciences who actually get the Ph.D.s and then go on to teach in high school. In fact, the CUNY community colleges often lose applicants to the NYC public school system because of better pay (and similar or reduced teaching loads).

But I think another problem is the reluctance of graduate school faculty to admit to the reality of the job market and talk to graduate students about alternative job paths--not just in high school teaching, but also non-academic careers. For sociologists who have M.A.s, are ABD, or have Ph.D.s, there are actually lots of potential non-academic jobs out there in marketing, foundations, not-for-profits, government, etc--and these jobs are looked down upon as second-class.

1/27/2006 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of Wal-Mart and Academia:

http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=012707A

john.henderson@nyu.edu

1/27/2006 12:18 PM  
Blogger kstrna said...

The point is that people are making choices that make little economic sense. They are choosing to go to grad school even though conditions suck and the job market after getting a PhD is poor. Teaching at the K-12 at least in NYC based on the article is in both the short term and long term a better economic choice based on salary. Why do students prefer getting a PhD over teaching? Have we devalued teaching to such an extent that even when it provides a better paying job people would rather become a cog in academia? The reality is too many people are going to graduate school. Raising benefits would be beneficial in solving this if universities responded by decreasing the number of students admitted but then who would replace them as teachers? It would still be cheaper to use grad students which is why they wouldn't do that. Benefits rising would encourage more to apply furthering an already bad situation. Only a radical change in how institutions are run can fix the situation & given grad labor unions have historically stated they aren't going to get involved in academic decisions, labor unions are not the answer.

1/27/2006 12:46 PM  
Blogger specter of marx said...

The sociologist in me thinks that perhaps a rational-choice model doesn't apply to decisions to get a PhD (or at least, it doesn't apply to mine). These decisions don't conform entirely to an economic logic. Academia is, by and large, a market in prestige. Job candidates are not looking for the highest paying jobs, per se, but the ones that will position them best in their discipline. The glut of students pursuing PhDs only ups the potential payoff -- greater prestige for those who secure tenure-track positions. Different disciplines have different logics (e.g., humanities/social sciences vs. hard sciences); however most are based on cultural capital more so that economic capital, I would argue.

1/27/2006 5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kstrna said..."Only a radical change in how institutions are run can fix the situation & given grad labor unions have historically stated they aren't going to get involved in academic decisions, labor unions are not the answer"

Huh? Might be a long wait before Sexton is open to "radical change."

1/27/2006 7:36 PM  
Blogger kstrna said...

"Job candidates are not looking for the highest paying jobs, per se, but the ones that will position them best in their discipline. The glut of students pursuing PhDs only ups the potential payoff -- greater prestige for those who secure tenure-track positions. Different disciplines have different logics (e.g., humanities/social sciences vs. hard sciences); however most are based on cultural capital more so that economic capital, I would argue."

Which is my point. Grad students are choosing to go to grad school over such jobs as teaching even when the latter pays more because it is more prestigious. Just increasing benefits which is all a traditional labor union really will accomplish & have been able to do near as I can tell for TAs isn't going to solve the elitist attitudes that permeate grad school, they are only going to further it.

What is GSOC's plan for dealing with this glut?

Grad students are employees but also students and consumers and products. A union representing us has to take all of that into consideration and organize accordingly.

A union that argues about changing the academy but only negotiates on employment terms only raises hopes that can not be carried out.

Of course a union that spends precious human resources leading up to a strike looking for places where professors can teach of campus isn't one that is dealing from a position of strength to begin with. The professors and students are still crossing the picket line by going to class. NYU still is turning out its product.

1/29/2006 9:38 AM  

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