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ERIC Number: EJ1155940
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0748-8475
The Corporate Assault on Higher Education and Union Responses
Lafer, Gordon
Thought & Action, v33 n2 p11-36 Sum 2017
Higher education is under siege by a barrage of policy initiatives that aim to fundamentally transform the academy. The most visible and most sustained assault has come in the form of funding cuts. Nationally, funding for public higher education was 18 percent lower in 2016 than in 2008, amounting to a $10 billion total disinvestment. In many states, cuts to higher education funding were made not as a fiscal necessity but as an affirmative policy choice, often instituted at the same time that legislators created new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Beyond budget cuts, higher education has been hit from multiple directions by policy initiatives that threaten to radically alter what it means to teach or to learn in postsecondary institutions. These policies are part of a coherent and well-coordinated agenda fueled by the largest and most powerful political forces in the country: the nation's premier corporate lobbies. At the state level, corporate lobbying is coordinated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has brought together several hundred of the country's largest corporations, including Google, Facebook, Ford, GM, Verizon, ATT, and more. One-quarter of all state legislators in the country are members of ALEC, but legislators pay dues of only $50 per year, accounting for less than two percent of the organization's revenue. The rest of the budget is paid by corporate sponsors. Recent years have seen state legislative initiatives that aim to eliminate tenure; replace human instruction with technology; defund the liberal arts; and eliminate the system of public higher education as a public service in which states have an obligation to provide affordable university education to academically worthy citizens. In multiple states, higher education budgets have been cut even where there was no fiscal crisis, and often at the same time that new tax cuts were offered to corporations and the wealthy. Finally, ALEC proposes to erase the line between public and private education, in higher education as in K-12, through a voucher system that would allow in-state students to take their share of the state's higher education funding and use it to attend private colleges or universities. Cutting education funding is not simply a means to facilitate tax cuts for the rich. It also serves to lower expectations for the masses. The proposal to turn higher education funding into vouchers not only drains public money into the private sphere--it undercuts the notion of higher education as a public good. This article provides a proposal of how graduate students, staff, and faculty can move forward, stating they need to take seriously the corporate governance of campuses, to be appropriately ambitious about restoring a humane version of higher education, to articulate a clear vision of how schools should run and what their students deserve; and to use that vision to organize themselves and their allies among students, parents and the public and effectively pressure university managers to do the right thing.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A