Monday, March 03, 2008

The Uneducated on Education

Inside Tucson Business this week has a Lionel Waxman column attacking Janet Napolitano's call to double the number of college graduates in Arizona by 2020. He doesn't know what he's talking about. In fact, when discussing education and training in this town and state, the depth and breath of the ignorance of many of the speakers is staggering.

The Tucson community recently shut down a customized employee development resource center that provided customized training for local employers. When the press asked the Mayor about its closure, he replied that its customers could go to Pima College instead. When Vaisala needs a one-week customized course on J2EE application development, they should contact the community college.

Waxman's piece declared that only 29 percent of jobs require a "degree," citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2004. Yes, let's use the national 2004 job situation to address the Arizona situation in 2020. Remember Arizona is the fastest growing state in the country, and it ranks DEAD LAST in funding for education. Also, those jobs that don't require a "degree" are terrific so long as no one in your family has one. Let someone else work for no pay and no benefits.

Growth of Job Openings by Postsecondary Education Required (Number of positions, Percent Growth from 2006 to 2016)

Apologies for lack of columns (blog HTML is space / table challenged).

Total, all occupations---15,600,000---10.4%
First professional degree---277,000---14.0%
Doctoral degree---437,000---21.6%
Master's degree---409,000---18.9%
Bachelor's or higher degree, plus work experience---592,000---9.1%
Bachelor's degree---3,074,000---16.5%
Associate's degree---1,087,000---18.7%
Postsecondary vocational award---1,072,000---13.6%
Work experience/related occupation---1,310,000---9.0%
Long-term on-the-job training---711,000---6.2%
Moderate-term on-the-job training---2,018,000---7.4%
Short-term on-the-job training---4,613,000---8.8%

Occupational Projections and Training Data, 2006-07 edition, Bulletin 2602 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2006) and Occupational Projections and Training (Data, 2008-09 edition, Bulletin 2702 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, forthcoming).

As globalization and the nature of the knowledge economy shift occupations towards knowledge positions (Reich, 1992), growth will occur more prominently in positions requiring critical thinking skills that correlate significantly with higher education. Some argue that occupational classifications have become obsolete and still reflect hierarchical command control organizational structures no longer suitable in the evolving knowledge economy.

The Governor's ambitions around graduate numbers reflect Arizona's becoming the fastest growing state in the nation. The proposed free tuition for students with B or better grade averages is consistent with the nationwide trend of student directed state financial aid programs towards rewarding merit instead of helping those with financial need. I consider the cost of such a measure more problematic than its fueling grade inflation (a valid concern), and I assert having taxpayers pay the tuition of students from wealthy parents is not tenable. The program should include an income ceiling for eligibility.

The assertion that Arizona taxpayers are already subsidizing higher education more than they should reflects sheer ignorance. Cut subsidies and tuition climbs with matching aid failing to keep pace. In the 50s and 60's cold war pressure and a desire for an educated workforce produced the greatest investment in education in history. We became both an economic and military super power as a result of the knowledge explosion that resulted. Ironically, our brilliant investment produced the extraordinary knowledge economy in which we now fall behind.

Years ago, the country's politicians understood education. Then we elected a president who hated government and sought to dismantle it. His Secretary of Education, William Bennett, declared that the Department of Education should be dissolved. Today, fewer than half of our high school kids know when the Civil War occurred or can locate China on a map. Less than 40 percent can name the Vice-President. Don't get me started on math.

Beginning in the 80s, state appropriations for higher education stagnated, falling dramatically as a share of paying for a student's education at a public university. Wages (except for CEO and top executives) have stagnated and fallen against the consumer price index. Regarding financial support of workforce development, as above, so below. Here in Tucson, TREO CEO Joe Snell said after gutting a training institute's funding, "SAIAT's performance will improve." We reduce a school's funding and expect it to do more.

Waxman declares, "The crisis in our public universities is effectiveness, not affordability."

What does this guy know about the effectiveness of our universities? He talks to graduation rates without addressing the atrophy occurring in our K-12 system. Might the crisis be underfunded K-12 schools with underpaid teachers in overpopulated classrooms that graduate kids incapable of completing college in six years let alone four or five? He also alleges "universities need focus, reform, and competition, not new subsidies and a continued lack of accountability."

He doesn't think universities compete? Seen the US News & World Report Rankings (Ehrenberg, 2001)? What focus and reform is he talking about? SAIAT went bankrupt and closed, Snell's version of improving performance and economic development. Regarding lack of accountability, what is he suggesting? The budgets and salaries are public, the expenses well documented, the academic standards well managed. Growth in the time required to graduate reflects adherence to academic standards in the face of weaker incoming student populations.

Apple Computer once gave TUSD over $1 M worth of computers for labs or classrooms. The machines sat in a warehouse until obsolete because the district had no funds to configure them.

The Tucson Citizen's Opinion Piece today captures some reality, as does its article on the governor's plan.

I've met Governor Nepolitano and have spoken with her. The woman is brilliant and can talk to education like an educated person. She understands that as Arizona's population swells the quality of life suffers if we allow the state to devolve into a retirement community consisting of retirees, wealthy business owners, and a massive underclass of uneducated minimum wage no benefit slaves. Governor Nepolitano is trying to manage the growth of the state. As Peter Drucker said 20 years ago, "Those communities that don't manage growth become slums. Those that try to prevent growth become bigger slums."


Blogger Dustin said...

of course, should performance imrove after a funding cut, that would be justification for further cuts, as they are doing fine without the money.

3/04/2008 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waxman is a total boob. I have heard many of his columns on conservative talk radio locally. Most are poor arguments and are uninformed. This one takes the cake though.

I think he must be secretly hoping that some of these under-educated Americans will actually take the unskilled jobs that immigrants have taken in droves because Americans either don't want them.

The simple fact that Matt gets at, which is not lost on some smart business men and women, is that an educated workforce is THE key to the precious economic growth that folks like Waxman bet on to keep those tax dollars rolling in...

Oh...and so that they can spend that money on, well, corrections, border security, and wars and weapons.

Someone needs to respond to that op-ed in this fine publication.

3/04/2008 8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh...another stat for you, and I will double check the numbers, but it is pretty close to right.

Just fyi, the Chronicle of Higher Ed had a brief update the other day describing a study from The Pew Center on the States
about incarceration in the US. The relevance to higher ed is that the Pew study documents the changing ratios of state spending on corrections vs higher ed. For
instance, in AZ: in 1987 the state spent 39 cents on corrections for every dollar spent on higher education; in 2007 AZ spent 77 on corrections for every
dollar spent on higher ed. (There are now 5 states that spend as much or more on corrections.)

Here's the link to the Chron thing:

I suspect that conservatives would try to explain this away with illegal immigration in some way, but really it tells a nice tale of the budget priorities of the GOP over what of what really drives economic growth.

3/04/2008 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Late to this game, I know, but just had reason for this to cross my path. I have a son who's been on the other side but has seen the light and is really trying now; somehow got into the Workforce office and was encouraged to go into a particular program for this fall - actually, they told him it was supposed to start this summer then when he went to register the school told him it had been pulled for then but would start in the fall not having been "officially" told the program would not be funded - now knowing that they knew this program was already (or they knew it shortly after) no longer on the list of "high-demand occupations" for 2010-2011 ; we're talking HVAC here, so now they tell the school they will no longer fund this program for this upcoming fall even though we all know employers are hurting for people, not even counting all the points that were brought up in this article. My son actually doesn't know this yet; I''m very concerned about what his reaction will be.

6/26/2010 6:22 AM  

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