The Bright Side of Missing 13 Percent of the UW System Budget

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05-29-2015 UPDATE: Thanks to concerted grassroots lobbying efforts from disgruntled alumni and dissatisfied citizen-consumers, the Wisconsin legislature has mostly agreed with Governor Walker’s retrenchment of the UW System.

Only $50 million was restored, leaving 83.3 percent of the reductions in place. That’s great news for the University Accountability Movement! This has been a good year so far, on that dimension.

04-16-2015 UPDATE: In a rare case of insulated administrators acknowledging economic realities, UW-Madison has agreed to leave 400 positions unfilled; to indefinitely shutter over 320 Letters & Sciences courses; and to divert $3.5 million from the athletics department within Fiscal Biennium 2015-2017.

Good! That is but the beginning of fiscal retrenchment if UW-Madison doesn’t lead by example in proving its worth in as-of-yet unquantified employment rates and wage premiums of job-seeking alumni.

Students need this data to decide whether they even want to be students, when job prospects remain dismal despite conferral of one, two, or however many degrees. Risk management, people!

02-16-2015 ORIGINAL: Many have fretted over the imminent cuts to the University of Wisconsin (UW) System budget. Less for the state university means more for much-needed transportation projects, so what’s the big deal?

Most of those complaining about fiscal retrenchment are, of course, those on the UW payroll (the higher education hucksters and their nine-to-five, don’t-give-a-care-about-graduate-job-outcomes, support staff).

Some of those concerned are students, naïve people who somehow believe their future relies upon an educational institution with a mediocre track record for alumni career success — and if not mediocre, then why not publish some aggregate statistics, beyond hand-selected anecdotes?

Many more students are apathetic towards the budget cuts because they understand the following:

The university always cries wolf whenever it doesn’t get what it wants. Yet, life goes on despite the UW babies not getting all the candy they demand.

Neither university staff nor the system generally cares about their post-student success, so these well-informed students conserve mental and emotional energy by focusing on #1 instead of being sidetracked by those who would conscript them into a cause that mostly benefits UW employees.

Even if a student has such great relations with staff that they are invited to interview for USPA or whatnot, budget cuts that result in the cancellation of positions they want are a necessary introduction to economic reality. Call this “School of Hard Knocks Lite,” as there is always H2A migrant work on which to fall back — and you’ll get priority for selection as a U.S. citizen, unless you’ve never worked on a farm.

(That’s how I was disqualified from an H2A recruitment for which I went out of my way to apply. !No lo puede creer! Estoy un graduado sin futuro.)

Satellite Campuses Need Retrenchment, Too

UW-Madison is clearly in the best position to shoulder the lion’s share of budget reductions, because it receives the plurality of General Purpose Revenue (GPR): about 40 percent! But what about the satellite campuses, those so-called directional schools that comprise the majority of the UW student population?

I’ll use UW-Milwaukee as an example because it recruits heavily in the local Greater Milwaukee Area. Nowhere being a heavyweight on national rankings for any its programs, UWM nonetheless markets itself as a good school for career-oriented people — as opposed to those dreamers at UW-Madison, I suppose, who nonetheless wind up running circles around UWM grads in the labor market due to their proximity to startups and state government offices.

The Madison market is still glutted, though perhaps not as much as Milwaukee’s!

We hear of UWM’s handful of new graduate career successes every May — a dozen or so out of thousands of job-seeking grads; not even a reliable sample size — but what about its failures? The taxpaying public deserves an accounting of graduate occupational outcomes.

Here’s an up-close-and-personal example of such education-induced ruination: I bill myself as an educational consultant, but my primary means of income is packaging boxes for $10 hourly through a temp agency. That’s the best job offer I’ve received following 4 years of a full-time job search after I earned my master’s degree in public administration from UWM in 2010 (and I was pursuing positions each hour I wasn’t studying, working, or sleeping in grad school).

I know that I cannot possibly be an isolated outlier! There must be another 10, 20 percent of students generally who wash out in the labor market, i.e. work a job a GED or diploma holder could do; and this number is probably closer to 60 percent in some UWM departments / academic programs.

Who knows this, without hard data? Universities *don’t* want to know!

Duplicitous Universities Wash Their Hands of Alumni Woes; Demand Funding to Victimize More

The longer a university “has no substantial evidence” of economically ruined graduates, the longer it can play the denial card so common in public relations. Never mind how people such as me ARE substantive in their career woes that stem directly from dedicating their time, effort, and money to the stinking UW System!

Here’s why that systemic lack of information is deleterious — persistently harmful — to the public welfare:

Potential students (and parents, politicians, etc.) deserve to know what the median and mode earnings and nature of the job worked by graduates of each program are (salaried, FT hourly, PT hourly, involuntarily unemployed) for each year’s graduating (exiting senior) cohort following 1 year of degree conferral.

Surveys of (highly optimistic) expectations for employment at the time of graduation don’t communicate job outcomes; they don’t reflect reality!

Make restoration of that 13 percent contingent upon UWM and the other campuses coughing up class-wide data on actual employment outcomes for those alumni who have been either employed or seeking jobs approximately 1 year after degree conferral.

They won’t, unless forced to by the legislature. This underscores why it is better to slash an ineffective training system than to pump more money into it and expect change!

Pain Precedes Progress

This budget cut is painful for many UW workers and wanna-be UW workers — but needs to happen, so that my aforementioned accountability measures may be passed into law. That pain is but a fraction of the turmoil chronically under- and unemployed graduates endure for dedicating their time, effort, and money to the crummy UW System!

Just because these school-to-work accountability ideas are coming from a grossly under-employed holder of an advanced degree — with zero post-college wage premium and no *apparent* political standing — doesn’t mean everyone influential ignores the possibilities inherent within these ideas.

If every campus within the University of Wisconsin System would only provide solid data to show by what margins its program graduates are attaining employment — lest administrators fear otherwise (fraidy cats!) — then legislators and citizens alike would better operationalize the extent to which this vague notion of career preparation comes to fruition — or does not (ha!) — by investment in the UW.

This is my institutional legacy; my gift to higher education: Not settling for merely being a guy who wasn’t allowed by circumstantial consensus to earn what some graduates make — although that certainly informs my social views — but being the one to propose these tremendous reforms!

The $10 hourly manual labor job that I went to school to avoid, has inescapably become my highest-paying occupation. College wage premium = $0 for Joe Ohler!

And yet, I’m far from alone in this predicament, despite aspiring state college students’ collective delusion they’ll somehow fare better than someone who graduated college with an above-average GPA and student government administrative experience.

(I will someday publish an autobiography, at which point those interested may learn precisely what my GPA and pastimes were at various stages of my life. If that sounds boring, then consider all the people with whom I’ve interacted during my first 30 years alone. It gets wild!)

Anyway, I take the side opposite of the UW spin doctors: Consider that 13 percent budget cut as the institutional receipt for churning out so many graduates with poor job prospects!

BONUS: A New Day for UW

Recent news about UW leaving 400 jobs indefinitely vacant, and concomitant cancellation of marginally useful classes, has made many mucky-mucks morph into mopey-mopes.

However, I’m here to invert your grimace! Karaoke, you say? Indeed!
Let us all sing this song together, in grandiose celebration of a new day for the UW System. A one; a two — a 1-2-3!

“College Under Thumb” – Parody by SenatorJPO – 01:01 (1.40 MB)

[—Click above to download; lyrics are below—]

Under my thumb, that UW / That had pushed me around /

Under my thumb, now defunded / What had gone now comes around /

Glad it’s not me / I’m glad it’s not meUnder my thumb, demanding classes / That had jerked me around /

Under my thumb, now they’re canceled / Fewer students to be found /

Glad it’s not me / I’m glad it’s not me

Under my thumb, master’s program / That had promised me the world /

Under my thumb, now it’s shuttered / Its deceptions now unfurled /

Glad it’s not me / I’m glad it’s not me