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

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Unemployment Insurance for Student Workers

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05-26-2014 Update: 
Because facts and figures only go so far, here is my digitally drawn political cartoon, which hopefully will stimulate your reptilian brain in a way that moves you more potently than if I were to treat you as an exclusively rational actor by addressing only your cerebral cortex!

Original Article: 

UW System would be obligated to offer unemployment insurance to student workers and graduate assistants under proposed UW Students UI Act; model legislation drafted

Long overdue is the provision of a safety net for the underserved population of unemployed college graduates. Every year, thousands upon thousands of UW System graduates find themselves ineligible for re-appointment to their student jobs because they graduate and are ineligible for unemployment insurance (UI) due to a coldhearted collusion between the “fall where the chips may” UW System and the hands-off legislature that lets the UW get away with failing to provide UI for the overwhelming majority of its student workers and graduate assistants.

One may try to excuse this abominable treatment of student workers by saying, “They can advocate for themselves and acquire a UI provision in their employment contract.” But they are unlikely to succeed in such an endeavor because:

1) Many students, being new to the workforce, are ignorant of the possibility of UI.

2) Many of the students who are cognizant of UI believe there is nothing they can do to obtain UI for a position that might not have it; they assume that either a position provides UI by law or it does not.

3) The very existence of Wis. Stat. 108.04(15)(i) exempts the UW System and accredit universities generally from having to appropriate UI for student workers and graduate assistants.

The third point in particular is an aggressive display of contempt for the contributions of student workers, from the lowliest dishwasher in the bowels of Restaurant Operations to the most learned graduate assistants discovering new innovations. None of them receive UI unless they negotiate specific language into their employment contracts at the time of job offer.

So although a suspicious student possessing the unlikely knowledge of a hard-bitten graduate could potentially bring a labor lawyer with him or her to the contract signing, his or her chance of achieving a successful UI claim once no longer appointed as a student worker remains nil due to the university’s offer to rescind a job offer upon learning how wise to UI the student is.

“Bring a lawyer with?” Yes — if you delay even a day in signing the contract for any reason, then the business unit will find some other student to take your place in that student job.

University Restaurant Ops has denied employment even for needing a one-day delay to retrieve a Social Security card from home, so of course it is readily conceivable that a university business unit would rescind an employment offer for something more confrontational such as requesting time for a labor lawyer to review the employment contract.

How does that free pass on providing for student welfare morally align with the Wisconsin Idea? What was the legislature thinking when it passed such a slap in the face of university student employees?

The university (and more than likely, the UW System as a whole) does not consider student workers to ever be “laid off.” Rather, they are “non-re-appointed” because their limited-term employment (LTE) ends every semester and is renewable until they are no longer a student. Either way you define the situation, student workers are matter-of-factly separated from their work due to the job-ending action of GRADUATING.

This issue won’t pass without a lot of grassroot support from current student workers, their non-student-job working peers, and parents. United Council and the student governments at the various UW campuses might want to hop aboard this change-making train, but ultimately it will be up to the most politically powerful members of Wisconsin society to exercise their impact upon civic life for the benefit of these vulnerable new graduates who worked hard at student jobs but have neither follow-up employment nor UI.

It is the parents especially who can be the most supportive politically, as many feel the sting from the expense of the so-called Boomerang Generation of degree-holding adults who are unable to secure gainful employment that pays enough to support independent living. Generation Jobless is therefore not the only interest group to benefit from the wage security of UI benefits for non-re-appointed student workers and graduate assistants.

My tendency to be opinionated stems from my clear sense of right and wrong. The Wisconsin Idea may have permitted enough moral relativism for the legislature of yore to perform the necessary mental gymnastics by which to conclude, “If you earned a UW degree but are unable to secure gain employment, then we erred in admitting you we really don’t think you’re worth any UI, let alone a real job. Tough luck! Oh, and thanks for the tuition money.”

My legislation, the UW Students UI Act, does not ask for a permanent job for any amount of student workers. Rather, it extends the same UI protections towards student workers and graduate assistants that would have existed if not for the antagonistic wording of statutes by an earlier legislature to specifically exclude accredited universities from being legally obliged to fulfill the UW mission statement, which includes the directive “to develop human resources.”

This dovetails with the policy directive of Wis. Stat. 108.01(1), which effectively encourages business units to establish a social contract of wage security for employees, including but not limited to UI. In fact, UI is a fundamental component of wage security such that accredited universities practically vilify themselves to anyone in the know about their low propensity to fund UI for students.

While I could excuse that behavior by for-profit universities, it is particularly grievous how the UW System is reluctant to provide UI for student workers and graduate assistants. A progressive institution should be thrilled to help progressively-educated youth maintain wage security when those youth have given back to the university in not only tuition but also through direct contribution of labor to keep the university operating smoothly.

Before you dismiss these contributors to the university workforce as “mere student workers,” remember these are the employees who fill in when non-student staff take their paid vacations. Student workers function alongside the non-student staff but are effectively treated as second-class citizens through not only non-re-appointment to the job upon graduating but also exclusion from UI provisions in more cases than not.

The vast majority of these economically prone workers are LTE and without any contractual provision of UI. To reiterate a critical point: such exemption from UI responsibility for student workers and graduate assistants is possible primarily because existing statutes let the matter slide.

Do you, dear legislators and UW regents, want to admit that a substantial portion of those who are good enough to be admitted to and graduate with honors from the UW System are not good enough to be employed anywhere? That is the level of prestige communicated when you allow business units within the UW System to disclaim obligation to pay UI to student workers and graduate assistants.

For an institution that prides itself on progressivism to continue shortchanging student workers in that way is both cowardly and hypocritical. It is the moral imperative for the legislature to force the UW System into fulfilling this social duty of providing UI to its hard-working student employees, as it has been grossly lax in doing so due to extant statutes permitting such negligence to be lawful.

My proposal eliminates the UI exemption for student employees and graduate assistants of accredited universities in Wisconsin, including but not limited to member campuses of the UW System. It is high time the Wisconsin Idea was reflected through greater wage security for the more than 25,000 student workers in the UW System.

The concluding paragraphs of this fiscal impact statement summarize the enhancement to public welfare afforded by the most basic provision of UI for student workers:

Funding unemployment insurance for student employees returns roughly $1.69 million to the economy at the conjunction of minimal multi-week claim prevalence and the lowest contribution rate of 5.4%.

The economic boost from student-worker UI is even greater during more pervasive graduate unemployment, rising by $3 million for every 50 percentage-point rise in new graduate unemployment among recent student employees at the same 5.4% contribution rate.

The most economically potent cash infusion from accrual of UI by student workers occurs when both the contribution rate and graduate unemployment rate are moderately high. For example, the intersection of many multi-week claims and a moderate contribution rate of 7% produces over $8.7 million in liquidity.

Because recent student workers are very inexperienced and generally of low disposable income, such money awarded to them is spent rather than saved, thereby fueling statewide economic recovery.

The public is more aware than ever of the UW System’s lack of care towards its unemployed alumni, particularly the absence of UI for the preponderance of non-re-appointed student workers whose sole reason for no longer being appointed to subsequent employment terms by the university is because he or she graduated.

One situation in which one might argue graduation is involuntary separation from student work is when the student desires to continue work but already has earned double the credits required to graduate and is therefore charged more per credit, thereby making re-enrollment at the minimum credit level for student job eligibility neither cost-effective, economical, nor profitable for the student.

My proposal precludes the need to ascertain whether graduation constitutes involuntary termination. Whether or not UW officials want to argue choosing to graduate is voluntarily terminating one’s eligibility for re-appointment to student employment, the revised language declares unequivocally that graduation is NOT a reason for denial of UI to the student worker or graduate assistant.

It therefore becomes immaterial as to whether the student employee wanted to, but was effectively prohibited from, re-enrolling perpetually for the sake of maintaining his or her student job over the course of five or ten degrees (or however many it takes to fill the time until the student without an occupational future is of retirement age; sarcasm) and was therefore involuntarily terminated.

If any interest group cares about this, then I’d like to collaborate on getting this bill through the legislature and onto Governor Walker’s desk for signature. I’m confident that enough heartfelt testimonials of how more graduates than ever need UI from their student jobs will be sufficient to persuade legislators of the propriety and need for this measure.

If the legislature does not approve this measure, then the message is, “Recently unemployed student workers and graduate assistants unable to find follow-up jobs can go rot. We don’t want them receiving unemployment insurance or re-employment assistance because they’re not worth it; their only future is unskilled labor that won’t build towards any discernible career.”

Is that really what you want to tell the LTE workers of the UW System? It’s the message we’re hearing. Disabuse us of that notion — pass the UW Students UI Act!

Bill Text | DOC

Benefit-Cost Analysis (PDF) | DOC

Defeat the ‘Higher Ed, Lower Debt’ Bill

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Although hushed up by the mainstream media — who don’t want people to know about stuff they might protest until after it has become law — the legislative homepage of infamous Wisconsin Senator Chris Larson bragged about an ill-conceived piece of legislation known as the “Higher Ed, Lower Debt” bill.

Written by Representative Cory Mason and Senator Dave Hansen, this misguided proposal would cap tuition while allocating over five percent more to certain segments of the UW System budget segment in the so-called “biennium budget” spanning FY2014-2015 and FY2015-2016.

I sought more details but could find neither the text of the bill nor the Assembly Bill (AB), Senate Bill (SB), or Joint Resolution (JR) number. Perhaps it has already been addressed? Tabled? Hopefully voted down in the legislative chambers? At least vetoed without an override? Anyone with knowledge on these is welcome to cite his or her sources in the comment section!

But rest assured, the higher education hucksters will push forth a similar bill in subsequent sessions to further waste taxpayer money on the systemic misdirection of labor from full-time production into full-time studies. Part-time work history while in school does not count for anything these days, and chalk up a negative on your employability scoreboard if your part-time job while in college was a students-only position.

Therefore, it is in the public interest to defeat bills that would expand UW System enrollment, inflate funding for the same, and otherwise tie up resources that would be better served on vo-tech expansion, greater integration of job shadowing activities into high school curricula, and incentivizing corporations to create more “hire to train” positions instead of relying almost exclusively on mid-level and above talent to fill their so-called “entry level” jobs.

With that understanding, here is my form letter / email template for combating the rhetoric of the university pitchmen and whitewash women:

Subject Line: Universities Should Be De-FUNDED

[Senator | Representative] Last_Name:

I hereby recommend you vote against the so-called “Higher Ed, Lower Debt” bill — it accomplishes nothing except to further incentivize youth to waste their time in a liberal arts university when we need more occupational school grads.

You might laugh at the idea of unemployed college graduates unable to obtain professional work, but this is becoming a far more common reality than you realize. Adding more degrees to the labor surplus doesn’t help anything at all — it wastes resources such as taxpayer dollars; student labor that could otherwise be spent working a full-time manual laborer job; and student money that could instead be invested in the stock market.

Vocational / technical (vo-tech) school shall re-emerge as the best occupational option for the Millennial generation. Three dominant reasons are recurrent among those who choose the trades or technical training:

1) Many “hire to train” jobs are strictly for those with vo-tech certificates or professional licenses you get only through trade school;

2) There is less need to rely upon social capital to get a job when you have in-demand technical experience — social capital is less important in dictating your market value when your value package is more concrete instead of abstract;

3) Presuming a vo-tech student might change his or her field of training once or twice, he or she still comes out ahead of the university student who is slaving away at finishing one major without any change to major or minor. The opportunity cost of a failed career entry is much lower with trade school!

I’ve had it up to here with those higher education hucksters! Enjoy these parodies of assorted university ads:
http://absurdjobvacancies.blogspot.com/2014/01/five-parodies-of-ads-for-higher.html

[Salutation of your choice],

[Your name]

[Address at which you’re registered to vote — proves you’re a Wisconsin resident and required for official acknowledgement]

[Phone number where their staffers may reach you — optional; most responses are by snail mail or email]

[Other information such as social media handles — optional; you might gain some views, especially on LinkedIn]

Now that we’ve put that obnoxious legislation to rest, you might wonder what my connection to Senator Larson is. He and I were officials in the Student Association at UW-Milwaukee — now known as S.A.M. to kowtow in accordance with Student Affairs’ desire to co-opt the initialism S.A.

Larson’s most notable contribution to the student government was to jettison around $300 worth of unsold roses following a failed Year 2006 Valentine’s Day fundraiser. I can disclose this about Chris because he’s a public official and therefore unable to be slandered or libeled; see the fallout from my SA Sedition Act for more details.

So what about other state officials who I met at UWM? Another state senator from UW-Milwaukee is Nikiya Harris (nee Mudd), but we did not cross paths other than being on the same Urban Ecology Center email list for activities credited towards the Student Service Record Certificate — an ultimately unmarketable designation, but like my similarly worthless honor cord, it seemed like a worthy goal at the time. I’m here to tell you that such university blandishments are not worth the air you breathe while working towards them!

And speaking of which, the standards for earning a volunteerism certificate at UWM have been much diluted: The maximum recognition of achievement is capped at 40 hours, and easier tiers of 30 and 20 hours are offered. It was a shade over 4 years ago that I earned mine, but already I sound like, “When I was your age, we had to log over 75 hours to get one of those certificates!”

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