KEEPING UP APPEARANCES

Recently we had a campus visit day, the highlight of which is watching high school students try to act cool while walking around campus with their parents. As this is scientifically proven to be impossible, hilarity ensues.

As I walked to my car I saw a group being led around by a student tour guide who I recognized from class. I said hello and made some sort of PG joke like, "You didn't show them the dorms with the mold problem, did you?" Oh, Ed. You card. She explained to the group that I was one of her professors last year.

Side note: I have a pretty swell car. It was not terribly expensive (more on that in a minute) but I take exceptional care of it. Having just spent the Labor Day weekend working it over with an orbital buffer, it currently looks like it just rolled out of the factory. Eyeing the car, one of the parents said "Well I guess that's why tuition is so high!" Ha ha ha. Good one. Laughs all around. Here's the thing. Two, actually.

First, it's ridiculous to assume that I bought the car new. I bought it used after stalking it on eBay for six goddamn months and getting the dealer to agree to a ridiculous deal. I paid less for a used BMW than, for example, a new compact car like a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. If I was getting into a 2013 Honda Civic, would anyone be making jokes about my extravagant Professor Lifestyle?

Second, although it was clearly intended as a harmless joke, parents (and students) are constantly telling us we make too much money. To our faces. Students will flat-out tell us, "Tuition keeps going up because of professor salaries." This is not only beyond inaccurate – tuition increases are happening because of the money schools spend on 1) administrators and administrative salaries, which have increased five-fold since 1990, and 2) infrastructure. The money essentially goes to people the students never see and to their fancy new gyms and dorms and classrooms and all the other stuff they demand to turn college into the four-year middle class kids' vacation that it is becoming.

The implication is that I don't look poor enough. As a professor, if they see me in anything other than a Carter-era sportcoat as I load my dilapidated briefcase into a 1983 Volvo station wagon, then clearly they're being ripped off. If I can afford anything other than tuna and ramen, then obviously the school needs to pay me less. Professors shouldn't have anything new or fancy-looking; those are our tuition dollars!

This is a mild version of something I see and hear constantly – complaints that The Poor don't look sufficiently poor. God help you if you're within earshot of a Hard Working American when they see a poor person with an iPhone or a fresh hairdo. WHY ARE YOU SPENDING MY HARD EARNED TAX DOLLARS ON BLAH BLAH BLAH. Maybe her friend did her hair for her, or maybe she bought the iPhone second-hand or received it as a gift. But the point is, this poor person does not look sufficiently poor. If you're on food stamps or Medicaid or anything that even tangentially involves a tax dollar, Americans want to see you wearing rags, smeared with dirt, and eating gruel. How dare anyone who's poor try to have some self-respect and look decent.

Certainly I have things a lot easier than the poor people everyone loves to judge as a spectator sport. But the principle at the heart of this kind of self-important behavior is the same: that people should look a certain way based on their perceived status. How dare poor people wear, eat, or own anything nice. We don't just want people to be poor, we want them to look poor so we can feel better about our own status. Everybody just loves a good bitch-and-moan about what the undeserving Others are doing with their Hard Earned Money.

It never occurs to them that I also have to work hard to earn money (conservatives in particular believe that they personally invented the concept of hard work and nobody except them has ever done a day of hard work worthy of the compensation received) or that I might not be as well-off as something superficial like the brand of car I drive suggests. It never occurs to them that maybe my income is pretty modest but I happen to have no dependents, a low cost of living, and a fondness for ludicrously fast German sports cars. No, it must be that my nonexistent Professor Union guarantees me a six-figure salary that necessitates annual tuition increases.

But that's where we're at after thirty years of lurching to the right as a nation. We see public employees attacked for having pensions and insurance, as anything other than a subsistence wage for people who take Our Hard Earned Money is too extravagant. How it must please our financial elite to see us shrieking at our peers for earning too much money like crabs pulling one another back down into the bucket.

Be Sociable, Share!

48 Responses to “KEEPING UP APPEARANCES”

  1. Both Sides Do It Says:

    "How it must please our financial elite to see us shrieking at our peers for earning too much money like crabs pulling one another back down into the bucket."

    Still got it.

    There's also a weird dichotomy you don't mention: universities are essentially the same as corporations, whether public or private.

    How many of those "that's why tuition is so high heh-heh" jokesters would say the same thing about, fer instance, cable service, if they saw a middle-manager at Comcast driving a BMW? To ask the question is to answer it.

    So there's not only the "poor people need to look poor" thing going on, but also the uniquely American contribution to culture beyond blues and stand-up: the idea that businesses deserve everything they can possibly get, and any money anyone else has beyond subsistence level is stealing it.

  2. Talisker Says:

    although it was clearly intended as a harmless joke, parents (and students) are constantly telling us we make too much money. To our faces.

    Here's the thing. Tuition fees have been rising rapidly, and the chances of a degree getting you a well-paid job are diminishing. It's hardly surprising that students and parents feel bitter about this. Ed is the only representative of the university they actually meet, so the bitterness gets directed at him.

    It hasn't occurred to them that the university is screwing its own teaching staff just as badly as the students.

    How many of those "that's why tuition is so high heh-heh" jokesters would say the same thing about, fer instance, cable service, if they saw a middle-manager at Comcast driving a BMW?

    If phone and cable fees had risen tenfold in the last generation, I think a few more of them would.

  3. Darwinsbeard Says:

    Right the fuck on.

  4. c u n d gulag Says:

    FSM, Ed – YOU'RE BACK WITH A VENGEANCE!!!

    Spot on!

    Our "Job Creators" sit in their penthouses, and enjoy the view.

    And what do they see?
    The moment a peasant takes a step up any ladder, s/he immediately wants to pull that ladder up, so that they can try to go up the next step, and no one else can get to the step they're at.

    But I think your crab-bucket analogy is so much better!!!
    PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!

    Welcome back!
    Piss and vinegar, suits ya!

  5. middle seaman Says:

    For years the country is bombarded with propaganda targeted at all sorts of public servants and poor people. Teachers on all levels are bad and overpaid. Government workers do nothing and paid a lot. Unionized workers are the scum of the earth. Heck even the famous socialist, Obama, is intent on lowering our social security and Medicare service. I guess, old people who live on $2000 a month are highly overpaid.

    We don't fight back. If we want to blame Citibank and JPMorgan for stealing our money, we have be way more violent than we are.

  6. RosiesDad Says:

    I blame it on Maria Bartiromo and Rick Santelli. And Reagan and all those who followed him.

    On the other hand, I have a daughter at a private Liberal Arts College whose education, after her merit aid (because she doesn't qualify for aid based on financial need) is costing me roughly $40K/year. (She says, "Daddy it's a great deal. You pay for 3 years and get the 4th year free!" FSM love her.) And the middle child is graduating this year and just applied ED to an elite Liberal Arts College that ONLY gives aid based on financial need (no merit scholarships) so–assuming he is admitted– his education is going to be full freight and in the area of $55-60K per year.

    I love my kids, I'm glad that we will be able to pony up the $$$ to buy them their college educations (at the cost of having to downgrade our retirement) and hope they put our hard earned dollars to work as they plan the rest of their lives. But recognize that it ain't cheap.

    I have a friend who is a prof at the aforementioned elite LA college. I would never presume he is paid too much (even if his paycheck for the next 4 years includes a contribution from me). And I wouldn't joke about it. I want my kids to get a good education, including learning the critical thinking skills they will need to become self sufficient either as a function of their careers or the graduate education that they will mostly have to self-finance.

    Also, Ed, good to see that you are back. And I hope you are feeling better about where you are in your life and career.

  7. Sarah Says:

    The other aspect of this is the concept of Personal Responsibility. Ever see "Charge of the Light Brigade"? (Based on actual events.) About halfway through some poor schmuck gets drunk and falls asleep on duty, and he gets caned and dishonorably discharged for it, in front of all the men in his unit. And then at the end, the pooh-bahs in charge are all arguing over who is to blame for the massive failure which resulted from their stupidity.

  8. Eric the infrequent Says:

    The whole "poor people shouldn't have iPhones" bit drives me nuts. Look, I've been dirt poor, a single step from homeless. There were no smartphones back then(not useful ones anyway) but I sure could have used one. Instead I had to pay for a low minute cell plan in order to have a phone and then pay for internet and hope that my aging computer stayed working just well enough to be able to job hunt.
    Now? Second hand smart phone from craigslist, unlimited plan from Cricket. One bill, one handy device. It's actually a wise use of money.

  9. Anonymouse Says:

    Keep in mind the raging hatred the right has over any form of education, but college is the worst because it's not mandatory. Think of all the "jokes" your crazy right-wing nutjob relatives and friends forward you featuring the arrogant professor who's soundly humilitated by the RIGHTEOUS uneducated.

  10. Dave Dell Says:

    The administrative overhead at the major land grant university where my wife works is a decent example of why tuition and fees rise faster than inflation. When she started in the Deans office in the early 80's there was a Dean, an assistant Dean and 4 support staff. Now there's a Dean and 3 assistant Dean's, several executive assistants/program directors, and I've lost track of how many support staff.

    I'm pretty sure the other colleges have experienced similar overhead growth. New buildings going up all over campus. Luckily the football program is profitable enough to pay for the new facilities and staff for all the sports.

    My cable bill goes up faster than inflation as well.

  11. Major Kong Says:

    I run into the same thing sometimes. I drive a 2004 Audi A8 that's been exceptionally well taken care of.

    I bought it used in 2009 for $26,000 – roughly the price of a new Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. Nobody would think twice about me driving a new Accord/Camry but everyone thinks I'm loaded because I drive an A8.

  12. Benny Lava Says:

    This is a magnificent post. I think about this concept a lot, because I think of the way certain Christian churches talk about the dignity of human life with half their face while their parishioners complain that poor people haven't been sufficiently humiliated. Ross Douthat is a classic example.

  13. Dan E Says:

    As the late, great Mitch Hedberg said, "When someone describes themselves as a Taxpayer…they are about to be an asshole."

    Great, great post, Ed!

  14. Anonymouse Says:

    @Dave; don't be so sure that the football team is profitable at all. In the whole USA, only something miniscule like 9 schools have football teams that turn a profit. Everywhere else, football eats up money that could be better used on the purpose of college–that is, on educating students.

  15. Aaron Says:

    Yeah, at some point you have to loudly say "Hah, no, I got this at a police auction. It was a bargain because someone died in it."

    (What's worse is that if you look shabby, they'll also judge you, People of Wal*Mart style. Dress well? SPENDING MY MONEY! Dress badly? NO TASTE. Can't win.)

  16. Scotius Says:

    This post from Brad DeLong addresses the same theme, that for many right wingers, especially of the southern variety, it is not enough that they have money and poor people not. The poor should have to beg ad be grateful for any goods they do get from their benevolent betters.

    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/10/maeve-reston-reports-from-hugo-oklahom-obamacare-meets-extra-resistance-the-view-from-the-roasterie-xii-october-16-2013.html

    That is quite different generally from how wealthy businessmenin the North and West approached income inequality. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Henry Ford were more than happy to become as weathy as they possible could, but they didn't actively try to impoverish others. Of course, the Koch brothers are also from the Midwest instead of the South, but they would like nothing more than to see every last one of us undersing types doing the modern equivalent of selling apples in the street.

  17. acer Says:

    Can you still get a job, even at Taco Bell, without a smart phone? I assume your shift manager wouldn't want you to go off the grid.

    Some of this is psychological projection from the declining upper-middle. They know a lot of their own wealth is really property of MasterCard. When they see a genuine poor driving a Beamer, they assume he must be so irresponsibility leveraged that it steams them right off, I tell ya.

  18. lfv Says:

    You ought to come right back with something like "If you think my decade old 3 series is over the top, you should see what the assistant to the assistant to the assistant dean is driving."

  19. Tveb Says:

    Ed, when the parent(s) said "I guess that's why tuition is so high," you should have responded, "no the car is from my trust fund, teaching is for spending money; now the president's car definitely comes from his salary."

  20. Tim H. Says:

    Scotius, if Bill Gates really worried about working class folk here, the Xbox wouldn't be built by Foxconn. Ditto for the shade of Steve Jobs.

  21. Brian M Says:

    Tim H:

    It's a little more complicated than that. The problem is not "Bill Gates" per se, the problem is incremental decisions made 40 years ago by our elites to shiv the unions by moving production to low cost Asian factories. It became "fashionable" among our elites to off shore production.

    Buit more fundamentally: Marx was right: chasing low wages is inherent in the capitalist system. Especially over the medium and long term. (As is consolidation of control into fewer and fewer hands).

  22. Donhauser Says:

    Spot on! And, you came back much earlier than I thought you would. Terrific post.

  23. FastEddie Says:

    Well said.

  24. stefanie Says:

    college professors earn every cent they work for, especially if they work for a school that requires them to publish and research various subjects. As a college student I don't have an issue paying my teacher's wages. (I do struggle when I pay for a college professor and get a graduate student though, but I still can't complain because some of my favorite teachers have been GIs.). I Would imagine after someone has spent thousands of dollars on an education that they would be making more than someone who hasn't gone to college or has a lesser degree than those teaching on a college level (afterall isn't the the whole purpose of going to college, so you can get a career making more money?)
    But more importantly who are we to judge what someone by what they have? I know people who have the most lavish of things but have filed for bankruptcy several times because they couldn't afford the credit card payments that they used to pay for it all. I also know others who have a home filled with very expensive things, but they can afford that because they live in a trailer. It's really no one's business where others choose to spend their money. I know many hard working Americans who work very long and very hard but still are unable to provide for their family. Who are we to say they don't deserve a little extra help? These hard working Americans also pay taxes to earn the things they get. It's not right.

  25. witless chum Says:

    @Dave; don't be so sure that the football team is profitable at all. In the whole USA, only something miniscule like 9 schools have football teams that turn a profit. Everywhere else, football eats up money that could be better used on the purpose of college–that is, on educating students.

    There's a lot of creative accounting going on with big-time football, one way or the other. That USA Today database that gets passed around doesn't agree with stories the local media does about my alma mater, for instance. Broadly, I think most of the Big 10 is breaking even or coming close, not sure about the other big money leagues.

  26. Peggy Says:

    I always enjoy it when I see my own students (who, as high-schoolers, are often just parroting their parents) get caught in the cognitive dissonance between "everybody knows teachers are underpaid" and "the government wastes my tax dollars," both of which they hear from parents. Since I'm the sort of person who tries to help teenagers figure this shit out for fun, I enjoy pointing out that I'm one of the thigs on which their tax dollars are wasted.

    Sadly, I also work with many adults who don't seem to get it and complain endlessly about taxes… While drawing a taxpayer-funded paycheck and voting Republican.

    As the kids say… SMDH!

  27. J. Dryden Says:

    Not to steal Ed's thunder, but I believe he is quoting W.E.B. DuBois with the "crabs in a bucket" analogy. (DuBois used it to explain the unwillingness of black Americans to support the success of their peers, but the analogy holds just as well for all non-elites in our Gilded Age 2.0.)

    That said: Great post.

    But. Please. Two days in a row of "being an academic sucks" has me sick to my stomach with the abyssal horror of my life. Kindly move on to cheerier topics, like the mob's insane revolt against gluten, or the rise of surgical addiction. You know, bad things that don't affect me, at which I can point with "rube at the freak show" smugness. Because we *are* all crabs in the bucket, and I'd rather be pulling than pulled.

  28. Anonymouse Says:

    @Peggy; I passed a luxury SUV parked in a super-special-executive parking spot of a federal building that had a license plate that said "TAXH8R". So, this guy's pulling down six-figures-plus thanks to the taxpayers, he got to his special, special parking place via roads paved and maintained by the tax-payers…but he hates taxes. The cognitive dissonance burns.

  29. Bob Says:

    I'm a 55 year old professional – solidly middle class. I've never bought a new car in my life. My used Saturn died a violent death – I spent a day on line and found a 1 year old Hyundai 5 speed with 8k miles – carfax had it as a repo – asking price 11k. It was at a dealer. I immediately went there to find it sold. What was on the lot – an 8 year old BMW with 90k miles for the same price. I bought it – been a great car over the last 2 years. No different than any other car I've ever ownded – a cheap to mid priced used car. The lowest mileage car I've ever owned had 75k when I bought it.
    I'm a federal civil servant. In the last two years at least a dozen people I know have made snide remarks about overpaid gov. workers and their luxury automobiles.
    The good thing about being 55 is I've reached a stage where I don't bother with formality. My standard reply today is "go fuck yourself."
    Not very erudite I admit, but damn if it doesn't feel right.

  30. mothra Says:

    Here's something I have never understood: why do parents WANT teachers and professors underpaid? Aren't teachers and professors actually providing something worthwhile to their little darlings? Unlike the administrators who are really making the money to do very little?

  31. Bob Says:

    @ Annonymouse and @ Peggy:
    I work for the Army and am surrounded by military and retired military civil service workers. I respect them and appreciate their service. But virtually every one of them has the federal government to thank DIRECTLY for every penny they have made in their adult lives. The majority are far right wing, small government anti-tax zealots. Almost every one loathes the ACA – yet every one is covered by government health care or gov. provided insurance.
    It's mind-boggling how blind people can be.

  32. Xecky Gilchrist Says:

    If you're on food stamps or Medicaid or anything that even tangentially involves a tax dollar, Americans want to see you wearing rags, smeared with dirt, and eating gruel.

    Indeed, and post-Tea Party this has turned far uglier to the assumption that anyone who's paid by the government at all, except maybe for defense contractors, is "pretty much on welfare."

  33. Sarah Says:

    I work for the Army and am surrounded by military and retired military civil service workers. I respect them and appreciate their service. But virtually every one of them has the federal government to thank DIRECTLY for every penny they have made in their adult lives. The majority are far right wing, small government anti-tax zealots. Almost every one loathes the ACA – yet every one is covered by government health care or gov. provided insurance.
    It's mind-boggling how blind people can be.

    Ayuh.

    My father is a retired Navy pilot who now flies for a commercial airline. Two weeks ago he was clearing some things out of a shed and came across a nest of wasps. He's farsighted, so he couldn't see the boogers when they came up close to him, and one of them stung him on the bridge of his nose. He proceeded to kill every one of those wasps, but he had a very bad reaction to that one wasp sting he got (we'd never known him to be allergic to wasps before, but I don't think the face or neck is a very good place for anyone to get stung). My mother had to drive him to the emergency room; she bypassed the local town hospital which is literally around the corner and is the place where she herself works, in order to go to the hospital at the Navy base which is about 10 miles away. They treated him with IV meds and sent him home about three hours later.

    The next day my sister and her husband were over for the evening, and we proceeded to get into a discussion about the government shutdown. (I should note here that Sis and bro-in-law both canvassed for Obama, in their mostly white, very wealthy part of town, in 2012. Not a pleasant experience, they said.) Dad started in on a rant about government-run healthcare (which he's made before, about how bureaucratic and impersonal it is, with reams of red tape, et cetera), and I interrupted him to say, yeah, Dad, you went for government-run healthcare just yesterday. You did have a choice, I added, you could have gone to the local hospital, where there is an emergency room. Dad said, it was free. The look on my sister's face was priceless. But as much as I enjoyed making that point, the cognitive dissonance does indeed burn.

  34. Gator Says:

    Instead of complaining that other people are getting paid too much, we all be complaining that we get paid too little.

  35. moderateindy Says:

    This is going to be a loooong post….
    Here's the thing most people completely overlook when bitching about their taxes. Your tax rate is essentially meaningless. Whenever someone asks me, "do you want to pay half your salary in taxes like they do in places like Europe?" The reply is simple. I would gladly pay 90 percent of my salary if this country's standard of living was as high as the standard of living in a place like Sweden, or Germany. Your standard of living, and your quality of life is the only metric that truly matters.
    Just from a financial standpoint,which would you rather make, 50 Grand a year, and have to live in NYC, or 40 grand a year, and have to live in Paducah, KY? (Ignoring the fact that you have to live in Paducah) Makin more money, or having higher take home pay means nothing. What that salary actually gets you in buying power does.
    A C.P.A. in Chicago in 1979 had basically the same upper middle class lifestyle as a CPA in Boise does today, despite very different salaries, and tax rates.
    One of the reasons for wage stagnation over the past 20 years, particularly for the college educated middle class, is that the lowering of tax rates has allowed take home pay to increase. That means people can keep the same basic standard of living despite inflation eating away at their actual buying power. Basically, employers feel like employees are getting a raise when the employee's taxes get cut, because their take home pay increases, so there is less incentive to give them a bigger raise to keep up with the cost of living. The result being that over the long run the tax cut becomes meaningless for the employee, but decreases government revenues.
    What is lost in this society is all the actual benefit from having higher taxes, i.e. more govrnment revenue to increase the governments ability to provide wothwhile goods and services to it's citizenry. A solid social safety net provides immense increases in a country's overall quality of life for it's citizens. Bumps in the road, like losing a job, become much less stressful, if like in countries in Europe, you still get a large portion of your salary when on unemployment. Universal healthcare is a great example. Facing bankruptcy because of medical bills is non-existent in other countries. Do you care if your payroll taxes go up, if in turn your employer doesn't take your part of the health insurance premium out of your check? How many people forego trying to start their own business because they can't get decent insurance. If it becomes a fixed cost (payroll tax) then there becomes no fiscal advantage for other companies to not provide it's employees health care, as a way to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace, as far as prices are concerned.
    There are other advantages to a higher tax rate. If you have a high rate, and there is an economic downturn, there is more leeway for short term tax cuts as a means of economic stimulus.
    Basically, the only people whose "take home pay/buying power is affected by tax rates would be the very rich, whose after tax income isn't dictated by labor force markets, and honestly, it wouldn't truly make them change their lifestyles one iota.
    It really comes down to the theme of the posting that the American people want to see the poor suffer, regardless of whether or not that suffering translates into an increase of quality of life for themselves or not.

  36. truth=freedom Says:

    Seems to me the right response ought to be somewhere along the lines of: How much do you think I make? When they grossly overstate what luxurious salary they perceive you to make, you should ask, "How much do you think a professor ought to make?" Then you should compare it for them to your actual salary.

    Then you you can launch into a recounting of the salaries at the various levels from the President (or whatever on down). Maybe then the facts will matter.

  37. Major Kong Says:

    @moderateindy

    I think you're right concerning quality of life.

    I'd rather be a modestly well-off Swede than the richest guy in Mogadishu.

  38. Bernard Says:

    yep, how dare you live well. and not suffer. the Calvinist version of Christianity rules. and the Tea Party exemplifies this wacko idea of "morals.

    i've got mine and you had better not get any more than me. if you do, then you are a lazy thief.

    thank St. Reagan and his friends/Republicans for this version of "Hell" in America

  39. Joseph Nobles Says:

    Any parent with a lick of sense would have looked at your well-maintained car and realized it might be a sign of the attention their child could expect from you in the classroom.

  40. Dick Nixon Says:

    "When someone describes themselves as a Taxpayer…they are about to be an asshole."

    The corollary: "When someone uses the term "Hard Earned Dollars" the result is the same.

    You see, Hard Earned Dollars (HED) are MY dollars. Your dollars are, presumably, Soft Earned or Undeserved. Society is divided by "makers" and 'takers". I am always a "maker". You are always a "taker.

    This fits nicely with the current conservative theme "I got mine and fuck you".

    The above is Hard Earned Wisdom.

  41. Nick Z Says:

    Here's another corollary, in addition to the ones already mentioned. http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/02/10/62-knowing-whats-best-for-poor-people/

  42. swkellogg Says:

    mothra Says:
    October 17th, 2013 at 3:30 pm
    "Here's something I have never understood: why do parents WANT teachers and professors underpaid? Aren't teachers and professors actually providing something worthwhile to their little darlings? Unlike the administrators who are really making the money to do very little?"

    The problem is that education is seen by many as a mere formality rather than something of intrinsic value. Some pay to learn, but a substantial portion of any student body is comprised of people who just want the union card that leads to a bigger paycheck. If they can get it at a discount, all the better.

  43. grendelkhan Says:

    Ever since "If I Were a Poor Black Kid…", I've started to notice all the munchkinning that rich people do about poor folks' lives. Like it's a game of D&D, and if you just multiclass Programmer and Entrepreneurship, you'll get the Small Business Owner feat in no time! Ugh.

    That said, you'd think there would be a market–some sort of market, any market–for higher education without the fancy theme-park stuff, at a sane price. What fills that niche? Community college? Western Governor's University?

  44. Glen h Says:

    I've reached the point where whenever someone complains about their taxes, I tell them that they should be paying double, just to give them something to bitch about. Or alternatively that they should quit their job and find a shitty low paid one that puts them under the minimum tax threshold .

  45. Kevin Says:

    dumb video

  46. HoosierPoli Says:

    Alternative rejoinder: For every one of me there are three adjuncts or grad students making poverty-level wages.

  47. John Doheny Says:

    Back when I was still fortunate enough to have a (non-tenured) university teaching job, if something like this came up I'd just blurt out how much I actually made. In America, telling someone your actual salary is a huge social faux pas, like confessing a propensity for bestiality or water sports.

    I was a professional musician for 20 years before going into teaching, and hadn't spent much time around the rich. I remember very well the first time this came up in a conversation with a parent trying to enlist my help in discouraging his son from pursuing a career as a performer. I was actually agreeing with him (because playing music for a living really is terrible, grinding hustle) when he busted out with this: "He doesn't understand how much it costs to live nowdays. I mean, you can't just slouch along on 80 or 90 thousand a year and have a nice live." The look on his face when I told him that was almost three times my salary was priceless. I was earning $36,500 at the time. Tuition was $38,000.

    @Stefanie,

    "I Would imagine after someone has spent thousands of dollars on an education that they would be making more than someone who hasn't gone to college or has a lesser degree than those teaching on a college level"

    That would certainly have been the case 50 years ago. For my father, higher education was a path out of poverty. For me it's been a path into it.

    If you're interested in making money, get a trade. You don't need a quarter million in student loan debt to be an electrician.

  48. Steve ODonnell Says:

    Absolutely, administrations have become bloated, and the need for state of the art, $100 million dollar tech buildings is driving up tuition, but isn't the main driver of higher tuition the cuts in state funding? We need to put the Public back into education.