Ire towards academia

Just try and remember its not necessarily about you or your field. $70k a year for private college has created a lot of hostility to academia in general.

1 Like

Let’s also not forget that not all universities cost that much, even with the reality of rising costs. But it almost doesn’t matter if it’s about me, it still shapes people’s opinion of me and helps to dictate their treatment of me.


Not all of us are saving the world or curing cancer, and if we are rash enough to put ourselves out there we are potential targets for judgement. I’m a landlord, and there’s been some awful things said about landlords here and in other forums I frequent. I try my best to calmly explain the realities of the business and why I’m not a horrible person. That’s really all any of us can do.


You’re not being honest with yourself if you think that’s the reason. Professors don’t set the prices. Meanwhile, anti-intellectualism was a thing even before a university education became unattainably expensive. Even among those in engineering programs there’s a lot of bitching and moaning about liberal arts degrees (because apparently they’ve missed the memo that they’re supposed to be in a four-year engineering program and not in trade school).


I don’t think this is really “new” though, right? “the great unwashed” have more or less railed against the ideas of academia for as long as it’s been around.

IMHO, I think what’s “new” is the seemingly pervasive belief that “research” can be made to say whatever you want it to say for enough money, and there’s no check or balance against that, that’s working (i.e., peer review).

All of that seems to push the belief that academics are living in ivory towers oblivious to the concerns of the common folk.


I think there can be numerous reasons, not just one. Anti-intellectualism is without a doubt enjoying a strong couple of decades, but the stratospheric price of college (even premier state schools are over $30k now) has even educated, urbane middle class people rolling their eyes at what seems esoteric academia, along with all the other seemingly spendthrift aspects of the contemporary university like luxurious dorms and facilities. I have yet to read a plausible explanation for the rise of college costs other than “we could (thanks to the banksters), so we did”. When education rises several times faster than healthcare, you know there’s something fishy. My eldest starts college in the fall, so yes this is sore subject.

Since the subject has broadened a bit thanks to @orenwolf, there’s also a resentment of academia leading young people down a garden path believing that their hard earned advanced degrees will lead to academic careers, when tenured positions are vanishing and starvation wage adjunct posts are all that is to be found. I have several young relatives in doctoral programs and am fearful for them.


I suppose we could do a peer-reviewed study to see how the prevalence of such attitudes has changed over time but that would just make them angrier.


This isn’t about the working classes, it’s about the conservative elites harnessing what class tensions might exist in order to score poltical points. Academics used to be well respected and listened to, especially in the 50s and 60s. It tends to be certain upper class people who have the real vitriol towards academia, especially as it’s become more open to women and minorities. It doesn’t help that working class jobs are less well paid now than they were in the 50s and 60s and that political parties have ignore economics in favor of cultural discussions (coded race, gender, etc).

Again, I think it’s more traditional conservative intellectuals who are railing against postmodernism and postcolonialism in recent years. They end up at think tanks which put people on fox news, and what is actually going on in academia gets pretty greatly distorted. It’s the liberal intellectual class as opposed to the conservative intellectual class that gets all the blame for the problems we’re all facing.


Is this a good time to note that New York State and the City of San Francisco both recently made their community colleges tuition-free? Get in on that action, kids!


Quite honestly, it’s not just the costs of tuition (which of course, professors have little to no control over). It really is a cultural shift towards greater animosity towards liberals and intellectuals in general. The costs of tuition doesn’t help, of course. And this only means that the people going into academia are almost always people who can now afford to do so (or they put themselves in debt).

The people MOST resentful of this are those of us here, actually. Believe me, it’s cause a fair amount of heartache and grief.

As for your relatives, the good news is that an advanced degree will still be an advantage for them in the job market. They will likely find gainful employment, even if it’s not an academic job. Depending on their field, there are many options out there for them, as long as their willing to think outside the box.


Good for them. I still think that Bernie’s program was what needs to happen. The BA is the new high school diploma, if you ask me.


And anyone who graduates from a Chicago Public High School by definition is eligible to go to the city’s community colleges regardless of GPA or test scores…which aren’t free, but also aren’t very expensive at all.




Yes, the govt enabled them, but it’s still the banksters who have set up the system to strip the middle class once again. I’ve said I’m a landlord, and I run credit checks on my young applicants. They’ve often got over $100k in student debt in their 20’s, and not in Wall Street jobs. That person is never going to be able to buy a home. But guess who bought up millions of homes to rent to them, after they crashed the market and forced foreclosures?


I think this is where a lot of it comes from. It’s the resentment that you HAVE to go to college to get a decent job. And even then, it’s hard to find one that pays the bills. The US really needs to get out of that pattern and recognize the equal value of both trade schools and colleges.


I agree, and think that’s part of the problem, we’re tracking students into college who shouldn’t be there. We’ve created this system where anything but that is discriminatory, the whole “low expectations” thing, and at the same time we’ve either destroyed vocational training or turned it into organized crime (for profit schools). There was an article this week in the NYTimes about how there’s a shortage of trained car mechanics, and the mfr’s are trying to expand their own technical schools. These guys can make far more than many BA’s, yet we’ve stigmatized it.


Blaming professors for the high cost of university is probably like blaming doctors for the high cost of medical care.
I have one in college now, and one about to start. The cost of even public college is shocking. Especially compared to working wages. When my Dad was in school, he was able to pay for an engineering degree plus his living expenses by working as a water skier at Cypress Gardens during the summer, and working part time at a bowling alley during the Fall and Spring. I don’t think that would be possible now.
I do think the rising costs are related to the giant, entrenched bureaucracies that grow organically in such organizations.


You and your young ones should watch this movie together! There really is something fishy, but it’s no great mystery.


THIS. As educational & academic demographic profiles have shifted to include marginlized people, esteem for institutions and academic achievement has dropped. Just look at media profiles of college dropout success stories. It’s infuriating.

On a personal note, my doctoral program is 90% women. The instructors who are older men openly lament the lack of white male students and refuse to sit on dissertation committees or mentor female or minority students. There have been several well-respected faculty in the field who have recently and suddenly retired or become “emeritus.” Fuck 'em.


There’s more to it than aid cuts to state schools. Harvard could easily make undergrads free with it’s $35b endowment. But that would hurt their elitism, since then there’s no longer an excuse for their predominantly 1% student body.

A major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.”