There’s a good higher education article in the The Atlantic this month titled “In The Basement of the Ivory Tower.” It’s written by an anonymous “Professor X,” an adjunct English instructor at both a small private college and a community college in the northeast. The gist is that many of his students are woefully unprepared for even the introductory courses he teaches. So he must fail them, exposing, in the words splashed across The Atlantic’s cover, “Higher Education’s Cruelest Hoax.” Either that or, as the article’s blurb puts it, the “destructive myth” that “a university education is for everyone.”
Adult education, nontraditional education, education for returning students–whatever you want to call it–is a substantial profit center for many colleges. Like factory owners, school administrators are delighted with this idea of mounting a second shift of learning in their classrooms, in the evenings, when the full-time students are busy with such regular extracurricular pursuits of higher education as reading Facebook and playing beer pong. If colleges could find a way to mount a third, graveyard shift, as Henry Ford’s Willow Run did at the height of the Second World War, I believe they would.”
Adjuncts like Professor X get paid squat, while his students pay the same tuition as everyone else. This generates enormous excess revenues for universities, which are used to subsidize research, graduate programs, fat administrative salaries, money-losing sports programs, etc., etc.