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Abstract

Institutions of higher education collectively constitute a major economic concentration that ranks—by whatever measure: resources, budgets, endowments, employees, constituencies—among the major industries in the United States. The unionized academic U.S. workforce ranks sixth among organized labor. Yet, when compared to the top-tier manufacturing industries of steel or automobile or to national unions such as the UAW or the Teamsters, both the public institutions of higher education and their academic unions lack national visibility, lack influence on national debates, and, most tellingly, lack major successes in the quest for public monies. Health care, the environment, energy policies, and the current global economic crisis drive both state and national discourse. Consequently, during the last two decades public funding—local, state, federal (including publicly guaranteed student loan debt)—for public institutions of higher education has diminished to the point that many if not most institutional budgets are dominated by non-public monies (student tuition, privately raised non-tax levy funds, grants, and gifts) and by savings achieved through use of cheap academic labor. Loss of public revenues demonstrates how politically impotent our public higher education institutions and their unions have become.

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