IU Fact Check

IU, and more specifically, IUPUI, received a grant today. Wee!

Indiana University president Michael McRobbie will visit the IUPUI campus later today to announce two grants awarded to the Global Research Network Operations Center based in Indianapolis.

According to a news release, the money will enhance international network services that encourage scientists from around the globe to work together on projects. University spokesman Larry MacIntyre said the “multi-million-dollar” grants are funded by the National Science Foundation.

How wonderful. I’m sure this’ll fix everything.

Universities are like businesses, except they’re public and shielded from all the bad things about being a business. Likewise, they’re public entities and shielded from all the bad stuff about being a public entity. They live in the best of both worlds, without any of the bad. That’s a problem.

Universities, like businesses, want and have to raise money. Unfortunately, they tend do this by charging tuition, collecting donations, generating revenue AND collecting tax revenue. They’re worse than GM!

Let’s look at my educational establishment, IUPUI.

  • Annual operating budget of $1.2 billion. The city of Indianapolis operates off of a budget just under a billion. Why does a university of 30,000 require more money to operate than an entire city of nearly a million?
  • Average ’08 Freshman SAT score: 1,064. Too bad schools routinely exclude large groups of minority and “special admit” students like athletes or foreign students with English as a second language from these scores because they have the nasty habit of bringing down the average.
  • Being an “engaged” campus and all, one would expect that more than a measly 19% of undergrads would be studying abroad or taking part in service leaning. Actually, since all freshmen are required to take service learning to boost that useless stat, it’s more like 10%.
  • The average student/faculty ratio is 19:1. Too bad that includes hundreds of faculty members who do nothing but research all day (on what no one knows) and never even see or talk to undergrads.
  • Over 90% of full-time faculty have advanced degrees, like a PhD. Probably  because you won’t let but a handful of people become full-time anyway. Leaving the grunt work of real teaching to adjunct faculty, who suffer day-in and day-out, with no way to advance. Whoops!
  • Lots of great faculty! Wee! Like this guy, who I don’t believe even teaches anything. Or at least, nothing worth, you know, mentioning in his bio.
  • All that research and yet, no way to know how effective they really are at the business of educating Hoosiers. Unless you look at this chart, which I guess shows a graduation rate of what? 35%? No one bothered to put some axis labels on it. That’s over six years, too. Wonder what the iconic four-year rate looks like.
  • IU sure is cutting back. What with them looking for $59 million in cuts to make, I don’t know how they sleep at night cutting all of 5% from an entire STATE NETWORK of schools. Even if IUPUI cut 5% of it’s $1B budget, that wouldn’t be enough to cry about. I’d tell you how much IU as a system controls in its budget, but, uh, they don’t publish that and have nothing but a broken link and password-protected pages.
  • Don’t get me started on this little gem from only a few years ago: Indiana’s public colleges and universities get an “F” for affordability. What a shame coming from a state in such a need of a more highly educated public, I guess.

All of this BS makes me hoppin’ mad. And don’t give me that, “But Justin, college grads make hundreds of thousands of dollars more in a lifetime than non-college grad” bull crap. Ever think that maybe the reason some people make more money than others is because they’re more ambitious, creative and desiring of a better lifestyle? Ambitious people tend to do ambitious things and school tends to fall into that. They’re a few others that would agree. The social aspect is bunk, too. Everyone knows at a school like IUPUI, no one socializes. Heck, even their own website says a little over a thousand students live on campus. There are more homeless people living under the overpass by campus than that.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the undergraduate degree is overrated. Especially when schools keep herding hundreds of students into programs like art and journalism, which have virtually no chances of ever being remotely profitable. If each school in the nation turned out 500 journalism grads, on average, each year, how many journalism jobs do you think there are in this country? Not enough, that’s for sure. What a bunch of liars.

Colleges and universities should report accurate statistics on who graduates from their programs, with what amount of debt and what they ultimately end up doing. That way when an art history major walks in the door, they know their chances of sweeping up shit at the zoo in 4 (or 6) years are 50/50.

This incessant need to research stuff is fine, but it had better bring results. What kind of an enterprise just gets to keep throwing money at problems that no one benefits from or had a problem to begin with anyway?

People who are teaching had better be damned passionate about what they teach and happen to enjoy teaching, to boot. No more grad students teaching intro courses. No more faculty members who like to study the mating habits of African dung beetles and nothing else forced to teach basic Bio 101. Competent adults, a desire to teach. Period. And lighten up on your lectures. Everyone knows people only retain about 10-20% of what they hear. You just keep talking because it’s darn cheap to yap at a room full of glazed eyeballs all day.

Stop raising tuition rates when you’re hiding behind millions, sometimes billions, in endowment money. If your amount of savings exceeds 10% of your annual operating budget each year, you have too much saved up for a public institution. Either spend it on a building project and pay for all of it in cash (no more tax and cost-spreading bonds) or immediately lower tuition rates. You’re a public entity — you don’t get to have profits beyond 10% of your budget.

Maybe then, and only then, can we start talking about real educational success in this country.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

2 thoughts on “IU Fact Check”

  1. Check out the rate that college tuition has increased in the past twenty years, its ridiculous. I’ve often been told that if someone can’t afford college without going into massive debt, they shouldn’t attend in the first place. This seems like a sensible idea until you start looking at all the job openings. I’ve found that (at least in the Web Design industry) the vast majority of jobs require a bachelor’s degree and (sometimes) a few years work experience for consideration. Short of having an extremely good portfolio that shows you don’t need school to be cool, there isn’t much choice when it comes to deciding whether or not college is worth the financial troubles it causes.

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