January 7, 2007
by Richard Schneirov
The state conference of the American Association of University Professors welcomes Gov. Mitch Daniel's lottery initiative, which promises an infusion of much-needed funds into Indiana's system of higher education. We applaud the governor for turning his attention from road building, which dominated his first two years, to higher education.
The governor's initiative involves leasing the Hoosier Lottery for 30 years in return for an upfront payment of $1 billion and yearly payments of $200 million. The latter would fund teacher, police and firefighter pensions, while the former would be earmarked in the form of two endowments to institutions of higher education. Sixty percent of the $1 billion would fund $5,000 Hoosier Hope scholarships, which would not have to be repaid if their recipients worked in Indiana for three years after they graduate. The other 40 percent would be used to attract to the state top researchers and professors. AAUP would like to make known its reservations and propose alternatives to the governor's plan.
First, creating a $600 million endowment to bring in faculty "stars" may not do much more than raise institutional prestige, and it will not do anything to raise lagging and uncompetitive faculty salaries at Indiana's public colleges and universities. To cite several examples, faculty at Ball State and Indiana State universities are last among their peer groups in salary; and there is no indication that Indiana or Purdue universities are uncompetitive in attracting quality faculty.
Paying salaries competitive with our peer institutions to attract and retain a large core of highly qualified, innovative, productive faculty at all public institutions throughout the state will do more to raise educational outcomes than paying salaries two and three times the norm to a tiny number of stars. Trying to raid other universities also raises the prospect of a bidding war in which all institutions will be the losers. And it values state prestige over quality education.
Make no mistake; uncompetitive low faculty salaries in our state -- largely due to a long-term decline in state funding and increased reliance on tuition -- do affect educational quality. National figures show that student-faculty ratios fell at private research universities from 17.3:1 to 15.7:1 between 1971 and 1997, while they have risen slightly at their public counterparts.
Even worse, public universities have shifted to part-time and full-time temporary faculty without tenure or other protections for academic freedom and without the highest attainable degree. Across the nation, 65 percent of all faculty in 2003 were off the tenure track. In Indiana, virtually no faculty at the Ivy Tech campuses have tenure and three-quarters are part-timers. Studies show that graduation rates decline and dropout rates rise when the numbers of part-time and temporary faculty rise. It is simply common sense that students gain most when they are taught by faculty who are schooled in the latest knowledge, enjoy full institutional support, and have a long-term commitment to their institution. This is where new state money should go.
The other part of the governor's plan for higher education involves scholarships based on the well-known "Hope" model originating in Georgia in 1993. These scholarships are merit-based, rather than need-based. They benefit those whose family income allows them to graduate from the best high schools and go disproportionately to middle- and upper middle-class families. In Georgia more than 90 percent of expenditures went to students who would have attended college anyway, and the program was responsible for an increase in the gap between African-American and white students in college attendance. During the same period, federal need-based Pell Grant aid has fallen woefully behind sharply rising tuition costs. Thus, the Bush administration's recent Spellings Commission Report on higher education advocated an increase in need-based aid in relation to merit-based aid, though it is doubtful the federal government will shift direction anytime soon. It would be a mistake for Indiana to follow in lockstep the misguided state policies of the early 1990s that have increased inequality.