The Middle Class Is Being Priced Out of American Universities

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The following originally appeared on OpEdNews.com.

One of the great myths of American life is that universities are bastions of liberal thinking. I worked at a university for 19 years, and I know the unfortunate truth about many campuses: They are run by boards that tend to be populated by corporate elites.

That’s why a recent report from CNNMoney, spotlighted by Mark Karlin of BuzzFlash/Truthout, grabbed my attention. It’s premise? Medium- and low-income families are in danger of being priced out of the college-education market.

I already can hear the Rush Limbaugh crowd saying, “But everybody knows universities are run by pointy-headed liberals.” The American professorate, indeed, probably leans to the political left. But anyone who has spent much time at a public university knows professors have little power on campuses. The places are run by boards of trustees and curators, filled with folks who usually come from corporate America. And they tend to hire presidents, vice presidents, provosts, and deans who think like they do–or who at least are willing to do their bidding.

Do you think these elites care about the upper mobility of the middle and lower classes? No, they do not. That is the ugly secret behind the report from CNNMoney, which states:

    What do you get when college costs skyrocket but incomes barely budge? Yet another blow to the middle class.
    “As the out-of-pocket costs of a college education go up faster than incomes, it’s pricing low and medium income families out of a college education,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of financial aid sites FinAid.org and FastWeb.com.
    The numbers confirm what most middle class families already know–college is becoming so expensive, it’s starting to hold them back.

Karlin pointed out an insightful comment from a BuzzFlash reader named Mario:

    This is really an assault on the working class. A good education is the first step towards upward social mobility. An ignorant populace (the Republican dream) is one that is easier to control and convince.
    This will leave the road open for the upper classes–and their well-educated children–to place a stranglehold on labor laws and civil liberties in America. If Republicans are successful, we had better prepare our children for the sweatshops, because that is where Wall Street is taking us back to.

Based on my experience as an editor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), I would say Mario is right on target. I’ve covered the activities of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, and I know the backgrounds of its members. They come straight from corporate America, and quite a few of them probably are millionnaires, several times over.

You can check out the backgrounds of UA board members at the link below. We invite you to click around on the Web page and see how many genuine progressives you think are in that crowd:

One of the current trustees, Paul Bryant Jr., has been connected to an insurance-fraud scheme that netted a 15-year federal prison term for a Pennsylvania man named Allen W. Stewart. Bryant recently liquidated one of his companies, Alabama Reassurance, to the tune of $238 million.

Do you think Paul Bryant Jr., the son of UA’s late Hall of Fame football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, cares about middle-class struggles? Heck, no. Do you think he gives it a second thought when the trustees vote for another sizable tuition hike? I sure don’t.

In fact, the very day I became aware of the Mark Karlin piece at BuzzFlash/Truthout, my local newspaper carried a story with this headline:

UA System Tuitions to Jump 7.9% to 8.9%

This can go beyond dollars and cents to an insidious form of thought control. I was fired at UAB in May 2008, and evidence in my ongoing First Amendment/discrimination lawsuit clearly shows that I was targeted because I write what could be called a progressive blog. Specifically, I write a blog about the misconduct of certain judges, lawyers, and politicians, and corporate elites don’t much like it when their lackeys are exposed. Some of those corporate elites sit on university boards, and that pretty much explains why I no longer work at UAB.

Don’t look for corporate universities to become friendly to progressive thought–or middle-class pocketbooks–anytime soon. Writes Mark Karlin:

    While other nations, such as India and China, are broadening educational opportunities for their citizens and developing economies and a labor force for the future, the Republican Party and global corporations based in America are attempting to move the US economy backward.
    This will result in a caste system that will create not a “free market,” but a relatively closed one. Wealth and economic well-being then become not a result of ingenuity, education and entrepreneurialism, but rather of family inheritance.
    This is also called a fossilized economy.

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