College Professors: America’s Forgotten Underclass

By Bill Maher

 Here’s yet another reason why the price of a college education is a huge rip-off: according to an NPR story last fall (about a long-time Duquesne University adjunct professor who died destitute and practically homeless), up to 75 percent of college instructors are part-timers who make between $20,000 and $25,000 a year. That’s about $5,000 a year more than a kid working at the Barf ‘N Burger makes. It’s not that I blame the schools; after all there’s not much left over once you’ve given the football coach $6 million a year and a villa in Italy.  

Around the same time, Harvard kicked off a new fundraising campaign with an appearance by Bill Gates. They’re hoping to raise another $6.5 billion dollars, despite the fact that the school already has a $30 billion dollar endowment. That’s right, they want rich people to donate money to a school that already has more money than they have any idea what to do with.

One of the things you learn about in college, if you take an introductory econ class, is the concept of Veblen goods, named after the economist who first identified the idea of conspicuous consumption back in the 1890s. Veblen goods are things like Louis Vuitton bags and Rolex watches that are desirable precisely because they are expensive. It seems to me that college is becoming another Veblen good, with the “value” of your education is dictated by how much you paid for it, rather than the quality of the instruction.