What is morale like for college employees?
Historically speaking, higher education is a great place to work. In general, a role in academia provides intellectual stimulation, freedom of ideas, an emphasis on diversity and equality, work-life balance, and unparalleled job stability. Although many university employees will tell you the salaries are lower (true for many roles), the money can be VERY good for certain administrators as well as faculty positions in professions such as business, engineering, and medicine. In fact, through my many years as an employee of higher education I’ve been the beneficiary of many of the aforementioned benefits, all-the-while avoiding the dehumanizing cost-cutting strategies frequently seen in the corporate world.
Has the instability of the higher education sector changed this?
Unfortunately, higher education is quickly losing this stable reputation for many. An increasing number of professionals the field today would encourage candidates to look elsewhere for employment, particularly when it comes to certain roles that have seen a sever decrease in openings (faculty positions in the liberal arts, for example).
This instability in the sector has real implications for your child as they head off to college. College employees might be less satisfied with their current role at the local university, sometimes leading to a degradation of the overall educational experience. Generally though, most faculty members and administrators remain fiercely loyal to students and their institutions, regardless of the external factors bearing down on them.
Need more evidence that higher education is struggling?
Even before COVID-19 took its toll on colleges, there was a clear trend of struggle. Just check out these three publications from the pre-COIVD era:
- A Harvard professor says 1/2 of all colleges will be bankrupt in 10-15 years. It’s hard to have employment security when your employer might not exist in a decade.
- Read this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education written by an English professor facing her own extinction. Like I said earlier, it might not be a great time to become an English professor. To back up my theory, read this news from the Modern Languages Association.
- Investors are spooked. A reminder of the time Moody’s downgraded the sector’s outlook from stable to negative.
What’s happening to higher education?
It seems like working in the sector is more of a gamble than ever before – for both faculty and staff. In fact, the tenured faculty position – although probably secure at highly selective or well-funded universities like Harvard or University of Michigan-Ann Arbor – is becoming more precarious by the year and/or unavailable for newly minted Ph.D. graduates. This is particularly true as states continue to cut funding to the sector and more full-time employment opportunities shift to temporary work in the form of adjunct faculty positions. This whole conversation is apart from the most important one; are the majority of colleges financially sustainable without generous subsidies in the form of federal student loans? That is the 120 billion dollar question.
What are the implications for college planning?
Now more than ever, it’s important to check the financial integrity of the schools on your college list. This is important for two reasons. First, your school could literally close while you’re there if it’s not on solid financial footing. Second, even if your school survives your major field of study might not. This would, of course, be a devastating outcome. After all, just because your school continues is not a guarantee that budget cuts won’t derail your educational plans.
In an age when all U.S. public finance sector outlooks are now negative, having the right partner on the college journey is more important than ever. Schedule a free consultation with Gradmetrics today.