Friday, October 15, 2010

Signs that economy is bad, October 15, 2010 edition

Welcome to yet another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. Just a couple of items this week from my never-ending quest to find those oh-so-subtle signs that the economy is in the crapper. Sure, any pundit can tell you that unemployment is high, that business and employers are pocketing the bailout and stimulus money rather than using it to hire people (so, still believe giving them tax breaks gives incentives to hire?), foreclosures are still going on, so on. It takes a bit more effort to find the little hints. This week we seem to have a focus on higher education, where the pinch is also being felt. It seems society overall is not too keen on the notion of investing in students now to get some fruits later. The cost cuts are often short term measures, and college keeps getting more unaffordable. But hey, we can always import workers from Asia to work for Microsoft and let our young people join the service economy; they don't need degrees for that, do they?

The signs for this week:

  • Colleges begin to outsource their operations to private companies. Arizona State U. has decided to outsource a lot of their distance education to some for-profit education company. Sure, the administrators say it is cheaper to do so, but one always has to ask at what price for the quality. And the question I would really have to ask: how long before a corporation, this one or some other, just takes over a whole university? 
  • This university in New York is just flat out giving up on foreign language programs. According to the Washington Post article, "the State University of New York at Albany has generated a stir in the higher education industry with its announcement this month that nearly all of its foreign language offerings will be discontinued, along with the theater department, because of budget cuts." You read that right: no more foreign language education in that school. Oh wait, Chinese instruction got spared. However, there is a reason for that: the Chinese government gives the school a subsidy for instruction in Chinese. I am thinking this may be a line of fundraising for schools wanting to keep their foreign language programs: just get governments of nations to fund teaching of their languages in American schools. Why the hell should Americans have to pay for teachers and resources to learn something other than English? Those governments want Americans to travel there for tourism, business, etc., let them pony up for the language teaching. (And  yes, I am saying that with a sarcastic tone, in case someone wanders in and thinks I am pulling a "poe.") 

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