Where Higher Ed Money Comes from and Goes
It’s been a recurring theme, in the news, that Rhode Island’s public institutions of higher learning need more money, and those interested in that outcome pick careful examples. Certainly, we all want to invest in thriving campuses, but too few of us wonder where the money goes. Consider:
After two years in collective bargaining negotiations, the University of Rhode Island’s part time faculty staff have unionized and created a tentative contract that is set to be officially ratified next week. …
The new contracts will institute a gradual pay increase based on a system of three levels that increase by approximately $100 per level, capping at $3,861. This pay increase is also set to be retroactive as of this past July, meaning that part-time faculty members, will be able to receive salary increases of $350 for each course they are teaching this fall. In a letter to its members the PTFU says this salary reimbursement will bring Kingston part-time faculty members on par with wages offered at the Providence campus.
The sources for the article are as yet unable to offer a total cost of the contract; it appears that most of the affected employees teach one course per semester or so. Still, in a time of tight budgets and struggling taxpayers, on what grounds does the university offer raises? I’m sure the great majority of recipients are deserving, but the reality is that they’ve been willing to take the work at their prior pay, and nothing has changed in the equation that has left excess funds in the budget.
This letter by student Joseph Higgins raises similar questions from a very different angle:
Putting the school’s money into building a new building for the GLBT members doesn’t seem like the right choice when there are so many other things that should be built instead of this building. It’s nothing against GLBT students or their lifestyle; it’s just that they already have the Rainbow Diversity House on Fraternity Circle and Adams Hall’s first floor south wing for the GLBT center. Yes, this campus has a Women’s Center, a Multi-Cultural Center and, most recently, the Hillel Building for the Jewish faith, but to spend money on a completely new building just isn’t where our school’s money should be going. Tuition rates could be raised even higher than they already are with the new Pharmacy Building in the works, a new Chemistry Building being planned, another dorm building replacing the demolished Terrance Apartments, landscaping being done in-between Ranger Hall and Green Hall and a new fitness center that will take the spot of the Roger Williams Center.
Frankly, it ought to be hard for Rhode Islanders to believe tales of financial stress when we hear such testimony. In what other world than the public sector are folks talking about substantial raises and new buildings for narrow special-interest groups?