Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 40: Professors make case for tuition increases – with “string” attached / Elite schools have little impact on graduates’ success, study finds

Two department heads at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took their case for tuition increases to cover faculty salary increases to the students last week. David Guilkey, professor and chairman of the Department of Economics, and Ed Samulski, professor and chairman of the Department of Chemistry, wrote an editorial in the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, Oct. 28 in favor of a five-year plan to raise tuition at UNC-CH by $1,500.
The plan would use the increase to raise faculty salaries at UNC-CH. The plan also relies on the legislature to pass a 3 percent increase in faculty salaries next year and 5.5 percent increases the following four years. Warning that without the large increases in faculty salaries, “quality and selectivity of UNC will decline,” Guilkey and Samulski said students should support the tuition increase because, they argued, this decline would affect the value of their degrees from UNC-CH. “You owe it to yourself,” Guilkey and Samulski wrote.

“Imagine yourself some few years from now, gainfully employed. Your resume looked good when you graduated because a degree from Carolina meant something back in the ’90s,” Guilkey and Samulski wrote. “Then Hurricane Jose followed Hurricane Irene, which followed Floyd. Most of the state’s money had to be earmarked for the disasters. The entire UNC system suffered, but Chapel Hill more than the rest because it had the most to lose. So, UNC faculty (picture your favorite professors) were easily recruited by other universities that offered them both better pay and better laboratory, teaching and research space. Top students followed the best faculty to other universities. Chapel Hill gradually dropped to the level of numerous other second-rate institutions. It ceased to be either competitive or selective.”

In this scenario, Guilkey and Samulski wrote, a graduate from UNC-CH would “look worse on paper than a person who went to South Podunk U.” Guilkey and Samulski’s article “takes slippery-slope argumentation to new heights,” commented George Leef, director of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. “The idea that Chapel Hill will plunge to the level of the mythical South Podunk U. unless the professors receive larger salary increases than are already scheduled requires a breathtaking string of non sequiturs.”

Elite schools have little impact on graduates’ success, study finds

A new study challenges the assumption that an education from an elite college translates into greater earnings than an education from a less prestigious school. The study, by Princeton University economist Alan Krueger and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation researcher Stacy Berg Dale, found no earnings differences between similar graduates (all who enrolled as freshmen in 1976) of 34 institutions, ranging from Yale University to Pennsylvania State University. The findings point to the students themselves as determining their own success. “What students bring to college matters more than what colleges bring to students,” writes Robert J. Samuelson in the Nov. 1 issue of Newsweek magazine concerning Krueger and Dale’s study.

“A shiny credential (an Ivy League degree) may impress. But after that, what people can or can’t do counts for more. Skills grow. Reputations emerge. Companies prefer the competent from Podunk to the incompetent from Princeton.” Krueger and Dale stress the importance of a student’s individual motivation in receiving a good education no matter what institution he attends. “An able student who attends a lower tier school can find able students to study with,” Krueger and Dale write.