Author Topic: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan  (Read 14478 times)

clarkevii

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Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« on: November 26, 2014, 03:17:47 PM »

Metta

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2014, 04:13:29 PM »
In general I think it is bad form to mock people who are doing the best they can, are living frugally, but are badly paid in an industry that exploits their labor and doesn't provide benefits. To mock them for this seems heartless. Perhaps you meant to post this in the more serious areas of the site and didn't mean it as a slam on adjuncts for, well, being adjuncts? Have I misunderstood your intent?

clarkevii

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2014, 04:24:27 PM »
Not meant to mock those going through this but to slam higher education exploiters
« Last Edit: November 26, 2014, 04:25:59 PM by clarkevii »

Metta

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2014, 04:38:47 PM »
Not meant to mock those going through this but to slam higher education exploiters

Ah, well we are of the same mind, then. I think the adjunctification of higher education is a slow-moving disaster in the making and particularly cruel to those caught within it. Having seen it up close (but without being part of it) I am glad that I ended up in the corporate world instead of struggling to make ends meet in academia.

clarkevii

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2014, 10:14:30 PM »
Not meant to mock those going through this but to slam higher education exploiters

Ah, well we are of the same mind, then. I think the adjunctification of higher education is a slow-moving disaster in the making and particularly cruel to those caught within it. Having seen it up close (but without being part of it) I am glad that I ended up in the corporate world instead of struggling to make ends meet in academia.

I know what you mean. I went through a similar path through academia.

Silverado

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2014, 04:59:04 AM »
In general I think it is bad form to mock people who are doing the best they can, are living frugally, but are badly paid in an industry that exploits their labor and doesn't provide benefits. To mock them for this seems heartless. Perhaps you meant to post this in the more serious areas of the site and didn't mean it as a slam on adjuncts for, well, being adjuncts? Have I misunderstood your intent?

I think I'd have to see some budget numbers before deciding. Sure the wage is low, sure the benefits are sparse. What are the hours? Ten hours of teaching, six days a week? (Yes I know there is a bunch of time overhead associated with teaching). Show some strapped budget numbers and fully committed time and I'll feel sympathy. Show me a car loan, gourmet coffee cups and weekends with feet up, and I'll laugh and mock.

The main lady has grown kids. So how many roomates does she have? I wasn't rolling in the dough as a new 2LT for Uncle Sam in the early 90's. I had two roomies and was able to save several hundred bucks a month. I had no retirement plan at work, since I didn't plan to put in 20. But the IRS claimed I did, so bye bye tIRA deduction.  Tough luck.

Choices are made. If you decide to pursue an academic career, your decision should include a risk analysis. Oh, and a BS degree based on other threads.(kidding, kidding)

Why wouldn't we mock these people? We mock everyone in this sub forum.

Gee, Happy Tgiving. Clearly I am in a sour mood this morning. Going to go more threads to rant on now.

frugalecon

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2014, 06:51:12 AM »
I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but why did these people choose to stay on such a poorly compensated career path? If they did it out of love for their discipline and teaching, well, that just means that they received part of their compensation in non-pecuniary benefits. As long as people accept employment on these terms, universities will continue with the adjunct system. I taught a couple of adjunct classes as a side hustle, primarily because I enjoy teaching. The money was not great, and many of the people in the program were teaching because they wanted a quasi-academic affiliation as a credential for use in their other professional walks of life.That is a more realistic approach to these jobs.

slugline

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2014, 07:15:36 AM »
Adjunct teaching sounds like post-career work better suited for someone who's already FI and wants to share their knowledge with others, doesn't it?

Constance Noring

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2014, 08:57:28 AM »
Adjunct teaching sounds like post-career work better suited for someone who's already FI and wants to share their knowledge with others, doesn't it?

It should be, and that's what it was fifty years ago. But colleges and universities are run much more like corporate businesses these days, and like so many other businesses, it has been deemed more cost-effective to hire part-timers rather than full.

mm1970

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2014, 09:05:14 AM »
I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but why did these people choose to stay on such a poorly compensated career path? If they did it out of love for their discipline and teaching, well, that just means that they received part of their compensation in non-pecuniary benefits. As long as people accept employment on these terms, universities will continue with the adjunct system. I taught a couple of adjunct classes as a side hustle, primarily because I enjoy teaching. The money was not great, and many of the people in the program were teaching because they wanted a quasi-academic affiliation as a credential for use in their other professional walks of life.That is a more realistic approach to these jobs.
But what happens when there are more people who need jobs than jobs that are compensated reasonably?  I here the "if people weren't willing to take the jobs", but the fact of the matter is - we have a dearth of decently paid jobs with benefits.  People take them because they need a job.

iris lily

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2014, 09:27:04 AM »
One of my favorite chestnuts to mock is the idea that "you can get a master's degree and then you can teach at a community college!"

Oh sure you can, theoretically, but those jobs are adjunct but for the rare ones that are full time. And those full time ones aren't for newly minted MA's and MS's. And the competition for all, even the lowly paid adjunct jobs, is huge in the liberal arts disciplines and possibly for others.

Yet there they are, those old tenured professors from days gone by, urging History majors on to get an MA.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2014, 09:28:54 AM by iris lily »

RoostKing

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2014, 11:46:29 AM »
This is along the lines of the college age kids getting a masters degree in far eastern history, year 4900 bc - 4500 bc. Great! Good for you, you are truly a master of your field of study! You basically took your hobby and spent $100,000 or more to learn everything about it, so suck it up buttercup, time to get a real education, in life..

frugalecon

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2014, 12:04:46 PM »
I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but why did these people choose to stay on such a poorly compensated career path? If they did it out of love for their discipline and teaching, well, that just means that they received part of their compensation in non-pecuniary benefits. As long as people accept employment on these terms, universities will continue with the adjunct system.
But what happens when there are more people who need jobs than jobs that are compensated reasonably?  I here the "if people weren't willing to take the jobs", but the fact of the matter is - we have a dearth of decently paid jobs with benefits.  People take them because they need a job.

But do they need to stay in that particular job? I have known some of these folks. A couple were flexible and abandoned the academic track after they realized that the tenured professor thing wasn't going to happen for them, and they would end up as permanent adjuncts with low pay and no status. Some others were less flexible, mainly because they really, really wanted to have that professor title, any way they could. If you unilaterally take all of your outside options off of the table, you aren't going to end up with a great deal.

I think that a lot of people go to grad school without a clear idea of how the academic labor market really works, especially in the humanities. I would support a requirement that graduate programs should be more honest about placement up front. Of course, the whole edifice may crumble soon as MOOCs continue to develop.


frugalecon

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2014, 12:08:25 PM »
This is along the lines of the college age kids getting a masters degree in far eastern history, year 4900 bc - 4500 bc. Great! Good for you, you are truly a master of your field of study! You basically took your hobby and spent $100,000 or more to learn everything about it, so suck it up buttercup, time to get a real education, in life..

Not to mention the opportunity cost of spending maybe 8 of your most productive years in low-paid subservience to your dissertation committee. I come close to believing that the only people who should be students in these programs are people who are already FIREd.

MrsPete

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2014, 01:48:28 PM »
I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but why did these people choose to stay on such a poorly compensated career path? If they did it out of love for their discipline and teaching, well, that just means that they received part of their compensation in non-pecuniary benefits. As long as people accept employment on these terms, universities will continue with the adjunct system. I taught a couple of adjunct classes as a side hustle, primarily because I enjoy teaching. The money was not great, and many of the people in the program were teaching because they wanted a quasi-academic affiliation as a credential for use in their other professional walks of life.That is a more realistic approach to these jobs.
Yeah, I also don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but at some point in all those years of teaching PART TIME she might've said, "Hey, you know, this thing just isn't working out."  Thing is, she could've kept that job, which she seems to enjoy AND have done something else too. 

One small line in the article commented that her salary was similar to that of K-12 teachers.  Um, I'm a K-12 teacher, and I've managed to save.  Maybe not as much as a person with a different career path, but I'm solidly financially secure -- I'm certainly not considering suicide because I can't pay my bills. 

No, what I see here is a woman who made poor choices and then wasn't willing to make changes, changes that would've been in her best interest.

frugalecon

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2014, 02:38:39 PM »
I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but why did these people choose to stay on such a poorly compensated career path? If they did it out of love for their discipline and teaching, well, that just means that they received part of their compensation in non-pecuniary benefits. As long as people accept employment on these terms, universities will continue with the adjunct system. I taught a couple of adjunct classes as a side hustle, primarily because I enjoy teaching. The money was not great, and many of the people in the program were teaching because they wanted a quasi-academic affiliation as a credential for use in their other professional walks of life.That is a more realistic approach to these jobs.
Yeah, I also don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but at some point in all those years of teaching PART TIME she might've said, "Hey, you know, this thing just isn't working out."  Thing is, she could've kept that job, which she seems to enjoy AND have done something else too. 

One small line in the article commented that her salary was similar to that of K-12 teachers.  Um, I'm a K-12 teacher, and I've managed to save.  Maybe not as much as a person with a different career path, but I'm solidly financially secure -- I'm certainly not considering suicide because I can't pay my bills. 

No, what I see here is a woman who made poor choices and then wasn't willing to make changes, changes that would've been in her best interest.

The salary may be similar to a K-12 teacher, but no benefits.

SwordGuy

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #16 on: November 27, 2014, 05:53:09 PM »
40K per year is over two thirds of the median family income.   The median family income is higher because many families have two incomes.   

My wife and I managed not to get into debt (other than a very, very low car payment when our car died) despite paying child support on a family income that was 1/3 the median family income at the time.   We had to watch our money very carefully but we still had a lot of fun.

Life is about choices.  Choices have consequences.  Bad choices usually have bad consequences.   It's a lesson that needs to be hammered home in our society today.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2014, 09:31:14 PM by SwordGuy »

Metta

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #17 on: November 27, 2014, 06:27:13 PM »
40K per year is over two thirds of the median family income.   The median family income is higher because many families have two incomes.   

My wive and I managed not to get into debt (other than a very, very low car payment when our car died) despite paying child support on a family income that was 1/3 the median family income at the time.   We had to watch our money very carefully but we still had a lot of fun.

Life is about choices.  Choices have consequences.  Bad choices usually have bad consequences.   It's a lesson that needs to be hammered home in our society today.

I note that many people have focused on the $40K a year. My understanding is that nationally adjuncts earn $20K to $25K a year. Out of that they are responsible for their own retirement and their own health care (unless they have a spouse with benefits) and their positions unstable and must be renewed every semester.

By the time someone has gotten their Ph.D they're probably in their early 30s (average age is 32.5). So they begin adjunct teaching and trying to get a full time job as an assistant professor or an instructor. If they've gone through school without working outside academia it means that to get a job outside it, they have to begin at the beginning and perhaps earn less than they can by adding additional adjunct opportunities. There is a "one more year" mentality that I've seen that traps people. So lets say they give it 3 years. Then they are 35 and faced with finding a new profession. It's not an easy road.

It is a bad system. Choices do have consequences but that should not be a get out of jail free card for institutions who set up systems that are harmful. The idea that universities can choose not to pay FICA for people they employ (thus harming them) without providing any real benefits, is a true problem and not one that can be hand-waved away.

Here's a radical suggestion: Get rid of tenure, pay everyone a fair wage with health care provided, and reduce administrative overhead. Operate like most of the rest of the economy instead of like a medieval redoubt in the modern world.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2014, 06:25:20 PM by Metta »

sleepyguy

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #18 on: November 27, 2014, 06:55:33 PM »
Man I was so confused what an Adjunct is... never heard of that term until reading this thread.  I'm just BAFFLED that people with SO MUCH EDUCATION can be so clueless about basic math/finances!  You've been doing it for YEARS and YEARS... yet you continue down the same path "hoping" it's going to change... it's just sad imho.

25-30k/yr... that is just unreal to be teaching on that wage endlessly for years and years.  It's harsh but these peeps just haven't woke up and smelled the coffee.

justajane

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #19 on: November 27, 2014, 06:58:02 PM »
I could have become one of those poorly paid adjuncts after I got my Ph.D. in history, but thus far, I have refused to teach for such a small amount of money. Some community colleges in my area pay as low as $2,500 for a course. I can sit in my jammies at home and edit freelance for more money than that. Plus I refuse to support an exploitative system.

I regret getting my Ph.D. Full stop. Halfway through my academic journey, I am lucky that I married someone who made a decent amount. This enabled me to get real insurance and eventually to become a stay at home parent. I also went to graduate school for free and had a better than average stipend in a low cost of living city. I lived pretty well in my twenties on that stipend and even was able to travel to Europe quite a few times and do research on two continents. 

But I think of all that time when I could have been earning more money and establishing myself in an actual career. The writing was on the wall for me the year after I finished my comp exams and started my dissertation. I was freaking miserable. You'd think that would have clued me in that this wasn't the right path for me. But my identity was wrapped up in the idea of being a professor, and I did not have a concrete sense of the market. I mean I did, but professors do mislead you about this. I sincerely thought that the cream rises to the top, and of course I was the cream!

If I could go back, I would have gotten a nursing degree. I loved learning and still do, but I was under the false impression that I was well suited to make learning my actual career. It turns out that I hate to be the center of attention (shouldn't I have already known that at 21 years old? Sigh), and professors are very much performers in the classroom.

The good thing about life, though, is that you can reinvent yourself, multiple times if you want. At least, as an educated middle class person I am able to do this. I am not bitter about my decision to sink 10 years of my life into a Ph.D. that I don't use now. I regret it, but I have decided to move forward and choose a new career in about 4 years when my youngest kid starts school. I'll be 40 years old, but oh well. I have many ideas about who I will become professionally, but I remain open to whatever is best for me and my family at the time.

For this reason, I don't have that much sympathy for this woman. You don't have to teach adjunct. She is presumably a smart, well spoken individual who could have harnessed her strengths to venture into a new field. But unfortunately academia is a little bit like a cult that sucks you in. You end your program thinking that choosing anything else is "selling out." Recently I edited a book for a professor in my old department. We met for coffee, and even four years after I had left academia, she was still trying to convince me to revise my dissertation (for free, no money in this work) and turn it into an academic book. Um, no.

frugalecon

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #20 on: November 27, 2014, 07:43:33 PM »
I could have become one of those poorly paid adjuncts after I got my Ph.D. in history, but thus far, I have refused to teach for such a small amount of money. Some community colleges in my area pay as low as $2,500 for a course. I can sit in my jammies at home and edit freelance for more money than that. Plus I refuse to support an exploitative system.

I regret getting my Ph.D. Full stop. Halfway through my academic journey, I am lucky that I married someone who made a decent amount. This enabled me to get real insurance and eventually to become a stay at home parent. I also went to graduate school for free and had a better than average stipend in a low cost of living city. I lived pretty well in my twenties on that stipend and even was able to travel to Europe quite a few times and do research on two continents. 

But I think of all that time when I could have been earning more money and establishing myself in an actual career. The writing was on the wall for me the year after I finished my comp exams and started my dissertation. I was freaking miserable. You'd think that would have clued me in that this wasn't the right path for me. But my identity was wrapped up in the idea of being a professor, and I did not have a concrete sense of the market. I mean I did, but professors do mislead you about this. I sincerely thought that the cream rises to the top, and of course I was the cream!

If I could go back, I would have gotten a nursing degree. I loved learning and still do, but I was under the false impression that I was well suited to make learning my actual career. It turns out that I hate to be the center of attention (shouldn't I have already known that at 21 years old? Sigh), and professors are very much performers in the classroom.

The good thing about life, though, is that you can reinvent yourself, multiple times if you want. At least, as an educated middle class person I am able to do this. I am not bitter about my decision to sink 10 years of my life into a Ph.D. that I don't use now. I regret it, but I have decided to move forward and choose a new career in about 4 years when my youngest kid starts school. I'll be 40 years old, but oh well. I have many ideas about who I will become professionally, but I remain open to whatever is best for me and my family at the time.

For this reason, I don't have that much sympathy for this woman. You don't have to teach adjunct. She is presumably a smart, well spoken individual who could have harnessed her strengths to venture into a new field. But unfortunately academia is a little bit like a cult that sucks you in. You end your program thinking that choosing anything else is "selling out." Recently I edited a book for a professor in my old department. We met for coffee, and even four years after I had left academia, she was still trying to convince me to revise my dissertation (for free, no money in this work) and turn it into an academic book. Um, no.

This should be published in the Chronicle of Higher Education!

MoneyCat

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #21 on: November 27, 2014, 07:59:08 PM »
After I received my BA in English (yes, I know all the jokes), I considered getting my Master's and PhD, because I was interested in becoming a college professor.  However, when I spoke with my professors about it at my university, they very quickly dissuaded me for the reasons explained in that article.  We do not value the humanities in the modern world.  Things like writing and literature have no value beyond being able to read and write technical manuals.  It's just the way things are these days and they probably aren't going to ever change back.  So, my option then became either become an adjunct and make $1500 per course or become a high school teacher and make enough money so that I wouldn't go hungry or I could have a roof over my head.  Easy decision at that point.

If I could do it all over, I would get a scientific degree or a business degree.  I don't really care about those things very much but the money is much better.

lhamo

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #22 on: November 27, 2014, 09:41:53 PM »
I think that a lot of people go to grad school without a clear idea of how the academic labor market really works, especially in the humanities. I would support a requirement that graduate programs should be more honest about placement up front. Of course, the whole edifice may crumble soon as MOOCs continue to develop.

If anyone here knows anyone contemplating graduate school in the social sciences or humanities in particular, PLEASE force them to go read the archives at www.theprofessorisin.com, as well as the career sections of the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education before they even apply.  This "crisis" in higher education employment has been an issue since at least the early '90s, when I started grad school.  I wasn't aware of it when I started, but sure was by about mid-way into my graduate studies when I saw how few of my very bright, very accomplished, very dedicated older cohort classmates were actually making to the tenure track. 

I feel badly for Ms. Scott, but to be honest, it doesn't look like she has made earning a living/saving for retirement a priority.  She founded her own non-profit, and I'm guessing at least some of her money (maybe part of her divorce settlement?) went into that.  https://hiddenriverarts.wordpress.com/  She also runs side businesses in editing, writing, communications, etc.  Probably not very successfully.  It is a shame really.  There is a market for people who want to help people get out of adjunct purgatory -- Karen Kelsky makes a 6 figure income at it, and has hired several people to help her.  I understand the love for the life of the mind, and still have days where I wonder "what if I had made a different choice?"  But geez, how long do you keep hanging on to a "career" that isn't working for you, especially if you are smart and talented? 

Artemis67

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #23 on: November 28, 2014, 02:10:44 AM »
But do they need to stay in that particular job? I have known some of these folks. A couple were flexible and abandoned the academic track after they realized that the tenured professor thing wasn't going to happen for them, and they would end up as permanent adjuncts with low pay and no status.
I know people like this, too. The ones who bailed out once they realized they weren't going to get tenure-track employment are generally doing okay for themselves. One works in city government (urban planning), one for the state (environmental affairs), one is now teaching English at a prep school (and loves it), and one works for a textbook publisher. They all miss academia, but not the adjunct pay.

I didn't even make it all the way to adjunct status--I dropped out of a history PhD program after my second academic quarter. I already knew going in that tenure-track jobs were drying up, but after sitting in a convention center lounge watching all the job-seekers at the AHA conference, and seeing how damned many of them there were, all the dire warnings finally clicked. And I admit to having once been arrogant enough to think, "Well, I'm going to be an exception!" After a great deal of thought, I decided that the PhD wasn't worth going for (and an MA would have been useless to me). So I packed up my kit bag of research, writing, and editing skills, went freelance, and have been doing it (plus side gigs) ever since.

The ones I know who ignored the writing on the wall and are still in it as perma-adjuncts seem to persist for various reasons. Mostly, it seems to be an identity they can't let go of. They're really invested in the idea of themselves as professors and academics, so to leave academia and go do something else would mean losing a big part of their identity. Also, they've got PhDs, which drastically overqualifies them for most employment, while at the same time they have no significant work experience outside of academia that would make the transition to corporate or public sector jobs easier.

In other words, there's a lot of inertia that keeps them stuck as ill-paid adjuncts. And given the risks involved in trying to break it and move in a new direction, versus accepting a new contract to keep doing what they know while keeping a toehold in academia, I'm not surprised they keep choosing the latter.

 Some others were less flexible, mainly because they really, really wanted to have that professor title, any way they could. If you unilaterally take all of your outside options off of the table, you aren't going to end up with a great deal.

I think that a lot of people go to grad school without a clear idea of how the academic labor market really works, especially in the humanities. I would support a requirement that graduate programs should be more honest about placement up front. Of course, the whole edifice may crumble soon as MOOCs continue to develop.
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justajane

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #24 on: November 28, 2014, 06:47:51 AM »
After I received my BA in English (yes, I know all the jokes), I considered getting my Master's and PhD, because I was interested in becoming a college professor.  However, when I spoke with my professors about it at my university, they very quickly dissuaded me for the reasons explained in that article.  We do not value the humanities in the modern world.  Things like writing and literature have no value beyond being able to read and write technical manuals.  It's just the way things are these days and they probably aren't going to ever change back.  So, my option then became either become an adjunct and make $1500 per course or become a high school teacher and make enough money so that I wouldn't go hungry or I could have a roof over my head.  Easy decision at that point.

If I could do it all over, I would get a scientific degree or a business degree.  I don't really care about those things very much but the money is much better.

I know I am in the minority on the MMM forum, but I personally think there is value in a humanities B.A. My husband works for a major financial institution and makes close to $100k. His major in college? Film Studies. And I don't think this is just one-off anecdote either. I find it highly unlikely that all of his peers at this big company majored in business. I asked him just now, and he has absolutely no idea what they majored in. Essentially it doesn't matter what they majored in. They don't need a business degree to do his job. Plenty of successful people leave the ivory tower at 21 or 22 with a degree in history, English, or something equally "useless" and make their way and find a career that works for them.  Then they have behind them four years of studying something they actually enjoyed. Plus they learned how to think, read, and write, things that the humanities do very well. You shouldn't take out more than $20K in loans for a "useless" degree, but otherwise?

It's very possible my husband's trajectory doesn't exist anymore, though. Those of you who are younger can correct me, but in the 90s, he spent a few years waiting tables then got a job with a temp agency. They placed him in this company where he worked contract for about four years. In those four years he proved his intelligence and worth, and they hired him on as a salaried employee with benefits. His intelligence and hard work enabled him to work his way up to his present position.

Of course this doesn't work for engineering, IT, medicine, etc., but business? You can most definitely spend four years reading novels if you want to. I'm guessing to enter high management you have to have an MBA, but you can pursue this later even with a history B.A.

Having said all this, I wouldn't recommend getting a graduate degree in them for the purpose of becoming an academic, unless you can get into one of the top tiered graduate schools and have a strong suspicion that you are really a "super star". Plus you have to be willing to exist in post-doc purgatory for a while. You also cannot adjunct for very long. It is extremely difficult to get out of that system and find a tenure track job once you are in it for very long. You can emerge from all this into the non-academic world, but you are much older than the English degree who decided to enter business and have no work history. The lack of resume bullet points is much  more palatable on a resume of a 22 year old than a 35 year old. I've heard the best place to pursue employment with a Ph.D. is in government. They value that degree in ways that the business world doesn't.

SwordGuy

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #25 on: November 28, 2014, 07:27:11 AM »
The salary may be similar to a K-12 teacher, but no benefits.

Duh.  Become a K-12 teacher.   Good decision.  Good consequences.

Stay on failing career path.  Bad decision.  Bad consequences.

Some situations are really hard.

This one isn't.

James

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #26 on: November 28, 2014, 07:39:02 AM »
Here's radical suggestion: Get rid of tenure, pay everyone a fair wage with health care provided, and reduce administrative overhead. Operate like most of the rest of the economy instead of like a medieval redoubt in the modern world.


Bingo.


Time for a big overhaul of higher education.

MoneyCat

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #27 on: November 28, 2014, 09:00:37 AM »
After I received my BA in English (yes, I know all the jokes), I considered getting my Master's and PhD, because I was interested in becoming a college professor.  However, when I spoke with my professors about it at my university, they very quickly dissuaded me for the reasons explained in that article.  We do not value the humanities in the modern world.  Things like writing and literature have no value beyond being able to read and write technical manuals.  It's just the way things are these days and they probably aren't going to ever change back.  So, my option then became either become an adjunct and make $1500 per course or become a high school teacher and make enough money so that I wouldn't go hungry or I could have a roof over my head.  Easy decision at that point.

If I could do it all over, I would get a scientific degree or a business degree.  I don't really care about those things very much but the money is much better.

I know I am in the minority on the MMM forum, but I personally think there is value in a humanities B.A. My husband works for a major financial institution and makes close to $100k. His major in college? Film Studies. And I don't think this is just one-off anecdote either. I find it highly unlikely that all of his peers at this big company majored in business. I asked him just now, and he has absolutely no idea what they majored in. Essentially it doesn't matter what they majored in. They don't need a business degree to do his job. Plenty of successful people leave the ivory tower at 21 or 22 with a degree in history, English, or something equally "useless" and make their way and find a career that works for them.  Then they have behind them four years of studying something they actually enjoyed. Plus they learned how to think, read, and write, things that the humanities do very well. You shouldn't take out more than $20K in loans for a "useless" degree, but otherwise?

It's very possible my husband's trajectory doesn't exist anymore, though. Those of you who are younger can correct me, but in the 90s, he spent a few years waiting tables then got a job with a temp agency. They placed him in this company where he worked contract for about four years. In those four years he proved his intelligence and worth, and they hired him on as a salaried employee with benefits. His intelligence and hard work enabled him to work his way up to his present position.

Of course this doesn't work for engineering, IT, medicine, etc., but business? You can most definitely spend four years reading novels if you want to. I'm guessing to enter high management you have to have an MBA, but you can pursue this later even with a history B.A.

Having said all this, I wouldn't recommend getting a graduate degree in them for the purpose of becoming an academic, unless you can get into one of the top tiered graduate schools and have a strong suspicion that you are really a "super star". Plus you have to be willing to exist in post-doc purgatory for a while. You also cannot adjunct for very long. It is extremely difficult to get out of that system and find a tenure track job once you are in it for very long. You can emerge from all this into the non-academic world, but you are much older than the English degree who decided to enter business and have no work history. The lack of resume bullet points is much  more palatable on a resume of a 22 year old than a 35 year old. I've heard the best place to pursue employment with a Ph.D. is in government. They value that degree in ways that the business world doesn't.

Back in the old days, not as many people had college degrees, so a college degree of any kind was a foot in the door for many professions.  My father was the first person in his family to get a college degree and he a BA in Liberal Arts.  He then went on to get a government job in public relations for the DMV.  Today, things are much different.  Pretty much everybody has a college degree, so now it's more important to get specific technical training from that degree if you want to get a job that doesn't involve waiting tables, making coffee, or running a cash register.  The world has changed and young people have to change with it.  If the Arts die, then they die.  The most important thing is being able to pay the bills and put money away for the future.

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #28 on: November 28, 2014, 09:41:22 AM »
I feel sad for them but it's hard to muster much sympathy. I went into hoc for a History BA that was useless except for proof I went to a University.  The only person interested in having me as an employee in that field was me.  I dropped any notion of it as a career field like a live grenade and never looked back. 

What I don't understand is why these universities don't employ these adjunct professors as their bureaucrats. My university was and is filled with a bloated, entitled bureaucracy.  Filling those spots with adjunct professor's would probably produce about the same amount of work with the same amount of entitlement for less money yet pay decent wages. 

 (FOAM) And finally there is my Humanities rant (start foam).  There's a smug school of thought, well represented on this board, that college is only good for mass producing engineers, computer scientists, and other "useful" professions.  I can sympathize with this up to a point and understand why people board this stupid train because of escalating tuition costs.  But Humanities are far more important.  To sum up: Humanities teach how to be human.  You study history, culture, literature, philosophy, and the arts so you can take the considered view of all of the wise man and women of the past to imitate their successes for your own life or pave your own way through said life.  Engineering, computer science, etc. enable you to make more money so you can eat more and crap more until you die.  If that's all you're going to do with your life, why bother?  The Third World ditchdigger who eats less, craps less, and dies young might actually be doing better.  That guy gets to Heaven or sweet oblivion in 66% of the time and 25% of resources used.  Now I'm not saying that engineering and computer science are bad. A ridiculous amount of my life and  joy derives directly from their efforts.  And I wouldn't be on this board if money wasn't important.  But there is a balance that should be struck.  Reorienting colleges and universities to just pumping out dull technocrats is just as bad as a system that only pumps out liberal arts majors. 


MoneyCat

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #29 on: November 28, 2014, 09:48:35 AM »
(FOAM) And finally there is my Humanities rant (start foam).  There's a smug school of thought, well represented on this board, that college is only good for mass producing engineers, computer scientists, and other "useful" professions.  I can sympathize with this up to a point and understand why people board this stupid train because of escalating tuition costs.  But Humanities are far more important.  To sum up: Humanities teach how to be human.  You study history, culture, literature, philosophy, and the arts so you can take the considered view of all of the wise man and women of the past to imitate their successes for your own life or pave your own way through said life.  Engineering, computer science, etc. enable you to make more money so you can eat more and crap more until you die.  If that's all you're going to do with your life, why bother?  The Third World ditchdigger who eats less, craps less, and dies young might actually be doing better.  That guy gets to Heaven or sweet oblivion in 66% of the time and 25% of resources used.  Now I'm not saying that engineering and computer science are bad. A ridiculous amount of my life and  joy derives directly from their efforts.  And I wouldn't be on this board if money wasn't important.  But there is a balance that should be struck.  Reorienting colleges and universities to just pumping out dull technocrats is just as bad as a system that only pumps out liberal arts majors.

I understand what you are saying, but you gotta eat and degrees in Philosophy and Art History aren't going to help you do that.  Let's face facts: Most Art is now free on the web and thus has very little economic value.  The humanities are for people who are already financially independent and can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars for something that isn't going to put money in the bank account.  The reality for most people is that they need to pay rent, buy food and clothes, pay for heat and water and electricity, etc.  People need to stop trying to make a living at something that is meant to be a hobby that you do on nights and weekends.  I have a degree in the humanities, so I understand how little value it is when you are trying to survive.  I wish things were different, but they aren't.  In the meanwhile, culture can still easily be gained through the use of the public library.

Inkedup

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #30 on: November 28, 2014, 09:59:52 AM »
I can understand both sides. I have degrees in "humanities" fields and never made a quantifiable wage from them, barring the fact that I can compose grammatically correct emails to my bosses at work. Yet I understand the reality, that other fields pay a lot better. However, not everyone CAN major in STEM. Each of us brings a unique blend of strengths and weaknesses to the table, and it mystifies me that our culture upholds "diversity" but then refuses to assign any monetary value to a wide swath of academic disciplines. 
« Last Edit: November 28, 2014, 10:09:18 AM by Inkedup »

Inkedup

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #31 on: November 28, 2014, 10:01:21 AM »

And then there are articles like this one: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101176249

We want employees to write, but won't invest in, or place any value on, teaching writing. Sad.

Sayyadina

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #32 on: November 28, 2014, 11:52:19 AM »
But Humanities are far more important.  To sum up: Humanities teach how to be human.  You study history, culture, literature, philosophy, and the arts so you can take the considered view of all of the wise man and women of the past to imitate their successes for your own life or pave your own way through said life.  Engineering, computer science, etc. enable you to make more money so you can eat more and crap more until you die.

Code: [Select]
I am computer programmer;
I am robot;
How can I be human?
Code has not taught me how to love;

Does not compute;
Does not compute;
Does not compute;

ehqa353y1365

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #33 on: November 28, 2014, 10:52:09 PM »
But Humanities are far more important.  To sum up: Humanities teach how to be human.  You study history, culture, literature, philosophy, and the arts so you can take the considered view of all of the wise man and women of the past to imitate their successes for your own life or pave your own way through said life.  Engineering, computer science, etc. enable you to make more money so you can eat more and crap more until you die.

absurd

frugalecon

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #34 on: November 29, 2014, 04:16:38 AM »
But Humanities are far more important.  To sum up: Humanities teach how to be human.  You study history, culture, literature, philosophy, and the arts so you can take the considered view of all of the wise man and women of the past to imitate their successes for your own life or pave your own way through said life.  Engineering, computer science, etc. enable you to make more money so you can eat more and crap more until you die.

absurd

I do not think it is "absurd" to study humanities...it does seem valuable to learn how to read critically, write coherently, and develop an appreciation for our human civilization. Indeed, that is one of the reasons that universities typically have breadth requirements in their curricula. (Another reason is that individual departments want to increase demand for their teaching services...but I digress.) But it seems like it is possible to do that without getting a PhD in comparative literature! I think the issue is that universities are able to meet the demand for these courses with relatively few permanent faculty, so job prospects are bad for those PhDs who do not have credible outside options. The moral of the story is simply that, before embarking on a training program, it is wise to do some research on job prospects.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2014, 09:36:19 AM by frugalecon »

justajane

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #35 on: November 29, 2014, 09:33:57 AM »
But Humanities are far more important.  To sum up: Humanities teach how to be human.  You study history, culture, literature, philosophy, and the arts so you can take the considered view of all of the wise man and women of the past to imitate their successes for your own life or pave your own way through said life.  Engineering, computer science, etc. enable you to make more money so you can eat more and crap more until you die.

absurd

I do not think it is "absurd" to study humanities...it does seem valuable to learn how to read critically, write coherently, and develop an appreciation for our human civilization. Indeed, that is one of the reasons that universities typically have breath requirements in their curricula. (Another reason is that individual departments want to increase demand for their teaching services...but I digress.) But it seems like it is possible to do that without getting a PhD in comparative literature! I think the issue is that universities are able to meet the demand for these courses with relatively few permanent faculty, so job prospects are bad for those PhDs who do not have credible outside options. The moral of the story is simply that, before embarking on a training program, it is wise to do some research on job prospects.

Agreed.

In my opinion, Ph.D. in the humanities: bad idea except for a select few. B.A. in humanities: acceptable for self-starters and ambitious folks who know how to parlay that degree into a decent job or a terminal degree in a more marketable field.

MrsPete

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #36 on: November 30, 2014, 08:45:17 AM »
The salary may be similar to a K-12 teacher, but no benefits.
Ah, I wasn't thinking about that.  Still, I'm under the impression that an adjunct professor works fewer hours than a K-12 teacher, meaning that she'd have time to do something else in addition to "professoring". 
Pretty much everybody has a college degree, so now it's more important to get specific technical training from that degree if you want to get a job that doesn't involve waiting tables, making coffee, or running a cash register.  The world has changed and young people have to change with it. 
Not really.  Nationwide, about 25% of all adults over 25 have a Bachelor's degree (or more).  Ironically, about 30% claim they do.  We have a speaker who comes in to talk to our high school seniors every year, and she discusses what type of jobs are "out there", and her point is that you should consider trade programs -- that's where the real need is in our economy; we don't have enough people trained in those fields. 

The first time I heard her speech, I questioned the "only 25%" figure, but the US Census backs it up. 

A couple disclaimers:

- If you went to college yourself and you work in a professional job, you probably hang around with people like yourself; thus, it's easy to get the idea that "everyone" has a degree.

- It varies widely from place to place; for example, in my state you'd find a higher percentage of degreed individuals living in the Research Triangle.  Why?  Because that area houses three large universities as well as several small private colleges as well as some of the state's most prestious R&D industries.  It's to be expected that such an area would draw in the most educated people in our state.  It's also not a surprise that their public school system is consistently ranked #1 in our state. 

- If you want to argue that this is changing and young people are going to college in higher numbers, I'll agree.  I do suspect the figures will change in future years.  At the high school where I teach, something like 80-90% of our students head out to post-secondary education; however, well over half of those students don't finish college -- a whole lot of them apply because it's "expected", but then they don't even begin attending in the fall, or they become "one semester wonders". 
There's a smug school of thought, well represented on this board, that college is only good for mass producing engineers, computer scientists, and other "useful" professions.  I can sympathize with this up to a point and understand why people board this stupid train because of escalating tuition costs.  But Humanities are far more important.
You're right that smugness is not in short supply on this board, which is rather ironic because all those engineers don't seem to LIKE thier jobs. 

I wouldn't say that Humanities are MORE important, but we do need a balance in the world, and Humanities are EQUALLY important. 



Metta

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #37 on: November 30, 2014, 09:41:51 AM »
The salary may be similar to a K-12 teacher, but no benefits.
Ah, I wasn't thinking about that.  Still, I'm under the impression that an adjunct professor works fewer hours than a K-12 teacher, meaning that she'd have time to do something else in addition to "professoring". 

I don't know enough about how many hours K-12 teachers work. Adjunct professors make $1,200 to $3,500 per course they teach. So to get that $25000 per year that is average for them, they have to teach 7-20 courses per year. It's a broad range because different disciplines pay differing amounts. At my husband's school, for example, adjuncts in History make $1500 per course. Adjuncts teaching Law or Business make quite a bit more (probably closer to that $3500 per course). So for a History adjunct to get an income of $25,000 a year here they would have to teach a bit under 17 courses per year or 6 courses in each semester and five each summer.

Each course takes 3 hours per week in the classroom and about 2 hours per week in preparation and 1 hour grading papers, tests, etc. It will take longer for inexperienced adjuncts, of course. So the math is easy: 6 hours per class per week multiplied times 6 classes equals 36 hours a week. For $25,000.

According to Salary.com, the average salary for a public school teacher in Memphis (which is the most appropriate comparison since the location is the same) is $50,000 per year. The lowest ten percent make $37,836. So to equal the lowest paid school teacher in Memphis, our history adjunct needs to teach 25 courses a year. So once again, the easy math is 6 hours per class per week multiplied by 8 classes per semester is 48 hours a week for a yearly gross salary of $36000 a bit below the $37,836.

Unfortunately, most colleges limit the number of courses an adjunct is allowed to teach. At my husband's university, adjuncts are limited to teaching no more than 2 classes per semester. So our hypothetical adjunct history professor needs to teach at many schools to get their money and they incur travel costs to do so. So that limits the amount of money they can make and increases the time they must spend on logistics to get income-producing work. My understanding is that our hypothetical kindergarten teacher (pulling down an average of $50,000 a year here) only needs to budget for one school. And they don't have to pay the majority of their benefits.

The math for adjuncts is terrible.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2014, 09:49:40 AM by Metta »

Reyes01

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #38 on: November 30, 2014, 03:11:20 PM »
I don't understand why she stayed in the adjunct profession for so long? If it wasn't working for her (salary wise), look for something else. No victim in this story.


frugalecon

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #39 on: November 30, 2014, 03:55:50 PM »
The salary may be similar to a K-12 teacher, but no benefits.
Ah, I wasn't thinking about that.  Still, I'm under the impression that an adjunct professor works fewer hours than a K-12 teacher, meaning that she'd have time to do something else in addition to "professoring". 

I don't know enough about how many hours K-12 teachers work. Adjunct professors make $1,200 to $3,500 per course they teach. So to get that $25000 per year that is average for them, they have to teach 7-20 courses per year. It's a broad range because different disciplines pay differing amounts. At my husband's school, for example, adjuncts in History make $1500 per course. Adjuncts teaching Law or Business make quite a bit more (probably closer to that $3500 per course). So for a History adjunct to get an income of $25,000 a year here they would have to teach a bit under 17 courses per year or 6 courses in each semester and five each summer.

Each course takes 3 hours per week in the classroom and about 2 hours per week in preparation and 1 hour grading papers, tests, etc. It will take longer for inexperienced adjuncts, of course. So the math is easy: 6 hours per class per week multiplied times 6 classes equals 36 hours a week. For $25,000.

According to Salary.com, the average salary for a public school teacher in Memphis (which is the most appropriate comparison since the location is the same) is $50,000 per year. The lowest ten percent make $37,836. So to equal the lowest paid school teacher in Memphis, our history adjunct needs to teach 25 courses a year. So once again, the easy math is 6 hours per class per week multiplied by 8 classes per semester is 48 hours a week for a yearly gross salary of $36000 a bit below the $37,836.

Unfortunately, most colleges limit the number of courses an adjunct is allowed to teach. At my husband's university, adjuncts are limited to teaching no more than 2 classes per semester. So our hypothetical adjunct history professor needs to teach at many schools to get their money and they incur travel costs to do so. So that limits the amount of money they can make and increases the time they must spend on logistics to get income-producing work. My understanding is that our hypothetical kindergarten teacher (pulling down an average of $50,000 a year here) only needs to budget for one school. And they don't have to pay the majority of their benefits.

The math for adjuncts is terrible.

I think this math shows that being an adjunct professor is not a career, it is a side hustle. Some gravy on top of whatever else one does for money. Anyone approaching it as a career is making a mistake. And I say that as someone who was paid $6900 to teach an M.A. class in economics as an adjunct.

iris lily

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #40 on: November 30, 2014, 03:56:27 PM »
I don't understand why she stayed in the adjunct profession for so long? If it wasn't working for her (salary wise), look for something else. No victim in this story.

ah Reyes, you are so severe! I like that! :)

Glad to see you here!

iris lily

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #41 on: November 30, 2014, 03:58:05 PM »


I think this math shows that being an adjunct professor is not a career, it is a side hustle. Some gravy on top of whatever else one does for money. Anyone approaching it as a career is making a mistake. And I say that as someone who was paid $6900 to teach an M.A. class in economics as an adjunct.

Or, if not a side hustle, it's one of the multiple streams of income that we are told today's Americans should develop. Those old days of One Big Job are over for many.

Metta

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #42 on: November 30, 2014, 04:43:11 PM »

I think this math shows that being an adjunct professor is not a career, it is a side hustle. Some gravy on top of whatever else one does for money. Anyone approaching it as a career is making a mistake.

Agreed.

I think it really should be considered an internship, something you do for a year (or two if you are desperate to get into the profession) while you look for a salaried instructor job, or a tenure-track position. If it doesn't pan out, you pursue another career and perhaps adjunct on the side.

However, I still believe that the system is exploitative and should be reformed.

I say that as someone who was paid $6900 to teach an M.A. class in economics as an adjunct.

Did I mention that history professors' eyes turn a weird color of green and steam billows out of their ears when they find out what their colleagues in Law and Business make in salary? And don't even mention the basketball or football coach's salary to them.  :)
« Last Edit: November 30, 2014, 04:44:56 PM by Metta »

beltim

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #43 on: December 01, 2014, 01:44:00 PM »
(FOAM) And finally there is my Humanities rant (start foam).  There's a smug school of thought, well represented on this board, that college is only good for mass producing engineers, computer scientists, and other "useful" professions.  I can sympathize with this up to a point and understand why people board this stupid train because of escalating tuition costs.  But Humanities are far more important.  To sum up: Humanities teach how to be human.  You study history, culture, literature, philosophy, and the arts so you can take the considered view of all of the wise man and women of the past to imitate their successes for your own life or pave your own way through said life.  Engineering, computer science, etc. enable you to make more money so you can eat more and crap more until you die.  If that's all you're going to do with your life, why bother?  The Third World ditchdigger who eats less, craps less, and dies young might actually be doing better.  That guy gets to Heaven or sweet oblivion in 66% of the time and 25% of resources used.  Now I'm not saying that engineering and computer science are bad. A ridiculous amount of my life and  joy derives directly from their efforts.  And I wouldn't be on this board if money wasn't important.  But there is a balance that should be struck.  Reorienting colleges and universities to just pumping out dull technocrats is just as bad as a system that only pumps out liberal arts majors.

I understand what you are saying, but you gotta eat and degrees in Philosophy and Art History aren't going to help you do that.  Let's face facts: Most Art is now free on the web and thus has very little economic value.  The humanities are for people who are already financially independent and can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars for something that isn't going to put money in the bank account.  The reality for most people is that they need to pay rent, buy food and clothes, pay for heat and water and electricity, etc.  People need to stop trying to make a living at something that is meant to be a hobby that you do on nights and weekends.  I have a degree in the humanities, so I understand how little value it is when you are trying to survive.  I wish things were different, but they aren't.  In the meanwhile, culture can still easily be gained through the use of the public library.

For someone advocating facing facts, you're sure short of any.  Fact: philosophy majors have higher earnings than such practical and high-earning majors like accounting, nursing, and marketing, and business administration.  Don't let starting salaries deceive you.

http://www.payscale.com/college-salary-report-2014/majors-that-pay-you-back

Sid Hoffman

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #44 on: December 01, 2014, 01:51:00 PM »
Quote from: Article
In Massachusetts, contingent faculty members teaching at public institutions do not have Social Security taxes removed from their paychecks and are not eligible to receive benefits based on that employment once they retire. Neither the college nor the state contributes to the plan.

This should be illegal.  No one should be exempt from paying in to Social Security, period.  This was originally pitched as a tax break to state workers, but it's hurting the real workers, not helping.  No one who earns wages (as opposed to those who have the talent, discipline, and resources to live off investments) should be exempt from paying in to Social Security and thus eligible for the benefit.

flyfig

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #45 on: December 01, 2014, 02:23:41 PM »
But do they need to stay in that particular job? I have known some of these folks. A couple were flexible and abandoned the academic track after they realized that the tenured professor thing wasn't going to happen for them, and they would end up as permanent adjuncts with low pay and no status.
I know people like this, too. The ones who bailed out once they realized they weren't going to get tenure-track employment are generally doing okay for themselves. One works in city government (urban planning), one for the state (environmental affairs), one is now teaching English at a prep school (and loves it), and one works for a textbook publisher. They all miss academia, but not the adjunct pay.

I didn't even make it all the way to adjunct status--I dropped out of a history PhD program after my second academic quarter. I already knew going in that tenure-track jobs were drying up, but after sitting in a convention center lounge watching all the job-seekers at the AHA conference, and seeing how damned many of them there were, all the dire warnings finally clicked. And I admit to having once been arrogant enough to think, "Well, I'm going to be an exception!" After a great deal of thought, I decided that the PhD wasn't worth going for (and an MA would have been useless to me). So I packed up my kit bag of research, writing, and editing skills, went freelance, and have been doing it (plus side gigs) ever since.

The ones I know who ignored the writing on the wall and are still in it as perma-adjuncts seem to persist for various reasons. Mostly, it seems to be an identity they can't let go of. They're really invested in the idea of themselves as professors and academics, so to leave academia and go do something else would mean losing a big part of their identity. Also, they've got PhDs, which drastically overqualifies them for most employment, while at the same time they have no significant work experience outside of academia that would make the transition to corporate or public sector jobs easier.

In other words, there's a lot of inertia that keeps them stuck as ill-paid adjuncts. And given the risks involved in trying to break it and move in a new direction, versus accepting a new contract to keep doing what they know while keeping a toehold in academia, I'm not surprised they keep choosing the latter.

 Some others were less flexible, mainly because they really, really wanted to have that professor title, any way they could. If you unilaterally take all of your outside options off of the table, you aren't going to end up with a great deal.

I think that a lot of people go to grad school without a clear idea of how the academic labor market really works, especially in the humanities. I would support a requirement that graduate programs should be more honest about placement up front. Of course, the whole edifice may crumble soon as MOOCs continue to develop.
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+1

PhD in biology so my saving grace was my degree was paid for (no loans). Even then, the thought of 2-4 post doctoral fellowships ($30k or so a year for 4 years a pop) if I could get my own funding plus endless years as adjunct made staying in academia less enticing. At the time I was fully determined to be a research scientist. Since then, myself and most of my PhD class has moved to business, sales, or university admin other careers. This is after 8 years invested in this degree that I do not use.

Some, including my brother, has stayed in academia, love it and love the independence. Saving becomes driven by lifestyle, your SO's expectations, and adding additional gigs. One friend teaches adjunct at 2 different universities and writes as well. He's doing okay. My brother with his wife, twins, new house, probably less well financially.

I will support that universities do not make it open or super easy to understand the financial implications of what you choose to do. That said, grad students and student organization do talk and do share this information so if you want to change careers, you can do it at any stage. Not easy, but worth it.

I feel pity for this woman for being in a tough spot, but she made her bed.

Reyes01

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #46 on: December 01, 2014, 10:18:11 PM »
ah Reyes, you are so severe! I like that! :)

Glad to see you here!

Thanks for the welcome. And thanks for mentioning these boards on the other one so I knew to take a look. Fun to see some familiar folks:-)

rocksinmyhead

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #47 on: December 02, 2014, 09:20:37 AM »
Pretty much everybody has a college degree, so now it's more important to get specific technical training from that degree if you want to get a job that doesn't involve waiting tables, making coffee, or running a cash register.  The world has changed and young people have to change with it. 
- If you went to college yourself and you work in a professional job, you probably hang around with people like yourself; thus, it's easy to get the idea that "everyone" has a degree.

This is so true. Since I started dating my (very smart, very hardworking, but dropped out of college) boyfriend, who doesn't have a bachelors and works in manufacturing/quality, and talking to him about work and his coworkers, I have realized that the sliver of the population I interacted with on a daily basis in grad school and now at my job is...not representative. It's definitely easy to NOT realize this.

There's a smug school of thought, well represented on this board, that college is only good for mass producing engineers, computer scientists, and other "useful" professions.  I can sympathize with this up to a point and understand why people board this stupid train because of escalating tuition costs.  But Humanities are far more important.
You're right that smugness is not in short supply on this board, which is rather ironic because all those engineers don't seem to LIKE thier jobs. 

I wouldn't say that Humanities are MORE important, but we do need a balance in the world, and Humanities are EQUALLY important.

Agreed. Plus I don't get how everyone keeps acting like it's an either/or. I have a BS and MS in geology, but my BS is from a liberal arts school where I minored in English and had to take 3 theology classes, two philosophy classes, and a ton of other humanities stuff. It was great, I learned a ton, and I'm really glad I have that critical thinking and writing background. I work with a lot of other technical people (lots of engineers), and some people are just really bad at communicating their ideas if they aren't a natural at it and didn't get much practice in school. I think college can give you a solid technical background, while at the same time being more than some kind of glorified trade school. Maybe this isn't as possible if you do the smart Mustachian thing and go to a school that doesn't cost $40k a year? I don't know.

SwordGuy

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #48 on: December 02, 2014, 07:08:15 PM »
Agreed. Plus I don't get how everyone keeps acting like it's an either/or. I have a BS and MS in geology, but my BS is from a liberal arts school where I minored in English and had to take 3 theology classes, two philosophy classes, and a ton of other humanities stuff. It was great, I learned a ton, and I'm really glad I have that critical thinking and writing background. I work with a lot of other technical people (lots of engineers), and some people are just really bad at communicating their ideas if they aren't a natural at it and didn't get much practice in school. I think college can give you a solid technical background, while at the same time being more than some kind of glorified trade school. Maybe this isn't as possible if you do the smart Mustachian thing and go to a school that doesn't cost $40k a year? I don't know.

I went to a local state university and majored in political science with minors in history and economics.
My career plan was to go into the foreign service or as an intelligence analyst.

I ended up programming computers pretty much by accident.

I also found that my political science training was actually better preparation for the higher order software design tasks than the computer science graduates had!

I had been trained to think critically, to clearly and succinctly define what I was studying and how to actually use data in a database to solve real world problems.

The economics and history gave me a broader understanding of how the real world works and what has been tried elsewhere.  I could understand and relate to business people trying to change the direction of their company because I understood the social and economic factors that they were attempting to navigate.

The computer science graduates knew how to write a program but had no idea of what program they ought to be writing.

I knew what program I ought to be writing and learning the computer language was much easier to learn than the other skills.

FYI, my lovely wife makes a goodly sum teaching History full time at a university.  She loves her job.    But she did a lot of extra work while she was in college to get that job.  She read papers and books and wrote abstracts (a brief summary) of them for publication in reference journals.

She double-attended math classes she was having trouble with.   (She attended the scheduled class and then, with the professor's permission, attended another section of the same class by the same professor.)  That way, she got double the instruction for the same amount of homework and also demonstrated to the professors that she was serious about learning the subject.

She wrote and presented papers at academic conferences as an undergraduate and as a graduate.

She worked as an adjunct at other universities while she finished up her PhD so she had work experience (in addition to the classes she taught as part of her PhD training).

She was an assistant editor for an academic journal a professor at another university had started.

When she went on the job market she had 7 interviews lined up at the AHA conference.   Those that know about how that cattle call works will gasp in amazement at that number.

That masters and phd degree were not only free, she was paid to work on them.   That didn't happen by accident.  It took all that extra work to make that happen.

That, and a bit of luck, because even with all that, she was ranked as candidate #11 for a 10 slot program.  Luckily, one of the people above her in the rankings went elsewhere.

Her profession has lousy job prospects.  You really have to go out of your way to excel when you're in a field and subject specialty for which there might be a dozen job openings in the entire USA for an entire year.   But it's a great job if you can get it.

justajane

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Re: Suicide Is My Retirement Plan
« Reply #49 on: December 02, 2014, 08:17:52 PM »
FYI, my lovely wife makes a goodly sum teaching History full time at a university.  She loves her job.    But she did a lot of extra work while she was in college to get that job.  She read papers and books and wrote abstracts (a brief summary) of them for publication in reference journals.

She was an assistant editor for an academic journal a professor at another university had started.

When she went on the job market she had 7 interviews lined up at the AHA conference.   Those that know about how that cattle call works will gasp in amazement at that number.

As a Ph.D. in history who never went on the job market, partially because I am geographically bound but also because I knew deep down I was not a very good academic historian (a good historian, just not in love with historiography), I have to say that your wife is a rock star! Kudos to her. It truly takes that level of commitment to succeed in history, and even then sometimes it doesn't work out or you are summarily passed over.