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WA College Costs Up – but Not to Pay Profs

December 4, 2008

Seattle, WA – College tuition across the country has jumped in price almost every year. A new report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education finds 2007 was no exception-–and that more students and families are going into debt to pay it. According to the report, the net tuition cost at a four-year public university is now 28 percent of median family income, and the number of student loans has doubled in the last decade.

At the same time, a different study, by the American Federation of Teachers' (AFT), reports that more than half the undergraduate courses across the country are being taught by part-time adjunct faculty and graduate students.

Sandra Schroeder, president of AFT Washington, notes that the tuition hikes are not being used to pay higher teachers' salaries.

"Many, many jobs have been 'part-timed'--turned into adjunct jobs at much lower salary rates. So actually, there's been no increase overall in the amount of money being spent on instructional faculty, for a decade or more."

The schools say hiring part-time instructors is one way they are trying to save money. However, Schroeder points out, part-timers have higher job turnover and aren't as readily available for such things as regular office hours to work with students. Nationally, AFT calls the staffing situation a "crisis."

Already, Schroeder says, Washington's state colleges and universities have been asked to cut four percent from their budgets this year.

"That kind of cut is significant, especially when many of the colleges are over-enrolled, as people who've been laid off come back for retraining. So to be taking a four percent cut right now is watering down the quality of education that these students are getting."

Schroeder expects Governor Gregoire to recommend further cuts to Washington's state schools in her proposed 2009-2011 budget, to be released mid-month.

The tuition cost report can be found at www.highereducation.org. The academic staffing report is also available online, at www.aftface.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA