Interestingly, it was being attacked by one of the unions in this area. This book is pro-public higher education, pro-access for everyone, and yet we've been accused of being reactionary and anti-intellectual. It's odd, because it's the only book that is calling for unionization of adjuncts and graduate students. I think it’s because we’re coming out against a culture of the professoriate, which we see as part of the problem, along with administrative growth and glut.
CCJ: What are some of the schools that you thing are the worst and yet perceived by the public to be the best?
CD: Of course. The colleges and the universities have a lock on who will be middle-class and who won’t. You can’t really be deemed middle-class without a bachelor’s, though there are some amazing exceptions to that rule like Bill Gates and some very affluent plumbers.
CCJ: Why now? Why did you write this book now?
CD. It's interesting. As I said, we've been accused of fueling a right-wing argument. Anyone who says that anything is wrong on campus is a right-winger and an anti-intellectual. I don’t think this is a left/right issue. This is a right-wrong issue. But this is what I say to my brother and sister professors: there is a problem here, if you don't address it yourself, you will lose the ability to deal with it yourself. And the idea that people will always pay these insanely inflated and wasteful fees, is nonsense.
But the idea has always been, students will pay . . . no matter what. But the universities are actually causing a social problem, rather than solving some; if hundreds of thousands of young Americans are indebting themselves to a crippling degree, we have a moral and policy problem.
CD: Well, yes, then you know that they lost a huge amount of their endowment because of speculation. There was not enough transparency. We're talking about huge catastrophic mistakes in terms of investments errors, and yet no one is really held accountable for it. And while many who go to Harvard can afford their tuition fees and some would gladly pay double just to be there, Harvard leads the system. So when fees go up at Harvard, they have a ripple effect over the entire system. The inflationary effect is disastrous . . . at institutions where the students can’t afford me, the cost of tuition goes up too.
CD: Oh, yes. Public universities do educate at a much more efficient rate per dollar, per student and with much less bells and whistles and much more basics. In the book we show how it is possible to go to school and do 4 years at a cheaper rate, and in some cases at a third of the cost. To do that, you must be willing to forgo prestige. But in the long run, what’s that gonna buy you anyway? You do not need to go to an Ivy.
CD: My pleasure, Cryn.