How I manage to surprise myself all the time about how my friends can manage to spark my interest in arguing for/against something I’ll never know.  Today’s brief: Education

**Note these are all rough numbers and guesses, and are near-as-makes-no-difference for the purpose of my argument.  The well-cited and well-documented stuff is below.

ME:

I wrote the check for my first year in college (4 years ago) it was $1650.

I finally got the HOPE scholarship this spring after paying for my schooling for 3 years out-of-pocket. My tuition this semester is $3570. My tuition is pro-rated as a senior for a subtraction of ~$300

We have since added a $9 Million stadium, $7 Million Book store, $10 Library renovation, $8 Million coliseum/basketball stadium, and in spite of all the awesome facilities I now pay for, as a Political Science Major all of my courses are taught in a 60-year-old building with desks similar to what I had in high school.

Would you like to prove any of your claims that state employees *on average* don’t earn more than private sector median income earners? The rough numbers are ~$45,000 median income/benefits for private sector, ~$65,000 income/benefits for state employees, and ~$120,000 income/benefits for federal employees.

These are all rough figures from reading I’ve done in years prior(Actual BLS report later):

A Bureau of labor statistics report concluded that teachers (state employees) worked ~1850 hours per year including outside of class work, and as a result earned $34 per hour worked on average. Compared to $31 for a private school teacher. The average American works ~2150 hours per year. Near as makes no difference 300 hours more than public school teachers do. Many teacher’s have summers off, all get 2-4 weeks depending on the school board for Christmas, spring break, weekends, (some work 2nd jobs or teach summer school, which is included in the 1850 hours per year average)

Do some teachers and professors make crappy income? Sure. And they likely deserve better pay. But, on average, they work 300 hours less than most people, too.

The cost in education, at least in public K-12, has been to the rapid increase in adult/teacher ratio in schools. Pay hasn’t been crazy, but employment has.

Numbers and bullet points from the Manhattan Institutes Study of Several Board of Labor Statistics figures, 1, 2, 3, and the MI Report

    • According to the BLS, the average public school teacher in the United States earned $34.06 per hour in 2005.
    • The average public school teacher was paid 36% more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker.
    • Full-time public school teachers work on average 36.5 hours per week during weeks that they are working. By comparison, white-collar workers (excluding sales) work 39.4 hours, and professional specialty and technical workers work 39.0 hours per week. Private school teachers work 38.3 hours per week.
    • Compared with public school teachers, editors and reporters earn 24% less; architects, 11% less; psychologists, 9% less; chemists, 5% less; mechanical engineers, 6% less; and economists, 1% less.
    • Compared with public school teachers, airplane pilots earn 186% more; physicians, 80% more; lawyers, 49% more; nuclear engineers, 17% more; actuaries, 9% more; and physicists, 3% more.
    • Public school teachers are paid 61% more per hour than private school teachers, on average nationwide.
    • The Detroit metropolitan area has the highest average public school teacher pay among metropolitan areas for which data are available, at $47.28 per hour, followed by the San Francisco metropolitan area at $46.70 per hour, and the New York metropolitan area at $45.79 per hour.
  • We find no evidence that average teacher pay relative to that of other white-collar or professional specialty workers is related to high school graduation rates in the metropolitan area.

More facts in summary of an AEI Report. Which goes even further to suggest that the BLS report numbers are skewed.

  • Salaries: Public school teachers receive lower salaries than similarly educated private sector workers; this leads many to conclude, as Education Secretary Arne Duncan did, that teachers are “desperately underpaid.” But these credentials-based comparisons are dicey when a single occupation (teacher) generally holds a single type of degree (bachelors or masters in education). Research we cite shows that education is, to put things bluntly, among the easiest college majors—teachers enter college with below-average SAT scores but earn far higher GPAs than people majoring in history, chemistry, or other subjects. That skews the numbers. Therefore, we compare salaries while controlling for scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, an objective measure of cognitive ability. And when we do, the supposed teacher salary gap disappears.
  • Vacation time: Bureau of Labor Statistics benefits data shows that teachers have only 60 percent as much vacation time as private sector workers. Huh? It turns out that BLS bases its teacher figures on a 185-day work year, which means that BLS counts only time off during the school year while ignoring summer and holiday vacations. We adjust teachers’ time off to make it comparable to private sector workers.
  • Retirement benefits: A typical teacher will receive pension and retiree health benefits several times larger than what she would likely receive in a private sector job. But this difference isn’t reflected in BLS benefits data, for two reasons. First, BLS excludes retiree health coverage, and second, public sector pensions use aggressive accounting rules that understate the true cost of benefits. By accessing state data on retiree health plans and adjusting pension figures to account for different accounting rules, we arrive at a more accurate figure.
  • Job security: Public school teachers have an unemployment rate around half that of private school teachers or a range of 16 comparable private sector occupations such as architects, news reporters, and editors. Job security insures against income loss during unemployment and becomes more valuable when the job you have—such as public school teaching—pays a premium in terms of combined salaries and benefits. We calculate that job security is worth about an extra 9 percent of pay.

Summing up: Teacher salaries are about comparable to the private sector, but teachers’ benefits are roughly twice as generous and their job security is significantly greater. Altogether, we estimate that public school teachers receive total compensation roughly 50 percent higher than they would likely receive in private sector jobs.

The higher education bubble is no different from the housing bubble.  We’ve made it more expensive by subsidizing it.

This from Casey Research:

The United States has always been a very educated country. But it is becoming less and less so, especially in the areas that matter to our individual and collective economic futures. Our under education begins with a stubbornly high dropout rate among secondary education students. About a quarter of those who begin high school don’t finish.

In an educational system where graduation from high school at a minimum level often means no grasp of mathematics beyond basic arithmetic, no training in basic personal finance, and no marketable professional skills, this is an obvious problem We can and should do more to prepare high school graduates for the world they now live in.

The big problems aren’t rooted in high school education, however, but with the decisions we as a nation are making in the education we get beyond the compulsory level.

Of those students who do make it through high school, 30% will not go on to any further education. That means 70% enroll immediately in a two or four-year degree program, a major increase from the about 49% three decades ago. Despite rising college entry rates, we are not graduating any additional college students. That’s largely because among those who immediately enroll in college post high school, some 40% are not expected to get their degrees within six years.

The result: our overall college-educated cohort has flatlined over the past 30 years. The number of American citizens aged 25-34 who have attained a college education – including either a two- or four-year degree program – is exactly the same as the percentage among 55-64-year-olds, at 41%. (The US is also the only developed nation where a higher percentage of 55- to 64-year-olds than 25- to 34-year-olds has graduated from high school.)

Thirty years ago that 41% figure led the world in college grads; now we’re 16th and trending lower.

Many have suggested that it’s because we have a less than stellar college education system. But nothing could be further from the truth. While it has some problems for sure, the US remains a leader in post-secondary educational quality. One need look no further than the increasing number of foreign students pursuing advanced degrees in the US. For the 2009-10 school year, about 690,000 non-US citizens were enrolled at colleges in the US – the highest level in the world and up 26% from a decade ago.

When large numbers of students begin to rely on the federal government to fund their higher education, and the federal government uses this financing to affect the behavior of state and private institutions, we should be concerned about how the resulting loss of independence of our colleges and universities affects the ability of voters to form opinions about public policy that are independent of the government’s position.

Rather than expand the current system, Congress should consider a phase-out of federal assistance to higher education over a 12-year time frame. As the federal government removes itself from student assistance, we should expect several things to happen. First, sticker tuition prices should decline. Second, the private market should respond to the phase-out of federal assistance. That response would likely take three forms: additional private-sector loans, additional private scholarship funds, and perhaps most importantly, the expansion of human capital contracts. Human capital contracts, first suggested 40 years ago by Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, would allow students to pledge a portion of future earnings in return for assistance in paying their tuition.

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