By Daniel Bessner
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the glaring contradictions in American higher education. State research universities are preparing to decrease services in light of anticipated budget shortfalls as small liberal arts colleges teeter on the brink of financial ruin. Meanwhile, Ivy League and other rich universities have refused to dip into their massive endowments and have instead chosen to pursue austerity while increasing tuition—and increasing debt—for their students.
Across the country, universities are canceling classes and furloughing workers, leaving thousands stranded without income. Though some schools have lengthened the tenure timelines of assistant professors, the majority have refused to extend a similar courtesy to graduate students. Staff members and adjuncts have likewise been abandoned—forced to work fewer hours or unceremoniously let go. The situation is likely to get worse as students refuse to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to take subpar online courses while sitting in their living rooms. Without exaggeration, American higher education may be on the verge of a total breakdown.