The departing head of Wisconsin's English Department, Caroline Levine, is leaving to seek other opportunities.  The university's political masters, attempting to strike balances among extracting revenue from Coasties, developing human capital for Cheeseheads, holding the line on tuitions, and asking less of taxpayers, have prompted Professor Levine to shop her resume.
Low prices might be a great way to compete, but politicians have also artificially limited the UW’s pool of consumers. There’s huge demand for Wisconsin higher education around the world. But politicians insist that the university must limit the number of students admitted from out of state to no more than 27.5 percent of the university’s total enrollment. They’ve also capped tuition for out-of-state students to a price much lower than that of our peers. The University of Michigan charges $43,118 to those from outside of Michigan. The University of Wisconsin charges $29,665 for out-of-state students.

This is something like telling Toyota that they must not only charge between a quarter and a half of the market price for an excellent product, but also that they have to send away many thousands of eager customers who are willing to pay much more.

What a bargain! But Wisconsin’s leaders are not praising faculty for managing to offer a world-class product at a fraction of the market price. They are scolding us for failing to deliver value.
This is what creating excess demand for prestige degrees looks like! Michigan (which has long been known in the Wolverine State as particularly tough to get into, because those full-fare matriculants with great credentials from Illinois or India help with the organization's revenue goals) understands the value proposition: we'll charge less than the Ivies, but enough so that we can creditably be a safety school for the spawn of the nomenklatura and still offer the kind of education and networking opportunities the Ivies do, plus an entree to the Liberal Establishment for a few Michigan residents.  Wisconsin isn't yet grasping that market opportunity.

Thus it's time for her to go.
Walker’s contention is that the university’s costs are just too high — bloated with too many overpaid workers. So let’s talk about salaries. I don’t like the big disparities between professional wages and those of other workers myself, but I can assure you that salaries for faculty are a response to a globally competitive marketplace.

Faculty are not unionized. Five colleagues in my own department have been wooed away to other universities in the past year with salary offers between 50 percent and 100 percent more than what they were earning at the University of Wisconsin.

Imagine blasting workers at Toyota because they were asking to earn salaries equal to the pay of peers with similar skills at Honda or Chevy.

I myself am now leaving the University of Wisconsin after 14 years. At my new university in another state, I will have stronger tenure protections than I now have here. I will earn about 50 percent more than my current salary for the same job. And I will be free from the strange crazy-making double-speak that on one hand demands that higher education deliver value like a business, and on the other hand, methodically prevents it from doing so.
At Right Wisconsin, Charlie (Profscam) Sykes suggests Professor Levine check her privilege.
Perhaps she should have stayed with English, since the economics here is shaky. As I write in my upcoming book, Fail U., paying for a college education at some schools is the equivalent of buying a BMW every year – and driving it off a cliff. A more apt analogy – more in line with Ms. Levine’s argument – would be a car company that sold Yugos, but priced them like Lexuses.
True in part and false in part. Yes, a professor of English is in a bad place -- how many financial engineers do you meet parking cars, pumping gas, or making espresso?  And yet, there are market tests for higher education -- the U. S. News problem -- and people pay for those BMWs as a way of keeping themselves or their spawn away from the Distressed Material at the regional comprehensives and mid-majors and all the rest of higher education's subprime sector.  Let's end with Mr Sykes's own words.
[I]t is increasingly obvious that the burden of the failure of academia tend to fall not on the elites, but on the large middle class and on students at the lower end of the economic spectrum for whom a college education is the only hope for upward advancement. To a large extent, the middle class is stuck in the academic gulags created by the professors' culture.
That's from page 261 of Profscam.  Whether Professor Levine's departure from Madison is a wake-up call to the people of Wisconsin, or evidence of creeping Oshkoshization throughout the state university system, is the more important question.  That's where the Yugo analogy matters.

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