Friday Fragments | Confessions of a Community College Dean

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The Inside Higher Ed story about higher ed’s hiring challenges rang several bells for me. Yes, higher ed’s hiring processes are much, much slower than almost any other industry’s. That’s the downside of a decentralized system. Many corporations, I’m told, charge HR with hiring. That allows for speed, since fewer people are involved and they do it often enough to get good at the routine. But it also tends to lead to very reductionist readings of candidates, since folks with content expertise are only peripherally involved, if at all. By contrast, many colleges have multiple levels of committees and approvals; that adds expertise and probably strengthens what some call the “bozo filter,” but it takes longer. For hot fields, it’s possible to lose candidates to other places that move more quickly.

Remote work is the rare win-win for employers and employees; I expect to see much more development here.

That’s particularly true because compensation isn’t likely even to catch up to inflation, let alone improve in real terms, in the near future. Most colleges are tuition-driven, and many have experienced enrollment declines; the one-two punch to operating budgets makes meaningful raises difficult. Increased flexibility may be one of the few perks that many tuition-driven colleges will be able to offer to help offset relatively low pay.

All of which is to say that I don’t see a quick and easy fix. More money would help with salaries, of course, but it’s not obvious where that money would come from. A more streamlined process would help, but I don’t see any veto groups volunteering to give up authority.

College leaders at tuition-driven places will need to start thinking seriously about changing the structure and definition of many jobs. At some point, the market sets limits on how low you can go, particularly in fields in which you’re competing with private industry. It looks like many colleges have already hit those limits.

This one is really a question for my wise and worldly readers who are familiar with the world of medical schools.

The Boy will start the final year of his bachelor’s degree program this fall. He has taken the MCAT and will get his score in another week or so. In the meantime, he’s weighing possibilities. One is to apply directly to med school with the goal of starting right after college. Another is to take a gap year—possibly scribing or something similar—and then apply to med school. He’s intrigued by policy issues, though—heaven knows where he got that—and he likes the idea of a master’s in public health. Apparently, those come in different flavors: some are joint M.P.H./M.D. programs, some are sequential and some are entirely separate.

I don’t know the rules of this game well enough to suggest anything useful. I’d love to hear from anyone who does! Is there a general understanding as to how these things are done now? Is a stand-alone M.P.H. degree useful, or does it really need to be paired with an M.D.? Are gap years generally expected, or does it matter?

I can be reached at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com, or on Twitter (@deandad).

Thanks!

We’re doing some traveling and some hosting for the rest of the month, so the blog will be on its annual summer break next week. It’ll return Monday, Aug. 1. See you soon!



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