Six years ago this month, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, inaugurating a global recession that decimated nearly every sector of the economy, including higher education.
The “recovery” that began in 2009 has been illusory and often used to deny people benefits and pay under the pretext of “hard times.” Full-time teaching jobs became part-time, income inequality soared to heights unseen since the Gilded Age, and the cost of living rose while wages fell. Those now entrenched in elite positions reap the benefits, while those attempting to simply survive pay ever higher costs – or abandon their fields if they cannot pay to stay.
For academics, in certain respects, this is nothing new. Adjunct positions – contingent, poorly paid, lacking benefits or job security – have risen steadily in number since 1975, while the proportion of positions that are tenure-track has declined.
The academic job market in many fields has always been bad. The rise of contingent labor and loss of job security has been decades in the making. But the post-recession economic landscape is something else.
For the past six years, most Ph.D.’s have graduated into a dramatically different job market than what existed when they entered their program. During their time in graduate school, they likely experienced cutbacks in long-standing sources of outside funding, like Fulbright and National Institutes of Health grants. If they were at a public university, they likely found their stipends, benefits, or resources cut. Assuming they cleared these hurdles and managed to earn a Ph.D., they entered a job market in which some fields lost over 40 percent of their positions since the time they began their studies. <Read more.>