We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Sunday, January 18, 2009

State Budget Cuts: How About Me?

When commenters get unnecessarily personal here on the blog, I like to remind them that I'm not the story; the story is universal health coverage or local housing policy or usurpation of legislative power by the governor or whatever other important issue the original post covers.

But with Governor Rounds saying we might need $71 million of additional budget cuts to balance the state books, it occurs to me it might be useful to put a face on possible reductions in state spending.

So how about me?

I'm a state employee, a doctoral research and teaching assistant at Dakota State University. Each month the Board of Regents sends me (and several other doctoral students at DSU, SDSU, USD, and Mines) a nice check for about $2600. The Regents and the state—i.e., you—also subsidize my tuition (I get a 2/3 discount). In return, DSU receives 20 to 22 hours a week of teaching and information systems research, as well as my continued work on my dissertation and full-time enrollment in graduate classes spring, summer, and fall.

Now I'm sure there's an accounting discussion to be had about how much of my pay comes straight from you, the taxpayers, and how much comes from students paying tuition. So maybe cutting my position would not save as much money as cutting a regular state employee making $31,827 a year. Parse that as you will.

I'm more interested in a simpler question: am I worth it? If the state is broke, and the day still isn't rainy enough to crack open those rainy-day reserves, is it worth paying me (as well as a couple dozen of my fellow eggheads) $31,827 for another year of research and teaching? Or should I be polishing my résumé and selling more ads on the Madville Times?

I'd really rather not be part of the state budget news... but in this case, I am. The floor is open. Your comments on priorities for state spending and investment in higher education are welcome.


  1. I would say that your position could easily be eliminated. The Regental System has been adding a huge number of programs lately. There's a need for pruning of degrees being offerred.

    How can we gain more efficiency from our higher ed sytem?

    Maybe it's time to look at a one university system and provide Sioux Falls with its own full-fledged campus.

    I think small schools may be also toast. We'll find out this week.

  2. Wow. If I heard you right anon, you would have us completely abandon the schools that already exist and create one state university in Sioux Falls to try and save money?

    Now I may agree with you that having 6 separate regental institutions is a bit excessive, but to throw away everything we have working for us is a little bit silly.

    I'll speak about SDSU because it is close to my heart as I am a current student. This school has over 125 years of experience, infrastructure and institutional memory. This school draws students from all over the country and excels in both academics and athletics in division 1.

    I'm going to need to hear quite a bit more reasoning and logic before that argument becomes one that should even be considered on a state level.

  3. $31,000 a year for teaching part time AND a 2/3 break in tuition...WOW!

    A full-time elementary teacher would be lucky to make that for 2 to 3 times the number of hours put in.

    I'm sorry, but I think the elementary teacher has a much bigger impact on our state's future per dollar spent...it's not even close.

  4. I hope your position is not eliminated because you have the potential to influence a couple of generations of young college minds as a professor, if that is your goal. Teaching the next generations to think and communicate are vital. I don't always agree with your opinions, but I respect your ability to make people think and respond.

  5. For a fair comparison, many of the professors in South Dakota are closing in on $80,000 to $100,000 annual salary, so Cory's $31,000 isn't out of line for the hours in the university setting.

  6. Cory, I'm with ya'. My grandfather earned his PhD at UNL during the First Great Depression - the hard way: cumulative years of summer school. That said, I advocate two changes to the current SD practice.

    1) SD must increase efficiencies in higher ed delivery. SD needs a state university system with branch campuses. Ideas that SD needs 7 university presidents and associated bureaucracy are as bankrupt as paying regents $300k.

    2) Paybacks must be part of the calculus. Military paybacks are immediate - years served (at full pay and benefits) for years of school assistance. Kazakstan, which grants free ride scholarships at any university in the world to its top 100 scholars, used to have a five year payback. They dropped it because they found their scholars were often offered lucrative jobs at or near the universities in which they studied and then, after a term of years, the scholars returned home. The synergy of education and job experience is paying tremendous dividends for that nation. So if SD had a delay payback provision, in in its absence a delayed ability to garnish (essentially as is the case with student loans which are not dischargable in bankruptcy), then SD taxpayers are assured of recouping on an investment in GAs.

  7. I question whether we need all the folks working in each county as extension agents and the associated staffs. The information dispersed by the county ag departments and extension service often seems like duplication that could be accessed via three or four centralized locations across South Dakota and made available daily on the web or via toll-free numbers. Maybe would only save a few million.

  8. I'm not as concerned about state teaching expenses being too high, as I am the secrecy on what the state spends money on that rounds is reluctant to give information about.

    I do think atheletic scholarships could be cut, after all acedemic ones should have higher priority.

    I would also be willing to bet there are some state jobs in Pierre that could be cut. I don't think education and medicaid should be cut.

  9. $80,000 to $100,000 for a professor? I'm sure many of them would love to be pulling that. According to the SDBOR 2008 fact book (http://www.sdbor.edu/publications/documents/08Factbook.pdf) the average salary for an assistant professor at DSU is $55,598 and $63,741 for an associate professor. A full feldge professor earns an average of $69,990.

  10. The stipend seems high, which makes me think it's artificially inflated to give incoming grad students the impression they'd make more here than other places. Part of it is the 2/3 remission. Big schools in technical fields grant full tuition wavers (then sneak in some dedicated fees, which I assume is done here as well). Although they aren't making money, the fact they aren't hemorrhaging money is the only way to bring in bright people to advanced fields that we consider valuable. I have no idea about the standards for this particular field. My reference is also over 10 years ago so maybe I shouldn't be surprised that pay has gone up. I've become accustomed wage increases lagging inflation.

    Any student that isn't putting in considerably more than 40 hours a week is at risk for failing, being asked to leave, not finishing their dissertation, or in a pretty weak program. On an hourly basis, these people aren't making much of a killing.

    I would bet foreign student would be more than willing to take up abandoned slots. I think we should try to keep some Americans with advanced degrees in key fields. Information systems seems to qualify, and if I'm not mistaken, one of those fields where people with bachelors degrees can expect bigger bucks than academics.

    The regents should be adding programs rather than subtracting. The refusal to duplicate certain programs at some universities serves to make an individual U less competitive compared to peers in other states.

  11. One has to wonder if the Governor can eliminate programs why we had them in the first place.

    Waste is waste.

    How can someone be against more regulation and bigger government and be for government supported health care?

  12. [off-topic, Anon 8:46, but the answer: my politics is about what works, not what makes an easy to remember sound bite. Sometimes regulation and big government are a problem; sometimes they are a solution. Universal single-payer not-for-profit health coverage would save lives and save money.]

    Use of high assistantship stipends to draw talent: seems like a sensible investment. I would be interested to see numbers on how many of our grad assistants are new talent we've recruited from elsewhere or smart scholars we've managed to keep from moving elsewhere.

  13. Cutting athletic scholarships would be ideal, anon, except for one thing. Athletic Scholarships are funded through private donations and fundraisers and NOT by taxpayer dollars.

  14. In case anyone things that's a standard stipend for a SD grad assistant, it's not. Either that, or I've REALLY been getting screwed.

  15. Kelsey's right -- my pay is for a Group 2 doctoral assistantship, which is significantly higher than other grad assistant stipends. Anyone have those numbers?

  16. I remember when I was a GTA at SDSU. My stipend was $7500 for nine months. Of course, that was also 10 years ago, so it might haved changed since then.


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.