Category Archives: Profession

Bankrolling Education

I began my first post as a member of this blogging community as a reflection on course organization, but as the week progressed it has been impossible to ignore some of the larger issues facing higher education—Romanticists and non-Romanticists, faculty and students, graduate and undergraduate students alike. Public institutions around the nation are asking if they will have state support next year—support that (although less substantive than it was in the past) most state colleges and universities rely on.

Faculty members at various state institutions have made a stand this week, protesting the massive state budget cuts affecting education. For example, as reported by Slippery Rock University’s newspaper, The Rocket , students and faculty at Pennsylvania State School of Higher Education’s Slippery Rock University rallied together in protest of the proposed 51.4% budget cut. Meanwhile, in New York, thirty-three people were arrested during a non-violent protest. The proposed budget cuts in New York will reduce the budget of CUNY’s senior colleges by $95.1 million and community colleges by $17.5 million. Why should we all be concerned with the finances of these state institutions, you ask? Well, because these seemingly isolated incidents help to create a narrative about the importance of education in America. Educational funding is often framed as party politics or treated as an investment in some imagined future (raising/teaching the next generation, forming a future America). Perhaps those are both true but as a graduate student who learns with and teaches nearly 150 students a year, I’m most interested in how such changes dictate who is and is not able to attend college. State (and federal) funding opens or closes the doors of higher education for many Americans. If states’ education budgets are slashed in the ways proposed, universities must find a way to stay in the black. Who will bear the burden? How will our classrooms be affected by such changes, if at all?

I was recently asked a set of questions meant to provoke interesting material for a banquet introduction. One of the questions asked, “If you could rid the world of one thing, what would it be?” I thought through all of the typical answers: violence, bigotry, misogyny, hunger and disease. I even considered the entirely selfish answers: deadlines and comprehensive exams. In the end I decided my answer was college debt. Not only because I’d love to relieve my credit report of this particular burden but because I believe that education should be accessible for those of us who would like to learn. Education should come at a price—the loss of ignorance, some serious intellectual exercise– but it seems unjust that the cost of education should be a lifetime of debt. Many of us excuse such debt by calling it “good debt,” but deep down we know there is no such thing. If college loan debt were good debt then it wouldn’t prevent my cousin from qualifying for a home loan, especially since he works a full-time job that he is qualified for because of his college education; but that isn’t the case, he cannot buy his first home because his educational debts make it impossible for him to do so (and he attended a relatively low-cost state institution). The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on the Pell program, which provides “need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain postbaccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education” (which means that unlike loans, they do not have to be repaid). Even though the Pell program, through Congress’s continued support, has been able to

keep up with both inflation and a surge of new college students…low-income undergraduates are actually much worse off than equivalent students were 30 years ago. A student without a Pell Grant in 1980 paid less out of pocket to attend a public four-year university than a student with a Pell Grant pays today. That’s because between then and now, the cost of higher education has grown far faster than inflation. As a result, the federal government has gone from bit player to major investor in the educational part of higher education, to the point that it’s starting to rival states in the magnitude of support.

As state budget cuts continue, the reliance on federal support—through programs like Pell, FAFSA, and so on—will increase (as will educational debt). Students will be forced to make difficult choices about the financial viability of education. Whether we are (graduate) students and/or teachers at state funded universities or not, it is important that we advocate for education’s financial accessibility. None of this is new to those of us who annually navigate(d) those annoying, tax-like FAFSA forms in order to pay tuition bills. Even more familiar and heartbreaking are the pleas from students, “I just need a B in your course or I lose my (often state or federally supported) scholarship!” Robert Reich’s recent article might best summarize the importance of education, “Over the long term, the only way we’re going to raise wages, grow the economy, and improve American competitiveness is by investing in our people — especially their educations.” The ways that our governments approach, support, and finance education does and will continue to shape our classrooms.

Finally, hello! I am Teresa Pershing, another new NGSC blogger. I’m a proud member of the Mountaineer (West Virginia University) community and am happy to spend the next several months learning with all of you!

NASSR-L: Reply to All?

A year or so ago, I joined the NASSR-L: a listserv for scholars working in the field of Romanticism. Here is how you can join, too. I joined because I was advised that it’s a great place to learn informally about who’s doing what in the field and what the hot topics are. I’m glad I joined! Sometimes the conversation turns on current political issues (like Arizona’s immigration laws and graduate student loans), and other times it addresses literary and historical issues specific to the Romantic period. It is a great resource, as well, for learning about upcoming conferences and opportunities in our field. But one relatively consistent feature of the NASSR-L, it seems to me, is that graduate students do a small percentage of the talking/typing. (Note: It would be interesting to do a thorough analysis of topics addressed and those who address them on this list.)

So here are my questions: what is the graduate student’s role regarding NASSR-L? Do we need a similar forum for graduate students only? The official list etiquette statement begins: “The NASSR-L is a professional discussion forum for students, teachers and researchers of Romantic literature and culture. It seeks to maintain an atmosphere of respect and restraint at all times.” Clearly, we are welcome here and encouraged to stay as long as we’re interested. But are we doing the list’s community a disservice by usually being silent observers/listeners? I’m still thinking about it. Continue reading NASSR-L: Reply to All?

Speakers Announced for NGSC Publishing Roundtable at NASSR

The NGSC is thrilled to announce that the following panelists will be leading the NASSR roundtable on publishing: “‘What is now proved was once, only imagin’d’; or, What Every Graduate Student Should Know about Journal Publication.”

Confirmed Panelists:
Charles Rzepka (Studies in Romanticism)
Michael Eberle-Sinatra (RaVoN)
Fred Burwick, Benjamin Colbert, Regina Hewitt, and Diane Long Hoeveler (all four representing European Romantic Review).

*Time: Friday, August 20, 8:30 – 10:00 am.
*Place: TBD
Official Affiliated Session Announcement
NASSR Graduate Student Caucus
“‘What is now proved was once, only imagin’d’; or, What Every Graduate Student Should Know about Journal Publication”

In today’s highly competitive academic job market, journal publications are an essential component of an applicant’s overall profile. For many graduate students, however, the prospect of submitting an essay for publication can be a rather intimidating one. The new NASSR Graduate Student Caucus has therefore invited editors from some of the leading Romantic-era journals to help demystify this process. These experts will address issues such as what makes an outstanding journal article, what weaknesses they find specific to graduate student submissions, how they would describe the specific focus of their journal, and what is their journal’s stance on reviews written by graduate students. There will also be a substantial amount of time reserved for Q & A. This special session ultimately aims to empower future Romanticists with the information required to contribute to the larger scholarly community.