A lot of criticism of academia hasn't stuck in the past, Mr. Hacker and Ms. Dreifus imply, because people have almost unthinkingly believed in the economic power of the degree. Yes, you didn't learn a lot, and the professors blew you off—the reasoning went—but if you got a diploma the job offers would follow. But that logic may no longer be so compelling. With the economy tightening and tales of graduates stuck in low-paying jobs with $50,000 in student loans, college doesn't look like an automatic bargain.There is also an interesting comment on salary differences in academia, which is the center of concern about fairness in pay:
Take the adjunct issue. Everyone knows that colleges increasingly staff courses with part-time instructors who earn meager pay and no benefits. But who wants to eliminate the practice? Administrators like it because it saves money, professors because it saves them from teaching labor-intensive courses. And adjuncts themselves would rather continue at minimum wage than leave the profession altogether. In a "coda," Mr. Hacker and Ms. Dreifus declare that "it is immoral and unseemly to have a person teaching exactly the same class as an ensconced faculty member, but for one-sixth the pay."It is interesting that although the faculty at the elite colleges fret over the inequalities of American, they are an important part of the system that promotes inequality.