Sorensen on my last column

Former USC President Andrew Sorensen had the following to say about my last column in The State:

Dear Brad:

As one who has just embarked on a marked change in professional responsibilities, I wish you well in the next stage of your career, whatever that may be.

Thanks very much for your stimulating op-ed piece of March 22nd.  Although I was tempted to respond to each paragraph as well as the concluding suggestions, in the interest of brevity I’ll comment only on (1) “Improve our schools” and (2) “Let our colleges and universities drive our economy.”

(1)I couldn’t agree more with your recommendation that we “stop talking about nonsensical distraction, and fix the schools.”  We South Carolinians ought to be profoundly embarrassed by the quality of schools in our economically depressed communities.  It is imperative that all South Carolinians have an opportunity for the quality of education afforded at the many first-rate schools throughout our state.  Your suggestions for restructuring, if implemented, would do much to correct our current imbalance in facilities and human resources.

(2)During the past several years, the presidents of USC, MUSC and Clemson have made extraordinary progress in collaborating on the “cutting edge of wealth-creating innovation.” During this period of profound fiscal crisis the temptation is great to hunker down and look upon investment in this area as one of high risk that will yield principally future benefit, and is unlikely to be manifest in the next few weeks or months.  That admission will cause detractors to argue that investing in these programs in the midst of economic stringency is counterintuitive.  But the economic future of our state is heavily dependent on the highly skilled and scientifically sophisticated youth of today who will become the leaders of our state’s economy tomorrow.

All the best to you.


Andrew A. Sorensen

15 thoughts on “Sorensen on my last column

  1. Randy E

    As long as SC is mired in the muck of disunity and provincialism, there will be no comprehensive change. By that I mean state wide initiatives to affect change in education are controlled by a reactive legislature and a governor who often enacts ideology before solving problems.

    Hoover promoted “rugged individualism” as the panacea to the stock market crash and the GOP laughably offers massive tax cuts as a “road to recovery.” Both reflect the thinking of SC leadership and many citizens. SC leaves millions of dollars of state and federal money directed towards austism unspent and a confederate flag flies from the state grounds. Conservatives decry socialist healthcare, while ignorantly or conveniently ignoring the fact that hospital emergency rooms provide universal health care, but at a far greater cost.

    The progressive northeast states have the best school systems in the country and these states have the highest test scores. The red southern states have the lowest test scores. Hmmm…

  2. Lee Muller

    Education spending on K-12 has tripled in the last 30 years in constant dollars, adjusted for inflation, with minimal results for students.

    College spending likewise has grown at 3 times the rate of family incomes.
    Tuition at USC required 15 weeks of summer work at minimum wage to pay for an entire year in 1972.

    Today, it would take 38 weeks of work to buy 2 semesters of USC.

    That is strong evidence of the failure of administrators like Sorensen to control costs and deliver quality service to their customers. A lot of upper administrators and professors became millionaires off this explosion in college costs, with no improved benefits to the students.

  3. Rick Bradley

    With all due respect, I become indignantly reflective when I hear Dr. Sorensen speak of “nonsensical distractions” when (and your former paper has yet to investigate) the university he led is in financial disaray. The nerve of any “higher educated pin head” preaching more money. Sec. Rex is running the school system in this state and it seems he is never held accountable, it is always the usual “whipping post” Gov. Sanford.
    Randy E. speaks of “progressive northeast states” he may well wish to go there and avoid the “mucky disunity” which I enterpret as anyone who disagrees with his socialist ideals.

  4. Randy E

    Lee, can you share numbers behind the minimum wage job in ’72 paying for tuition? I think you may have a valid point but I will believe it when I see it.

    Regarding improved benefits, I think you pulled that one out of your heiney.

  5. Lee Muller

    I paid my way through college in the late 1960s, working 15 weeks of construction in the summers.

    Minimum wage increased almost every year, from $1.60 to $2.50 in the 1972.
    $2.50 an hour = $100.00 a week
    After taxes = $ 76.00 a week

    Some typical numbers from bills at USC and Clemson for that era:

    Tuition was $180.00 / semester
    Dorm room was $140.00
    Meal plan was $140.00
    Books were $100 a semester

    Total per semester = $560.00 = 8 weeks take home pay

    Several letters to the editor recently from USC graduates in the early 1970s gave similar examples of their experience.

  6. Lee Muller

    Regarding improved benefits to the STUDENTS, there are very few.
    A degree from USC or a diploma from a good public school in 2008 is not better than the same diplomas in 1972.

    SAT scores have improved very little.

    There are huge numbers of high school dropouts today, who don’t even take the SAT tests. They would lower the average scores even further.

  7. Randy E

    I thought you might be right about the tuition back in the day and the facts bore this out.

    Lee makes a great point about the problem with such a low minimum wage.

    shows real wages dropped when the conservatives started having a national impact around the early 70s. Notice the uptick in the past couple years (dems taking control of congress). Using Lee’s statistics, it’s clear we need to make college more affordable for the poor.

    Dang Lee, that sounds like socialism. Welcome to the club!!

  8. Randy E

    Lee, the use of SAT scores is a specious argument for a variety of reasons.

    SAT offers a very limited measure of academic achievement. I improved my SAT score by 60 points as a high school student by studying a Kaplan book for a week. Using your logic, my teachers did a hell of a job helping me that week.

    The proportion of students entering college has increased dramatically. It’s no longer the top students taking the SAT to get into college. Don’t forget, in the early 70s busing was implemented because of the disparity of schools based on race. There has been a dramatic infusion of minorities into the school system.

    Finally, what does an SAT score have to do with measuring the performance of colleges? HIGH SCHOOL students take the SAT.

  9. Lee Muller

    Minimum wages have not kept pace with inflation, but that is good.

    The legal minimum wage has become irrelevant, because the market has set a higher minimum wage of about $8.00 an hour for the most menial labor.

    The minimum wage is intended to prevent young people from getting jobs where they acquire skills to compete with union labor. It was very effective in taking blacks out of the trades in many states.

    Today, the Democrat’s so-called stimulus legislation requires union wages be paid on the projects. That means the non-union contractors have no competitive edge in bidding. Thousands of blacks and young people with not get the jobs.

  10. Lee Muller

    The solution is not to raise the minimum wage or more student loans to put students deeper into debt.

    The solution is for schools to freeze tuition increases, and lower them back to levels on par with family incomes. This means better management than most colleges have.

  11. Greg Flowers

    The key to maximizing the effectiveness of state post secondary education is a State Board of Regents appointed by and answerable to the Governor.

  12. Pat

    “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”

    An observation that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases. The statement was made by Lord Acton, a British historian of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
    Bartleby’s quotes.

  13. Kathryn Fenner

    I miss Sorensen. Pastides is great, but I miss Sorensen, Araial, and Warthen. I’m only 49 but I feel like some 80 year old watching the golden days recede into the mists…..

  14. Lee Muller

    If you think this is bad, wait until the State Retirement System finally admits it is bankrupt and unable to send out checks every month.

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