[Smt-talk] Teaching for free

Victor grauer victorag at verizon.net
Tue Jul 2 11:07:11 PDT 2013

At 09:11 AM 7/1/2013, Donna Doyle wrote:
>Dear Victor,
>While I agree that some higher ed costs have become scandalously 
>unreasonable and I applaud your idealism, I have reservations re 
>tuition-free education. Here they are:
>1. One tends to get what one pays for. Psychologists, for ex, know 
>that a fee is necessary.

I agree that for many students the fee is a great motivator. However, 
a great many full scholarship students have done very well over the 
years and also the many enrolled in either free or very low tuition 
state universities, which once upon a time were not that rare (e.g., 
UCLA, which as I recall was free to in-state students when I studied 
there), also seem to have done well for the most part.

>2. To devise curricula meeting the needs/ interests of each student 
>is work-intensive on an ongoing basis. In addition, to be effective, 
>the lessons need to be professional (informality tends to devolve 
>into coffee chats) and to occur regularly. I dare to guess that few 
>will be committed enough to sustain this with no financial compensation.

That was the sort of thing I had in mind, yes. And you certainly have 
a point, because this would definitely be work intensive, especially 
in music theory and composition. One's enthusiasm might well begin to 
wane after a semester or two of such hard work.

>3. Some of us earn necessary income teaching privately. To be 
>undercut by those who can afford to work gratis, often because of 
>former lucrative positions, is dismaying.

I'll set your mind at ease by assuring you I never held what could be 
considered a "lucrative" position in my life. But your point is 
nevertheless very well taken, and definitely food for serious 
concern. I really don't think, however, that the sort of thing I have 
in mind would have much of an effect on private teachers, partly 
because it's going to be pretty modest and limited for some time, 
assuming it's destined to ever get off the ground; partly because 
there have been many precedents in the past for low tuition or no 
tuition programs, such as UCLA (once upon a time), and those programs 
don't seem to have destroyed the market for private music teachers. 
Also, I see no reason to assume that a free-tuition program would 
have to be taught by unpaid volunteers exclusively. Money for paid 
instructors could be made available through fund raising or gov't 
grants, as with all other educational institutions.

>3. Public universities were created 100+ yrs ago to meet this 
>situation. Tuition at the City University of New York is 15% of 
>tuition at many private institutions.

Well, this is now a large part of the problem, because many of the 
programs that once were free or very low cost are now getting 
increasingly expensive. Instead of raising taxes on the wealthy and 
using those funds to support free or low tuition programs, our gov't 
in its wisdom decided to "privatize" education by turning it into a 
market driven commodity. In-state tuition at the "state-related" U. 
of Pittsburgh (where I used to teach) is now almost $16,000 for arts 
and sciences students, plus room and board at almost $10,000, a grand 
total of almost $26,000 per year. At Chatham University (where I also 
taught) it's almost $32,000 per year, just for tuition, plus roughly 
another $10,000 for room and board. And Chatham is by no means an 
elite institution, let me assure you. If CUNY has somehow managed to 
keep its tuition low, more power to them, but as I understand it, 
that is definitely an exception.

>4. If someone wants to contribute in retirement, how about teaching 
>at a neighborhood music school? Or establishing one (what your idea 
>seems  to imply); but, of course, this takes  enormous work and 
>ongoing funding.
>Good luck!

Well, my goal is to contribute to something that would make college 
level instruction available free of charge to those who can no longer 
afford those sky high tuitions. Neighborhood music schools are a 
great resource, but that's not what I had in mind.

All that said, I do understand where you are coming from Donna. The 
idea I'm tossing out is something that would take a lot of planning 
and tweaking to make sure it actually works as intended, and won't be 
the sort of thing that creates problems for younger professionals 
like yourself.

Victor Grauer
Pittsburgh, PA

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