An unusual new study of the effects of faculty unionization on public universities—rather than on just faculty members themselves—reachesIt reminds me of an independent audit they did some 15 years ago when Tommy Thompson set about privatizing the Milwaukee County child welfare system. The study showed that the public sector program provided twice as much bang for the buck when it came to delivering services.
"Unionization contributes to lower budgets, higher graduation rates, and a greater number of degrees and completions," says a draft report on the study's findings scheduled to be presented on Sunday in New York, at the annual conference of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions.
Mark K. Cassell, a professor of political science at Kent State University, based the study on an analysis of 23 years' worth of federal data from 432 public universities compiled by the Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes for Research.
In an interview on Thursday, he said his study "tries to cut through some of the hyperbolic rhetoric" surrounding the effect of faculty unionization on colleges and shows "that unionization, on average, has a positive impact."
Most previous studies of this issue have focused on the question of whether unionization leaves colleges' faculty members better off, not whether colleges benefit or suffer from their faculty members' unionization. Mr. Cassell's study stands out in terms of its focus on the effects of unionization on colleges and the large number of colleges covered.
He tried to isolate the effects of faculty unionization on such institutions by statistically controlling for their size, selectivity, and Carnegie classification, and for the cost of living, economic conditions, partisan control of government, and level of state regulation of higher education in the states where they are located. To try to tease out causal relationships between the factors studied, he examined the data over time.
His analysis found that having faculty unions led public universities to spend a larger share of their budgets on instruction, as opposed to administration. Over time, his paper says, universities with faculty unions consistently spent 2 to 3 percent less than others on administration, "a sizable amount given that university budgets often can exceed $500 million."
The paper says the higher spending on instruction at unionized public universities might help explain the finding that such institutions have significantly better student success rates, as measured by the share of students who graduate within six years, earn degrees, or complete some other academic program.
Stephen G. Katsinas, a professor of higher education and director of the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, said he suspects that having faculty unions might affect the composition of colleges' academic work forces, leaving them with larger shares of full-time, not part-time, faculty members than colleges without faculty unions.
Such differences in work-force composition, he said, might help account for differences in student performance, considering that other research has found that being full time leaves faculty members better able to advise students. While saying he needed more time to review the new study's methodology, Mr. Katsinas said Mr. Cassell "is to be commended for tackling a tough and important topic."
I would wager that this would be true across the board with other services and other fields as well.
So why would people be against saving money and getting better service by bashing the unions?
To answer that, look at who is bashing the public sector workers - people like Robin Vos, Chris Abele and Scott Walker - and look who's behind them, supporting them.
Then remember the famous quote by Thomas Donahue:
"The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor."Now you know who's really on the taxpayers' side, and it's not the union bashers.