Probabalistic Auctions: Why Don't Universities Raffle off Chair Endowments?

A recent post of mine was addressed to the super-rich who are considering endowing a chair in order to garner public recognition. But what about the merely rich who wish to have their names recognized in perpetuity with an eponymous endowed chair at their university? Is there anything they can do?

Yes. There are two things.

First, a much larger swath of people can follow the Benjamin Franklin strategy and endow a delayed chair. Franklin famously bequeathed about $4,000 in 1790 to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Franklin:

instructed that [his bequest] be invested for two hundred years and at the end of that period, the money should be used to do good. Franklin died in 1790. In 1990, his gift had grown to over $2 million.

Buyout Package Bingo: A Reason to Choose More Work for Same Pay?

An example of irrationality? A colleague at another university was offered a buy-out: A full year’s pay if he would resign/retire at the end of the current semester. At the same time his school also offered a phased retirement deal: Two years at half pay, with half a usual teaching load.

This economist chose to take the phased retirement, thus choosing the same pay, but teaching four courses over two years instead of no teaching. I think he's crazy; but I think you can write down a utility function that is consistent with his behavior and violates none of our assumptions about preferences.

Another Salvo in the Tenure Debate

Should professors have tenure? The question, debated recently on this blog, misses the mark---as do the usual answers, whether "yes," "no," or "maybe."

On the "no" side, it is argued that tenure protects incompetent spongers. A very reliable (tenured) colleague, at a university that shall remain nameless, tells me of professors whose interests are no longer intellectual and who spend their time playing the real estate market. Their research productivity, measured in grant dollars or papers, is low; thus, the university is angry. Their teaching is also substandard, yet not quite abysmal enough to get them fired. To urge them to resign, the department punishes them… by assigning extra teaching!

On the "yes" side, it is argued that tenure protects academic freedom. That point is made by my colleague on this blog Dan Hamermesh. Ten years ago I agreed with him. I would not have imagined my future self happy as an associate professor at Olin College of Engineering: Olin offers six-year renewable contracts instead of tenure. Now I see Olin’s system as a reasonable alternative to tenure, for I no longer believe that tenure supports academic freedom.

Trouble in Higher Ed.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is running the second installment of an interesting two-part essay on the declining expectations and level of learning taking place among college undergrads.

The Demand for Econ Professors

My Department chairman is mystified: You would think that with the crisis in public budgets, the demand for new economics faculty members would have shifted leftward. Similarly, with graduate students having delayed entry into the market, the supply of new Ph.D.s this year would have shifted rightward. Together, these changes should have lowered the price (wage) that the market pays new Ph.D.s.

How Much Value Does an "Elite" College Provide?

How far will a degree from an elite college get you? Only in the door, says a new study of Israeli grads.

Lazy Academics

It's final exam time, and my office is packed with a few of the 520 students in my bigger class. Although I'm pleased by their interest, I ask why they're spending so much time on my course. The answer is that it's the only final exam they have.

What's Your Econ 101 Professor Worth?

The Texas A&M University system has embarked on a new accountability program. For every department - indeed, for every professor - revenue generated and cost incurred are calculated; and profit - the difference - is reported. Each professor is presumably supposed to have a marginal revenue product above his/her compensation.

College Counseling and the Achievement Gap

Closing the black-white - and the rich-poor - achievement gap is a frequent topic of conversation on this blog. Economist Christopher Avery takes a look (ungated version here) at one intervention aimed at closing the gap: providing college counselors for high-achieving, low-income students.

Is Your University Complying With the New Textbook Law?

University students are returning to campuses throughout the country. It is a migration that raises my spirits - seeing the energetic, eager faces tackling another course in contracts or intellectual property. But this year something is different. For the first time, a federal law has taken effect which requires "institution of higher education receiving Federal financial assistance" to provide students with information on textbook pricing.