It is (still) all about the Money: Another Review of Higher Education?

I reviewed the book Higher Education? by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus last year (see here for the final review and a list of the other reviews; it was a six-part series). I recently received the updated paperback version that has some additional material, including a new afterward. Much of my criticisms of the original book still stand, but it hard for me not to recommend a book that says the following:

What do we think should happen in college? We want people to use their minds as they never have before, thinking about the realities and issues that strain their mental powers. They should be urged to be imaginative and inquiring, to take risks without having to worry about their transcripts or alienating their teachers. To quote a friend, colleges should be making their undergraduates more interesting people. Higher education is an ongoing conversation, created for students poised at adulthood, which can and will continue throughout their lives. (6-7)

These are some of the things I aspire to do in my classes, and so I think that while their hearts are in the right place, I still have some issues with the authors’ arguments. For one thing, everything that is wrong with higher education is a microcosm (or, if you’d like me to get all literary on you, a synecdoche) of what is wrong with society as a whole at the moment: greed, exponential growth, exploited underclass, bubbles about to burst, blind faith, etc. Our students (and their parents) come in not wanting an education but a job and the security that comes with it. So we provide it. The government keeps providing loans, so we take them, both students and institutions. There is a disconnect between those in administration, those who are professors, and those who are off the tenure-track. Perhaps disconnect is the wrong word: massive craters of empty space is a more apt metaphor.

But I want to get back to a question I asked the first time around: How Much is a Professor Worth? Comparing salaries of professors is really difficult to do; depending on where you live, what you study, and the nature of the institution, salaries will vary wildly. So to celebrate the professor living in rural Oregon and their (comparatively) paltry salaries is a bit unfair to those professors who have to try and make a living in New York City, San Francisco, Boston, or any other high-priced center. But it also doesn’t take into consideration the economic realities of professors today.

The authors rightly call for the end of adjunct exploitation, as well as the end of student loans as we know them. But, unfortunately, an entire generation of PhDs (and, one would think, the next generation coming through the ranks) have been punished economically by this system. Not only are we facing our loans (and the accrued interest), but we are also facing years of private debt accumulated over the years of low-paying adjunct work. To tell a new professor, you aren’t worth it, is a further insult, not to mention ignoring the very real fact that the (apparently) inflated salary is not enough to meet the student loan demands, career demands, and life demands.

We are not coming from schools where tuition could once be easily financed through summer jobs, nor from generous graduate programs that allowed you to live and work on your PhD. And most of us aren’t coming from economic circumstances where we have been supported financially by family. We come drowning in debt. And, as inflated as the salaries seem to the outside world, I’d like to introduce them to how much red ink is also peeking from behind.

I write this piece from experience. We are (thankfully, gratefully) a two-income household, both in higher education. My husband has a tenure-track position, while I am an instructor. Our combined salaries are really great-looking on paper. And yet, monthly, we wonder how we are going to make our student loan payments, our credit card payments, pay for our kids’ preschool, and have anything left over for savings. If something were to happen to one of us, like so many other families, we’d have nothing to fall back on, no cushion to catch us.

You might be tempted to throw an accusation at us that we lived beyond our means, and that this is all our own fault, but we believed in the myth of meritocracy and that all would be well once the Boomers retired. Student loans are the gateway drug to credit card debt as grad students: we take on these debt because we have been told over and over that it is “worth it” and will be rewarded with the job of our dreams at the end of it.

The authors call on all of us to see ourselves as public servants. And that’s fine, but more and more of the best and the brightest are leaving higher education because they can’t afford not to. Until the whole system is changed, this is a reality that just isn’t going to go away; it’s only going to get worse.

Bad Female Academic: Shameless Self-Promotion

My blog recently hit 50,000 pageviews:

And, I accumulated over 2,000 followers on Twitter:
Some of my followers on Twitter asked me how I got to these benchmarks, and I have one answer: Shameless Self-Promotion. Good Female Academics are mild and quiet and work away at their jobs, hoping to get noticed, but well aware that any attempt at blowing their own horn will be met with derision and dismissal. Bad Female Academics put themselves out there. Repeatedly and persistently.
Don’t believe me? Read the comments on this recent post on self-promotion for women in academia or this recent piece in the Times of Higher Education on self-promotion. It is unseemly and beneath academics to promote themselves in such a fashion, and even more so for a woman in academia. We might be mistaken as ambitious or loud. Or self-confident.
When I was about 12 or 13, I remember standing in the school’s bathroom with my best friend as she ran through the list of things she wanted to change about herself. Then she asked me what I wanted to change about myself, the things I didn’t like. I shrugged my shoulders and said that there wasn’t anything I wanted to change. She looked at me and spat out, “Well, that’s awfully arrogant, isn’t it?” 
This is the message we’re sent as girls and as women. To believe in ourselves is arrogant, unfounded, untrue. It takes an immense amount of confidence to put yourself out there, to promote yourself, to tweet your writing, to submit your name and your work for judgement and recognition. I believe that my work and my writing is good enough, maybe even great. And if it’s rejected, I take the critique, integrate it, and send it out again. I blog as myself because if I want the recognition and respect, it has to be as myself.

My advice for reaching these milestones is just simply to take chances, to put yourself out there. Follow those people who you admire, engage them in conversation, tweet and retweet your work and theirs. Bring it their attention. Post your work in the comments of relevant blogs or articles. Look for both traditional and non-traditional opportunities, from going to conference in your field to submitting more traditional op-eds to stuff that really out there (I’m applying to SXSW this year!).

To use an absolutely sexist and negative term, be willing to whore yourself. How is that for a loaded expression when it comes to self-promotion?

Above all, be patient and be persistent. Be relevant and be accessible. Be open and have thick skin. Don’t give up. Find a supportive network of people who will push you and encourage you and be honest with you. But above all, don’t let that voice inside of you win.

It’s my birthday today (August 14th). In the spirit of honestly, I’m 34. My world in nowhere near where I thought it would be, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I took a lot of chances, none of them I regret. I put myself out there and I don’t regret it at all. I want to thank all of your for helping me be the best Bad Female Academic I can be.

No, a better one. Because shameless self-promotion isn’t about just you; it’s about being better because of the people you’ve reached.  

In-Class Distractions Are Nothing New

Or, why you should allow your students to have their phones, laptops, and whatever else they want in class.
(This post originally appeared on So Educated.)

A student who is unengaged will find something better to do if they have technology in front of them or not. When I was in school, I wrote. I wrote notes to my friends, I wrote poetry, I wrote love letters to the object of my affection that I never gave them, I wrote short stories, I wrote anything and everything except what the teacher was saying. I had other friends who drew. Still others stared out the window and daydreamed.

We all clearly recognize that banning pens, pencils, and paper in the classroom isn’t a good idea (or, maybe it is – what if the students couldn’t do anything except sit and listen, or the teacher couldn’t just rely on the students to “take notes” in order to learn). And yet, just because a student is writing (or looks like they are writing) doesn’t mean they are paying attention. In the same way, just because the student doesn’t look like they’re taking notes doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention.

Read this about Maria Klawe, the President of Harvey Mudd College in California:
If one walked by an all-day meeting in progress and just spotted Klawe, it might appear to be a class in watercolor painting. Only a closer room scan would reveal that Klawe is the lone paintbrush-in-hand participant. Besides any meeting notes, surrounding her are some brushes, paint tubes, a small mixing tray, and a watercolor block.
“I’m a better participant when I’m painting,” she contends. “I’m listening to everything but it keeps me quieter. Usually in a meeting I want to say something about everything. If I’m painting, it brings me down to a much more normal level.” Those who have been in both types of meetings with her have agreed. 
What if the student who doesn’t appear to be paying attention is actually listening more effectively because they are also doing something with their hands?

There is something to be said about quiet, intense focus on one single task. But is sitting in a classroom, listening to a lecture the best way to encourage this type of engagement in students? There has been a great deal of work done recently showing that cell phones can be a very effective tool in actively engaging students in the classroom, helping them stay focused. In the writing classes that I teach, it would be ideal (both financially and environmentally) for all of my students to have their laptops or netbooks in order to be able to immediately and actively edit their writing, share their work, and engage in research activities. And for me, the benefit of these devices in the classroom far outweigh the reality that the students will probably also be doing something else instead.

It’s the same reason I don’t ban pens and paper in my classroom, either.

Postscript: There are some legitimate arguments against laptops in the classroom (see here), but I think, especially as I read Cathy Davidson’s new book, that the trick is to actively engage students using their laptops. 

Time for a Change: Integrating Peer-Driven Learning

After a summer of research (four articles submitted, two book proposals ready to go), I’ve turned my attention back to preparing to teach. And this year, I’m finally putting my money where my mouth is; I’m making my 200-level Writing II class entirely peer-driven, student-driven, and crowdsourced (and by crowd, I mean the class). I’ve taken my inspiration from the great Cathy Davidson and we will spend the first four week of the course shaping the final thirteen. 

Why have I done this? I think my students are capable and should be encouraged to take ownership of their educations, as well as learn to work collectively. I also think that it’s about time that I learn, I mean really learn, what it is that they know and react accordingly, rather than assuming up front and correcting my teaching. 
Why I am only doing this in my 200-level class? Mostly because these are student who (in theory) have already learned the “basics” in their 100-level Freshman Writing class. I am hoping that the extra experience will help them feel more comfortable with the arrangement. I also hope that this means we can focus on what we are writing about versus how we are supposed to write about it.
If you would like to see my syllabus and offer comments, please do so below, rather than directly in the document. Please remember that this is a first draft of the document and I will be continually refining it and reworking it right up until the semester starts on the 19th. I hope to receive some good feedback here so that this class is as successful as possible.
I am also going to be using Cathy Davidson’s new book Now You See It, which is excellent (more detailed review to come) in my 100-level class, where the theme will “The Future.” After we read the book (which will take up about the first third to half of the semester), I will turn the class over to the students and we will read/watch/write works of their choosing based on the theme. At least, that’s the plan. 
I have to say, I am at once terrified and exhilarated. I am looking forward to the challenge and I am optimistic that this will work. But I am also terrified that it will fail horribly, either due to my inability to let go or my students’ unwillingness to break free of the way they have been conditioned to learn throughout their educations. I guess I have a little less than two week to chicken out and revert back to my usual dictatorial style. 
Please feel free to offer words of encouragement in either direction.

Bad Female Academic: Not Interested in Passing

(See what I did there? That’s the second post in a row where I’ve come up with a clever title with two possible meanings, both in the traditional academic sense and in the socio-economic sense. Anyone? Anyone? Alright, I’ll get on with it.)

When Dr. Crazy was talking about gender and class, she brought up the concept of “passing”, or being able to move up and fit into a different socio-economic class. Women, especially, have been practicing this since, well, since there were marked differences between different groups of people implying an hierarchy.* I think if this Bad Female Academic series has shown anything, it’s that I am not very good at passing myself off as a “traditional” academic.
But writing this series has forced me to look back at my personal history both inside and outside academia, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I have never really been interested in passing, and in fact now seem to be actively seeking out situations where it would be impossible for me to pass. 
Let me explain, and bear with me if we take a short voyage into my non-academic past.
In elementary school, I was the only girl in my class who didn’t at least try to figure skate or do ballet. This was an offense punishable by being mean-girled for all of elementary school. I swam. I never hid the fact that I swam, nor was I interested in giving up swimming in order to “fit in.” In high school, too, I wore my hideous swimming jacket as a badge of pride, marking my difference from the rest of the group. It was also in high school when my parents got divorced and I was suddenly thrust into a different economic reality, a reality that was much different from that of my friends. Swimming, while a welcome escape for me, was also a place where I didn’t quite fit in, as I was one of the youngest and only girls. 
After a particularly difficult two years at a private CEGEP, where I decided that I couldn’t join the socio-economic elite I was going to school with, nor did I have any desire to beat them, so I wore sweatpants for two years, I left to go to a French university. I knew I wouldn’t, couldn’t pass as a French person, but I didn’t care. The impossibility of passing was liberating. 
After my PhD (where I probably tried too hard to pass, failed miserably, and was miserable), after getting married, after adjuncting while pregnant, I got my tenure-track job. At an HBCU. Once again, while pregnant. There was no hope of passing, in fact it would have been insulting and ignorant to even try. But I liked that. I had realized that letting go of the pressure, the desire, the desperation, to be something I wasn’t, I learned more, was more open, and a better teacher. I wasn’t wrapped up in whatever I needed or thought I needed to do, so I could focus on what my students needed me to be. 
Think about that for a second. If we just stopped worrying so much about what our colleagues or administrators or “the elite” want us to be, maybe we can be better teachers and researcher, actually attuned to what they need from us, and what we need from ourselves. 
Now, I am an instructor in the South. My accent marks me as different. And that’s perfectly fine by me. Maybe by being myself, I can teach my students (and my children) that it’s ok to be yourself and to be different. 
*I don’t use the term “passing” without realizing that it is a problematic term; I’ve worked at an HBCU and I study Black writers, so I am well aware of the history of “passing” for African-Americans in the US. And even the fact that I have the choice to be able to pass marks me as being a more privilege position. And my apparent rejection of that privilege is also not unproblematic. I don’t see what I do as “slumming it” but instead a conscious effort to do things differently. 

There are no words today, only action

I was all set to write a post about how we remain obsessed with the Ivies and those top, elite colleges, to our own detriment. And I’m not just talking about how families will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get little Jimmy and Suzy into Yale or Duke, but how we, in academia and the media, keep pushing these colleges as the standard, for better or for worse. Three items:

Nothing from a regional state school (or community college). Nothing from a PhD from a less than elite program. Nothing about the variety of experiences that are found in higher education, from how English is taught to the experience of the workforce therein. 
And then, I read about an adjunct professor in community college who killed himself. 71 years old, history of depression, and all I can think is, did he not get help because he didn’t have health insurance? And I remember reading about another adjunct who worked through his cancer treatments because he couldn’t afford not to. He passed away from the cancer (sorry, no link; I saw it on facebook, in a private note, and I don’t have permission to share). And how some are trying to create an Adjunct Emergency Fund. And. And. And. And.
So, I’m sorry if your experience at Brown and with elite MBA students isn’t all that you imagined it would be; most of us are teaching our “mediocre” and “non-elite” students how to write quite well, thank you very much. And, I’m sorry I’m not the kind of role model you’re looking for in English. Or, maybe I am, but you can’t be bothered to meet me. Finally, I’m so, so happy that you’re academic fairy tale has come true. Doesn’t mean that it has for most people.
Ivory tower, indeed. 
For the rest of us, it’s real life, and it’s about time others started realizing that. Although, most people reading this blog already do realize it. Preaching to the choir. Now, it’s up to us to actually DO something about it. I wrote this. I’ll keep writing this. 
I need to figure out what else it is I can do. Because these words that I write, while reaching an audience, can only do so much. 

The Academic Elite: Who Are These People, Really?

So, class has been on everyone’s brain lately. Not the kind of class that is about to start in less then three weeks (I really need to get on that), but the kind of class that involves money, social mobility, and how to properly “fit” into higher education. I want to start with a little bit of a roundup of recent posts that are either explicitly or implicitly about class issues. If I’m missing any, please let us all know in the comment. 

Obviously, this isn’t all that has been written on class issues in higher education, but these seem to have all come to head, right now, online and in real life, at least for me. Thinking about my graduate and teaching career, I have one question that nags at me:

Who in the heck are these people who are forcing and enforcing a very clear and distinct set of class values on us? Seriously? Who are they?

Because it’s not the majority of people that I’ve met on my path to where I am right now. Maybe it’s because I’ve never attended an “elite” institution, either as a student or a professor. Maybe it’s because I self-selected the people I hang around with, naturally drawn to those with similar backgrounds to my own (my husband, for example, who is also an academic, is from the same socio-economic background as I am). Or maybe, like so much of what we believe about higher education, it’s all just a massive ruse that we’ve been blindly perpetuating.

I still remember being put in my place when I was an MA student by one of my professors. I was commenting on a novel we were reading, saying that it was written for “them” and not for ordinary people (or something like that). She took great offense to that, outlining all of the ways she was not one of them, in terms of her background. It was the first time I really took a step back and looked at the people in front of me and around me. Now, we did have a professor who was a stereotypical professor, in terms of both his class and attitude, but it was only one. And, I don’t remember one of my peers in the program who came from anything higher than lower-middle-class.

It was the same for my PhD. There was, again, one professor who was clearly “one of those professors” (he came from a very wealthy and influential family, apparently, and my colleague of mine was horrified when I revealed, no, sorry, never heard of them), but the rest of the professors were largely from working-class and immigrant families, as were my colleagues in the program. I’ve taught at four different universities in two countries and three states, and I have to say that the majority of my colleagues come form backgrounds similar to my own.

So why then does this obsession with class markers persist? Did we all get into higher education so we could be snobs? Really? And why do we keep requiring that aspiring academics perform tasks that we know they can’t afford? Go to conferences, work for peanuts, receive little institutional support both before and after the tenure-track job. Take on more and more debt, shop at the right stores, live in the right neighborhood, go to the right shows, the right conferences, etc.

We’re suffering in semi-silence. I can’t believe that, despite all of these voices speaking out, we can’t change higher education, if not structurally, then at least culturally. I refuse to meet certain cultural markers. I’m not good at “passing” (as Dr. Crazy writes about) and, judging by the comments and traffic my blog post has received, I’m not the only one who is either incapable, unwilling, or just plain burnt out about the whole thing.

I am serious, though. Where is this pressure coming from? Because, from where I’m sitting, there are more of “us” than there are of “them.”

Bad Female Academic: Am I In the Wrong Class?

Throughout my examination of the pressures female academics face to conform in order to “make it”, and how I (attempt to) resist or break, or simply just don’t fit those expectations, it’s become increasingly clear that a lot of the issues surrounding being a Bad Female Academic isn’t just about policing gender, but it is about class (socio-economic) expectations. When I admit that I am loud or that I like to get dirty, I am essentially signaling a lower-class upbringing.
This is important when discussing the ever-nebulous issue of “fit” when it comes to hiring and tenure decisions. During one of my on-campus interviews, one of the faculty who was taking me around campus revealed that she had attended school in Southern California near where I was currently living. We got talking about living in SoCal; the traffic, the weather, our favorite beaches, local news, going to the Getty Museum, and the like. I made the mistake, however, of revealing that I listened to KROQ, a rock-alternative station. Their morning show, in particular, isn’t known to be very progressive when it comes to issues of sexism (they have an annual Miss Double-D-cember contest), racism, and homophobia. But, to me, they are hysterical, don’t take themselves too seriously, and often take-down the self-importance of Hollywood/L.A. And, I really like the music.
Obviously, the correct answer was that I listen to NPR or a classical music station. Even if I had lied and said that, it would soon become clear that I didn’t, in fact, listen to these stations when I would be unable to offer comment on that morning’s feature story. Honestly, I hate talk radio. I appreciate classical music, but need something a little more…invigorating to start my day. I grew up in a house filled with popular and rock music. We listened to music in the mornings, peppered through with the news (sports scores were essential) and funny bits done by the DJs. I’m not sure how much of it has to do with class, but there are certainly assumptions to be made because of my favorite kind of music and what I like to listen to on the radio.
But it’s not just what kind of radio I enjoy listening to. These expectations start to permeate every decision I make, especially as a mother.  I let my kids watch TV, even indulging in my daughter’s love of Disney Princesses.  I don’t have a nanny, but instead send them to preschool, and not one that is a Montessori. These are all revelations that slowly by surely leak out as I become more and more integrated in the community. Where one shops, what kind of food or clothes one buys, it all reflects a certain class expectation.
For example, I shop at Wal-Mart. This, in many academic circles, is a sin punishable by death, or at least a good shunning. But here’s the problem. I can’t afford not to shop at Wal-Mart. For groceries and basic necessities for the kids, it’s the most affordable option available. I would love to be able to afford to drive an hour to shop at Whole Foods, or the organic co-op, but I can’t. The student loan debts my husband and I have from our educations are taking huge chunks from our income.
Here is where class really comes into play. Those of us who had to go into a great deal of debt to get their PhDs often can’t afford to play the game of being a good “fit” or embodying the non-academic values of higher education. I want to take my kids to the symphony or the ballet, I want to sign them up for culturally enriching opportunities, and not just because of the societal pressure of my job, but I can’t afford to. And that inability to pay can be interpreted as refusing to teach my own children the proper “values,” thus calling into question my “fit” in an academic setting.  We are also often the same people who came from a lower class to begin with, meaning that all of those “free” symbols of class that come naturally to some aren’t obvious, comfortable, or authentic for us.
When we talk about diversity in academia and what it means to be a “good” academic, we can’t forget the economic privilege that exists for those who have long set the rules as to what it means to be a Good Academic.
(Worst Professor Ever and I must share a brain, or at least be on the same wavelength; while I was writing this post, she published “You Stay Classy, Ivory Tower!” I encourage you to read her very similar reactions to the class expectations of higher education. I think the more voices we have talking about this very real issue, the better.)

City Living versus Country Livin’

(I know, it’s late, and a bit off topic compared to what I’ve been writing about lately. It’s Friday, it’s my anniversary, and this was lying around on my hard drive.)
I live in the country. Technically, I live “in town”, but when the town in question is only about 6000 people and in the middle of a National Forrest, I think I can safely say that I live in a rural area. We are an hour from any real city, but even the cities we are close to aren’t large urban areas. To say that living here has been an adjustment for me is an understatement.
I grew up in the suburbs of Montreal. Downtown was only a bus and metro ride away. We had sports teams, museums, a symphony, concerts, shopping, restaurants, ethnic neighborhoods, everything. I’ve also recently lived in Southern California, with everything that involves. I loved having relatively easy access to just about anything and everything I could ever want.
And by relatively easy, I mean, willing to put up with the traffic to get there.
There are certainly advantages to living in a rural area. Real estate is much more affordable; the house and lot we just bought would be unattainable for us in any urban area. We live only a short walk from campus, meaning we only own one car and use it sparingly. Parenting isn’t a full-contact sport here. There is no competition as to who has the best stroller, whose child has the latest and greatest cognitive development toys, and who got into which (obscenely priced) preschool. I don’t have to worry about over-scheduling my kids because there is only a limited amount of things I can sign them up for.
Which is a disadvantage as well. My kids both love dancing, but there aren’t any classes offered for their age group, unless I am willing to drive an hour each way.  Perhaps a parent more dedicated than myself would make that drive, but two hours (and the gas) are a luxury we can’t really afford right now. I miss having options for just about everything: food, shopping, entertainment. While at a recent conference in Toronto, my mouth watered as I walked passed restaurant after restaurant, offering cuisine I just don’t have access to anymore and seeing posters for events I know my family (or just me) would adore.
Finding things for us to do here is also a lot more work. I am used to being able to just simply look online for schedules, directions, pricing, and other information. Here, most local businesses don’t have a website, and the city website is equally unhelpful and usually out-of-date. Here, if you want to know what’s going on, you have to buy the local paper and make friends with the locals. Not that that’s a bad thing, just something that I am still trying to adapt to.
We feel pretty fortunate, however, to be living (and working!) where we are. There were no waiting lists or tests or sky-high registration fees to get my kids into the best preschool here in town, which they both adore. The schools here are good, and, although not tremendously diverse ethnically (the entire state we live in isn’t very diverse), there is a great deal of socio-economic diversity.  It’s been hard to “break in” to the social circles here (we are city folk, after all), but we’re making inroads and starting to feel like a part of the community.
It hasn’t been an easy transition, but I can see the changes in myself when I do travel to the city for one reason or another (mostly conferences). I feel more at home when able to ride on public transit, more comfortable around people speaking different languages, more excited by all of the opportunities, cultural and otherwise, that the big city offers. But I also recoil at the site of the giant, impersonal high-rise condo that seem to be springing up everywhere and disgusted at the price. I am more grateful for the slower pace here, grateful for the fact that my kids can be kids here, and I can be myself as a mother. This place may not have been our first choice, but it’s now home and home for now.

Grad School for All?

Worst Professor Ever alerted me to this New York Times article about how the Master’s degree is the new Bachelor’s degree. I posted my response on her facebook page:

I have to say I was more than a little flatter that William Pannapacker (aka Thomas H. Benton from the Chronicle) liked my response. And WorstProf wrote an absolutely hysterical Onion-esque response: “Education Secretary to Today’s Youth: Stop Getting So Many Fucking Degrees.” I do want to expand on my facebook comment, because it does reflect on how the economics of the universities are getting more and more screwed up.
I’ve written before about the economic realities of getting PhD, especially in the humanities. But what about from the other side, from the perspective of the universities that are increasingly offering MA programs. Faculty, particularly at public universities, are seeing their salaries if not get cut, then certainly decrease in purchasing power. One way to appease faculty is to create graduate programs; it’s like a perk! Smaller classes! Better students! More prestige! Never mind that it’s actually more work to recruit and retain these students, not to mention mentor and supervise them. From the university’s perspective, they’re getting the faculty to do more work for less money. And, the added prestige of graduate programs. Win-win.
Actually, it’s a win-win-win. Grad students are cash-cows. You can charge more for grad programs (even though they aren’t hiring any more faculty, or paying the current faculty more) and they’ll pay. Plus, you can then use the grad students a cheap labor, working on campus, for professors, and maybe even teaching some of those pesky intro classes that no one else wants to. And did I mention the prestige? Rankings love grad programs. 
But does the student really win? It keeps them out of the work force longer, usually will end up putting them further into debt, and makes them over-qualified for many of the jobs they may want. And, for the most part, this will benefit the same students who are benefitting from a BA anyway; the wealthy and upper-middle-class. Applying for graduate school is perhaps even more difficult and complex than applying for university. And even more expensive. To get into the best graduate programs, you have to not only be outstanding, but also know the right people. It’s a big circle jerk, and those who benefit are those who have always been a part of it. 
And do the professors really win? Soon, College Misery will be devoted not to the under-qualified and entitled undergrads, but to the under-qualified and entitled grad students that the college accepts because of the money and prestige. The MA will be the new BA, insofar as students will feel entitled to their degree on the basis of having a) been accepted and b) paid for it. The best and the brightest will continue to go to the “best” schools, while everyone else will move from one mediocre program to another. You’ll be able to say that you supervise grad students, but at what cost? 
To reiterate, I hate it. We’re fooling ourselves within the academy into thinking that what we are doing is in the name of social justice and equality, when really we’re just providing excuses to governments and corporations to compress salaries, benefits, and cheapen our students’ educations, not to mention out own value as academics.