The following editorial appeared in The (Sunbury) Daily Item, a CNHI newspaper. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tribune-Democrat.

The University of Pennsylvania, according to former Vice President Joe Biden’s recent financial disclosures, has paid Biden more than $775,000 to be the university’s Benjamin Franklin presidential practice professor over the past two years.

For that money – which is significantly higher than that of Penn’s other professors – Biden did not teach a single class or grade a single paper, according to Philadelphia Magazine.

College costs a lot of money and hundreds of thousands are drowning in student debt. The cost of college has become a political issue with some candidates calling for free tuition and loan forgiveness.

The practice of universities, private or public, paying political and other celebrities outlandish salaries for what are usually limited teaching duties should be halted, or reviewed to make sure the students are getting what they are paying for.

Tuition at Penn for the upcoming school year is $51,156, according to the university’s website. With fees, housing, dining and other expenses, the cost leaps to more than $71,000 annually.

Certainly having someone on faculty with the name recognition like Biden’s would be a draw for prospective students. So it’s disappointing Biden isn’t living up to his title on campus.

“He is not scheduled to teach a formal course at this time,” Annenberg School Dean Michael Delli Carpini said when Biden was added to the faculty. He still isn’t.

According to media reports, he has delivered 10 speeches on campus from 2017 through the middle of 2019. For that, he was paid $371,159 in 2017 and $405,368 in 2018 as a professor. Considering Biden typically charges the $100,000 per speech, perhaps Penn thinks it is getting a bargain.

Students could benefit from Biden’s global experience in the classroom; he could offer an unique and broad historic look into political science not offered by traditional professors.

Sadly, he’s not in the classroom.

Penn has established the Biden Center for Diplomacy & Global Engagement, which according to the university’s website, was “founded on the principle that a democratic, open, secure, tolerant and interconnected world benefits all Americans. Based in our nation’s capital, the Penn Biden Center engages more of our fellow citizens in shaping this world, while ensuring the gains of global engagement are widely shared.”

The center seems like a worthwhile outreach and something the university should be proud of. Perhaps that is why university is paying professor Biden an outrageous teaching salary without actually teaching.

At a time with skyrocketing college costs, universities must consider the financial impact of having faux professors on faculty as a way to the boost the school’s image. Having Joe Biden, or Oprah Winfrey or Alec Baldwin – the latter two who have taught classes, Winfrey at Northwestern, Baldwin at Southhampton – on faculty is fun, but is it offering anything substantive to students? 

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