Society, living by neoliberal premises a bit more each passing day, is suspicious of the value of research, instead focusing on utilitarian metrics of returns on investment and intent on applying market mechanisms to domains traditionally insulated from the market.
What type of future does this portend?
All the pieces of the current system stand or fall together. One cannot eliminate graduate programs without losing cheap labor for undergraduate courses, as well as enrollments for graduate courses where professors are able to teach small classes on their research specialty. Professors will then be facing increased teaching loads to make up for the loss of courses covered by graduate students.
A three-tier system will emerge, with a small number of well paid tenure stream faculty resting above a larger number of dispensable lecturers and (at the bottom of the system) adjuncts teaching courses at $3000 each. The top twenty programs will partially avoid this fate, but even here a downward spiral sets in: for where is Yale to place its students if the bottom half or two thirds of philosophy programs move toward a three-tier system?
What is striking to us is that these developments are apparent for all to see, at least in outline. The future is uncertain, but the trend lines are clear. All of these vectors point toward a single conclusion: the need to create a new job track outside the academy for philosophers. Yet there is not a single PhD program among the 100 or so in philosophy in the United States which has clearly struck out in this direction.
None seem willing to blaze a new trail back into the commons.