The perceived social value of higher education in the United States and the political will to fund it represents a fascinating paradox. This article explores one way that paradox is reconciled. I look closely at the emergence of a specific educational critique in the discourse of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The critique encourages a neoliberal reinvention of higher education. It does so by constructing symbolic representations that align with preexisting public vocabularies and socially shared orientations reflected in images of the Deserving and Undeserving Poor. By illuminating the discursive techniques by which these representations construct an image of what I call the Undeserving Professor, the critique offers significant theoretical and political insights into an underexplored area of rhetoric, neoliberalism, and public affairs.

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