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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues


Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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4. Civic Engagement and Higher Learning (Richard Guarasci)


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4.  Civic Engagement and Higher Learning


In the midst of the most substantive fiscal and demographic challenges to higher education since the Great Depression, universities and colleges face dramatic problems in reconfiguring the pricing and delivery of undergraduate education. Tuitions rise along with increasing student debt. According to the national narrative, students and families confront the rising cost of college with uncertainty, fearing that for too many, higher education may be priced beyond their means. Families worry that tuition debt burdens will overwhelm them, particularly if their students are unable to secure adequate post-graduation employment set at meaningful levels of compensation.

Universities respond by offering ever-rising levels of student financial aid, essentially discounting tuitions so that net tuition revenue has remained either flat or in decline. Their budgets are unsustainable, their faculty members anxious, academic programs threatened. Competition for enrollment is acute, particularly in public institutions in which state legislatures search for fiscal relief and find higher education a convenient target for reduced appropriations. The large majority of private colleges suffer from unsustainable levels of student financial aid that reduce net tuition prices by more than 50%, and result in severe pressure on their fiscal health and educational needs.

At the same time, university admission and marketing offices produce volumes of data demonstrating the economic value of a college degree. Legislatures and government policy makers insist on evaluating colleges on the employability and compensation...

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