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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues

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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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23. Is Higher Education Worth the Cost? (Monica Galloway Burke / Colin Cannonier / Aaron W. Hughey)

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23.  Is Higher Education Worth the Cost?

MONICA GALLOWAY BURKE, COLIN CANNONIER, AND AARON W. HUGHEY

For many years, the path to economic upward mobility has been attached to higher education with the idea that earning a college degree is associated with social and economic opportunities and serves as a gateway to a better life, better job, and better pay. The value of a bachelor’s degree became more widespread over the course of the twentieth century as more Americans became educated, prompting the emergence of a key axis of difference of life chances and lifestyles in society between the less educated and more educated (Fisher & Hout, 2006). As the benefits of higher education became more evident, college attendance and completion rates increased as well; in 1940, just under one in 20 Americans 25 years and older had completed at least four years of college (4.6% of the population). By 2000, almost one in four had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher (24.4%), with more than half (52%) of the population completing at least some college education (Bauman & Graf, 2003; Suchan et al., 2007). For the most part, the percentage of individuals in the United States enrolled in college has risen significantly, with undergraduate enrollment increasing 47% between 1970 and 1983, 18% from 1985 to 1992 before stabilizing between 1992 and 1998, and 21% between 2003 and 2013 (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016b).

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