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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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24. Is Higher Education Worth the Cost? It Depends (Lindsey M. Burke)


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24.  Is Higher Education Worth the Cost? It Depends


Higher education has become a rite of passage for those beginning the climb of upward mobility. In 2015, some 88 percent of adults in the United States had either a high school diploma or a general equivalency diploma, and one-third had earned at least a bachelor’s degree—a figure that exceeded 30 percent for the first time in 20111 and had reached 33 percent by 2015.2 The U.S. Census Bureau, which has consistently tracked educational attainment since 1940 on an annual basis, reports that just five percent of U.S. adults held a bachelor’s degree or higher in 1940—a figure that had increased fivefold by 2015 to 33 percent.3 Without question, higher educational attainment has been on the rise for the past 75 years, with more Americans now having earned a bachelor’s degree than at any other point in history.

Increasing “Demand” for Higher Education

What has led to the increase in demand for higher education? Ohio University economist Richard Vedder cites the increase in the population of those 18 to 24, improvements in Americans’ standard of living, and in part, a “revolution of rising expectations.”4 To a large extent, however, the demand curve has been shifted to the right by unrivaled access to federal subsidies, with third-party financing in the form of student loans and grants correlating with increases in college tuition.5...

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