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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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25. The College Arms Race: How It Is Destroying Higher Education in the United States (Matthew Varga / Scott L. Lingrell)


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25.  The College Arms Race: How It Is Destroying Higher Education in the United States


For a little over 400 years, the primary purpose of colleges and universities (colleges hereafter) has been to educate society by experts sharing their knowledge with novices (Brubacher & Rudy, 1958). Many colleges flourished and were established to educate specific populations; whether it was to educate clergy, the enslaved, Native Americans, or women, to name a few. However, now, postsecondary education has become more than a tool to transfer knowledge from an expert to a novice. It has become a competition between institutions to see who can outdo the other, by providing the better college experience, and building the fanciest residence halls, the grandest university unions, or the most expensive recreation centers. These construction projects occur despite the cost in the name of prestige, school pride, rankings, selectivity, and profits. This scenario is leading higher education in the United States down a very dangerous and destructive path in terms of affordability as well as market stability. In this chapter, we will explore the change in cost and affordability in higher education as it relates to the increased demand of amenities. The cost of higher education has increased, in large part, due to the college arms race, which is a competition between institutions to provide the best facilities, regardless of the cost.

World history tells us that competition...

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