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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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Part Twelve: Is College Worth the Cost?


← 342 | 343 →

Part Twelve:  Is College Worth the Cost?

In “Is Higher Education Worth the Cost?,” Monica Galloway Burke, Colin Cannonier, and Aaron W. Hughey address the value of a bachelor’s degree and conclude that it is worth its cost. They justify this finding with aggregate data that suggest college graduates enjoy more salary gains and a higher quality of life. These advantages are compared with those of individuals who did not attend college and thus face a widening wage gap throughout their lives. Despite the high price of many colleges, the authors maintain that foregoing college risks losing a lifetime of enriched experience based on undergraduate learning, in and outside the classroom.

In “Is Higher Education Worth the Cost? It Depends,” Lindsey M. Burke critically analyzes both the demand for higher education and what she contends is the largely declining value of the bachelor’s degree. She questions whether federal subsidies for colleges and universities are commensurate with the economic outcomes they presumably produce. Her further argument is that these subsidies lead to higher tuition and other costs. Finally, Burke worries about the huge amount of debt incurred by many undergraduates, especially minority students. Given this set of circumstances, she is not surprised that more Americans are growing less inclined to view higher education as a good investment. ← 343 | 344 →

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