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Higher Education and Society

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Higher education and society are becoming increasingly intertwined. Both act as a transmitter of culture, yet many colleges and universities also ideally seek to create a more perfectible society and more enlightened, engaged citizens. When the connections between social structures and post-secondary education are closely entangled, the university’s aims can take on a contentious struggle for identity in a vexing web of competing external interests – especially in light of scarce economic resources, corporate pressures, technological questions, and globalizing trends. Higher Education and Society weighs the urgent question of how society and higher education influence each other. How the latter responds to that unsettled issue may well determine whether colleges and universities chart a more self-reflective path or one of rising deference to societal contingencies. This book is essential for all those who study and work in today’s colleges – and for all those who seek a better education for their children, the nation, and the world. It is especially recommended for courses in higher education and society, contemporary issues in higher education, the philosophy of higher education, academic issues in higher education, leadership in higher education, and globalization and higher education. The book is also useful for the preparation of faculty development programs in colleges and universities.
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3. Higher Education: Private Good? Public Good?



My task in this chapter is to consider the question of whether higher education is a public good or a private one. My brief answer is “both.” It is, however, much more complicated than that, because, as I hope to show, there are multiple goods—public, private, and what I will call “mixed.” In this chapter, I explore very different kinds of institutions of higher education and show that they are not all mutually compatible. I will ask you to consider with me the complexity of what it means to ask about the “public and private purposes of higher education.” I will try to shape a very tentative answer to the question, but first I want to consider why any answer we give to this question can only be tentative.

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