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Riding the Fifth Wave in Higher Education

A Survival Guide for the New Normal

James Ottavio Castagnera

The Fifth Wave in higher education is breaking on American shores. Unlike the four waves that preceded it from colonial times through the post-WWII mega-versity expansion, this wave is disrupting all sectors of the higher education industry. It will sweep away those institutions—be they public, private non-profit, or for-profit—that fail to recognize and meet the threat. Harvard professor Clay Christensen, the father of "disruptive innovation," predicts that as many as half of all American universities will close or go bankrupt within the next 10 to 15 years (See Inside Higher Ed, April 28, 2017).

Riding the Fifth Wave in Higher Education: A Survival Guide for the New Normal charts the dimensions of the Fifth Wave challenge and offers numerous general and specific suggestions for surfing the wave and surviving its tsunami-like impact. Part One of this concise handbook explains why our industry is in treacherous waters and outlines the impact of the Fifth Wave to date on all three major sectors of American higher ed. Part Two offers a range of practical responses, including ways we might break out of the tuition-discount "death spiral" and the facilities "arms race," as well as identifying our prospects for removing the albatross of onerous federal regulations from around our necks before it drags us under. If you have time to read only one book about today’s crisis in American higher education, Riding the Fifth Wave in Higher Education is the right choice. If you plan to research the topic in depth, Riding the Fifth Wave in Higher Education is the perfect place to start.

“In his important new book, James Ottavio Castagnera analyzes the current fierce wave of change in higher education driven by market economic forces, income inequality, technology, and the transformation of higher education from a social value into a commodity. The book should be read by everyone interested and concerned about the state of higher education.”—William A. Herbert, Executive Director, National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, Hunter College, City University of New York

“James Ottavio Castagnera traces four stages in the evolution of higher education in the United States and provides the rationale for a fifth stage (wave) fueled by technology and the Internet resulting in a long-anticipated and forecast consolidation of providers (to borrow a term from the health care industry) and ascendancy of career and professional curricula at the expense of those disciplines that instill critical thinking fundamentally important to a citizenry capable of fulfilling its role in a vibrant democracy. The author provides a summative business-model analysis and recommendations for surfing the Fifth Wave that will rankle some, and if pursued, would have profound collective bargaining implications on campuses, both private and public, with faculty bargaining units. Riding the Fifth Wave in Higher Education is illuminating and instructive reading for anyone with an interest in the forces that have shaped and continue to drive the evolution of American higher education in general and private-sector higher education in particular.”—Jeffrey Cross, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy

“As a counselor to colleges and universities on some of their most pressing legal issues for approximately 20 years, I have a dedicated place on my desk for Riding the Fifth Wave in Higher Education. An invaluable resource on higher education, James Ottavio Castagnera approaches each problem through a combination of legal training and more than 30 years of university administrator experience. The results are solutions that are fundamentally sound, easy to grasp, and highly practical. For an understanding of current issues from someone on the front lines, this is the book you should turn to first.”—Angelo A. Stio III, Partner at Pepper Hamilton

“James Ottavio Castagnera has 40 years of legal practice and university administrative experience. He brings that knowledge and wisdom both to the classroom, at Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, and to this thoughtful book. His lifetime of experience makes him exceptionally qualified to opine on the present state of American higher education.”—Daniel M. Filler, Dean and Professor of Law, Drexel University, Thomas R. Kline School of Law