The Crisis in Higher Education: How Civic Engagement Can Save Higher Education (Part I)(Opinion)

Ann McClure's picture

In the midst of the most significant global economic crisis in more than 80 years, higher education faces an acute crisis of resources, organization and legitimization. Colleges and universities find themselves in a double bind, one external and economic and the other internal and existential. Public tolerance is withering for increasing tuition as legislative appropriations shrink and student debt continues to grow.

We have entered an age of economic limits, fractured politics, stalemated government and personal fear. How we organize academic and campus life begs an alternative to the very foundation of the prevailing model of higher learning in the United States. The traditional higher education business model is essentially a deflating balloon if not a bursting bubble, as the global economic crisis has created a highly risk-averse climate for students, parents and donors.

The crisis facing American higher education is rooted in a series of challenges around access, cost, affordability, learning outcomes and institutional priorities. The core concepts of the prevailing model of higher learning face acute interrogation including what and how faculty teach, how students learn, how information technology shapes pedagogy and delivery cost, how education is delivered and priced, and how institutions assure successful student learning outcomes and career prospects.

Further, a skeptical public requires a greater understanding of the achievements, and ultimate social value, of colleges and universities.

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