Remaking the American University

Remaking the American University: Market-Smart and Mission-Centered

ROBERT ZEMSKY
GREGORY R. WEGNER
WILLIAM F. MASSY
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hj385
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Remaking the American University
    Book Description:

    At one time, universities educated new generations and were a source of social change. Today colleges and universities are less places of public purpose, than agencies of personal advantage. Remaking the American University provides a penetrating analysis of the ways market forces have shaped and distorted the behaviors, purposes, and ultimately the missions of universities and colleges over the past half-century. The authors describe how a competitive preoccupation with rankings and markets published by the media spawned an admissions arms race that drains institutional resources and energies. Equally revealing are the depictions of the ways faculty distance themselves from their universities with the resulting increase in the number of administrators, which contributes substantially to institutional costs. Other chapters focus on the impact of intercollegiate athletics on educational mission, even among selective institutions; on the unforeseen result of higher education's "outsourcing" a substantial share of the scholarly publication function to for-profit interests; and on the potentially dire consequences of today's zealous investments in e-learning. A central question extends through this series of explorations: Can universities and colleges today still choose to be places of public purpose? In the answers they provide, both sobering and enlightening, the authors underscore a consistent and powerful lesson-academic institutions cannot ignore the workings of the markets. The challenge ahead is to learn how to better use those markets to achieve public purposes.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4112-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Bob Zemsky, Greg Wegner and Bill Massy
  4. 1 Introduction: The Diminishing of Public Purpose
    (pp. 1-14)

    For more than two decades we have been writing about the transformation of the American university—in books, monographs, and a host of essays, many of which first appeared inChangemagazine, but mostly in the pages ofPolicy Perspectives. By the late 1980sPolicy Perspectiveshad become higher education’s principal catalog of changing circumstances—the rise of markets, the corresponding diminution of public purpose, the necessary but largely unsuccessful battle to make American universities as diverse and accessible as the communities they serve.

    Each essay ofPolicy Perspectiveswas itself the product of an extended discussion among a roundtable...

  5. 2 The Lattice and the Ratchet
    (pp. 15-31)

    In the mid-1980s then Secretary of Education William Bennett and his sidekick, Checker Finn, were using the bully pulpit their offices afforded to excoriate American colleges and universities for their failure to control costs, for the disinclination of their presidents to hold faculty accountable, and for the fact that student interest as much as faculty consensus appeared to be the driver of curriculum. Shouting was in vogue, along with the kind of institution bashing that reflected a well-honed instinct to make political hay at higher education’s expense.

    Bennett’s and Finn’s critiques found plenty of echoes from both within and outside...

  6. 3 The Admissions Arms Race
    (pp. 32-50)

    Michael McPherson—the president of Macalester College, now head of the Spencer Foundation, and long-time professor of economics at Williams College—first taught us to see the competition for top undergraduates as a kind of self-perpetuating arms race. Each institution seeks an edge it can never hold, but each joins in the race, fearing it will otherwise be left behind. There is, as it turns out, practically no limit to what the nation’s most selective institutions are prepared to do, spend, or offer to attract the high school seniors everybody wants.

    It is an admissions arms race no one ever...

  7. 4 On Being Mission-Centered and Market-Smart
    (pp. 51-68)

    Our argument that colleges and universities ought to be mission-centered and market-smart will surprise no one who has followed our work throughout the past two decades. We can also report that few presidents or provosts are troubled by the juxtaposition of mission and market, no doubt because they spend so much of their time striving to balance the traditions of the academy against the demands of the market.

    Those who are discomforted—and in some cases offended—by linking academic and commercial pursuits are principally faculty, particularly those whose scholarly pursuits are centered in the humanities. They are the ones...

  8. 5 To Publish and Perish
    (pp. 69-85)

    One of the more endearing as well as dangerous aspects of the academy is its penchant for self-deception. University presidents often talk about the market for undergraduate education as a kind of metaphor that helps make real the unpleasant fact that their institutions cannot stay in business if they do not enroll sufficient numbers of students. In fact, the undergraduate education market is not a metaphor. It is a system of transactions that, among other things, determines the prices institutions can charge and the value attached to their educational products.

    One consequence of this rhetorical sleight-of-hand is the notion that...

  9. 6 A Value Proposition
    (pp. 86-100)

    For much of higher education the market has proved a tough master—difficult to decipher, seemingly impervious to academic values and virtues, relentless in its demand for economically efficient behaviors. As the academy’s dependence on market-generated revenues has grown, so has the faculty’s unhappiness with the idea that students are customers, with the glib speeches by presidents and trustees about marketing and the importance of brand, and with the institution’s pursuit of for-profit ventures of dubious value.

    The growing list of complaints and wrongs is best filed under the general heading: “The Three Cs.” The first C is competition and...

  10. 7 Thwarted Innovation
    (pp. 101-122)

    There is nothing so cold as yesterday’s invincible revolution. Five years ago e-learning was everybody’s buzz—the promise of a trillion dollar market wrapped around the prospects of anytime-anywhere learning. All that is now gone, replaced by a pervading sense of disappointment, all the more dispiriting because e-learning seemingly combined two of the most important educational innovations of the last quarter-century.

    The first was pedagogical, resulting from the linking of a set of rapidly maturing information technologies to new insights into how, when, and why people learn. Best described as electronically mediated learning—but dubbed e-learning because of the innovation’s...

  11. 8 Who Owns Teaching?
    (pp. 123-138)

    It is a perfectly simple question, almost childlike in its innocence. It is also a question to which there is a host of classic answers. Teaching is an activity that belongs to everyone and to no one. Its origins are as deep as a parent’s instinct to provide for a child and as powerful as a child’s desire to learn. It is Mark Hopkins and his student on the log where both are learners and hence both are owners of the learning that links them. Teaching is perhaps the strongest and most central bond linking one generation to another.

    In...

  12. 9 Making Educational Quality Job One
    (pp. 139-160)

    The Ford Motor Company once exemplified how skillful management could use the workings of the market and questions of quality to achieve and then sustain a competitive advantage. In the mid-1980s Ford confronted a double task: differentiating its products from those produced by other American manufacturers while at the same time developing a product of sufficient quality to stem the tide of Japanese imports—what Detroit was calling openly, if somewhat inelegantly, the Japanese invasion. To win in the American market, Ford needed to persuade U.S. consumers that quality was important; and to win against the exports, Ford needed to...

  13. 10 Not Good Enough
    (pp. 161-179)

    They are like the banks of a river, forever separated, stretching across decades, and seemingly going nowhere. They are the statistical markers of a nation in which a span of river defines two distinct banks, running in parallel, forever separating majority and minority experiences as do the graphs of median family income, college participation, and college degree attainment.

    The problem of the river is one that has been defined largely in terms of the economic barriers that have historically discouraged students of lesser means from pursuing a college education. All the basic policy options for reducing the price of a...

  14. 11 Crafting a Public Agenda
    (pp. 180-197)

    Not so long ago everyone in higher education was a policy expert, or so it seemed. For much of the twentieth century, colleges and universities looked to their capitals—local, state, and national—to help set institutional agendas as well as to provide the funds, both operating and capital, that sustained their missions. America’s colleges and universities were in turn grateful, angry, even frightened—but they were seldom disengaged from the workings of public policy.

    That mostly comfortable bundling of institutional ambition and public purpose has now been worn away. The worlds of both public policy and higher education have...

  15. 12 Dancing with Change
    (pp. 198-218)

    In February 1993 the members of the Pew Higher Education Roundtable invited all 1,800 plus presidents of American colleges and universities to meet in St. Louis. The invitation made clear that we expected everyone to pay their own way and that we intended to focus on the three issues we had begun discussing inPolicy Perspectives: costs, learning, and access. Important as those issues had been to the Pew Roundtable in the previous five years, we were cautious enough to suspect that in themselves they would not inspire a massive migration of presidents to the banks of the Mississippi. The...

  16. References
    (pp. 219-222)
  17. Index
    (pp. 223-232)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-234)