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Checklist for Change

Checklist for Change: Making American Higher Education a Sustainable Enterprise

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Checklist for Change
    Book Description:

    Almost every day American higher education is making news with a list of problems that includes the incoherent nature of the curriculum, the resistance of the faculty to change, and the influential role of the federal government both through major investments in student aid and intrusive policies.Checklist for Changenot only diagnoses these problems, but also provides constructive recommendations for practical change.Robert Zemsky details the complications that have impeded every credible reform intended to change American higher education. He demythologizes such initiatives as the Morrill Act, the GI Bill, and the Higher Education Act of 1972, shedding new light on their origins and the ways they have shaped higher education in unanticipated and not commonly understood ways. Next, he addresses overly simplistic arguments about the causes of the problems we face and builds a convincing argument that well-intentioned actions have combined to create the current mess for which everyone is to blame.Using provocative case studies, Zemsky describes the reforms being implemented at a few institutions with the hope that these might serve as harbingers of the kinds of change needed: the University of Minnesota at Rochester's compact curriculum in the health sciences only, Whittier College's emphasis on learning outcomes, and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh's coherent overall curriculum.In conclusion, Zemsky describes the principal changes that must occur not singly but in combination. These include a fundamental recasting of federal financial aid; new mechanisms for better channeling the competition among colleges and universities; recasting the undergraduate curriculum; and a stronger, more collective faculty voice in governance that defines not why, but how the enterprise must change.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6135-6
    Subjects: Education, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Trapped in an Ecclesiastes Moment
    (pp. 1-18)

    In the late 1980s I briefly shared the stage with Robert Reich—not yet a member of a president’s cabinet but already a major commentator on securing America’s economic future. In those days the big accounting firms regularly brought cadres of university officers to Florida or some other sunny location to network with each other and their partners who were responsible for the firm’s higher education practice. Golf, of course, was also on the agenda, along with a smattering of talking heads who were expected to lend an air of intellectual respectability to what otherwise amounted to a perk for...

  5. 2 A Faculty Encamped Just North of Armageddon
    (pp. 19-37)

    This volume is predicated upon a simple axiom and its inconvenient corollary. The axiom holds that changing American higher education ought to be the business of the faculty. Although often used as a shield against those who want faculty to teach more, the truth is that: learning and research are joint products in which, necessarily, the former proceeds from the latter. Faculty teach what their research and disciplines have taught them. Faculty are content experts as well as pedagogues who teach by both example and precept.

    To be sure, some instructional models sever learning and research when a cadre of...

  6. 3 A Federalized Market with Little Incentive to Change
    (pp. 38-55)

    A sizeable portion of the American professoriate has a different explanation about what has gone wrong; in a Clintonesque moment they are ready, willing, and able to remind higher education’s critics that “It’s the market, stupid.” Colleges and universities, professors remind all who will listen, are not businesses with a singular focus on their bottom line and therefore shouldn’t be expected to achieve the kinds of efficiencies being demanded of them principally by legislators and congressmen. Instead of giving in to the antitax mantra and its consequences, higher education’s leaders ought to be demanding sufficient funds to ensure the continued...

  7. 4 A Regulatory Quagmire
    (pp. 56-77)

    In the spring of 2006, with his Spellings Commission still months away from making its final report, Charles Miller orchestrated a preemptive attack on the voluntary system by which American higher education had historically accredited its colleges and universities. First was a paper by Robert Dickeson, a former vice president of the Lumina Foundation and at the time a principal consultant to the commission. While Dickeson’s title was modest enough—The Need for Accreditation Reform—what he produced at Miller’s request, however, was a scathing report that argued “any serious analysis of accreditation as it is currently practiced results in...

  8. 5 A Troublesome Fractiousness
    (pp. 78-94)

    Five years after the Spellings Commission issued its final report, American higher education could be forgiven for asking, “What happened?” Public colleges and universities have a right to feel particularly put upon. In that host of states whose economies and revenues have been ravaged by a debilitating recession, publicly funded institutions have cut programs, laid off faculty and staff, and instituted mandatory furloughs. Responding to diminished state appropriations, many of these same institutions have capped their enrollments, thereby sending significant numbers of students to both private and for-profit institutions. Gone from these institutions is that sense of security that was...

  9. 6 A Disruptive Lexicon
    (pp. 95-109)

    Since 2010, at least, demanding that colleges and universities operate more efficiently has meant calling for fewer administrators, a less ready supply of student amenities, and a more flexible commitment to faculty autonomy in general and tenure in particular. Now, however, higher education’s efficiency pundits are after much bigger game. Having decided to focus on how colleges and universities actually do their business, these critics now seek a recasting of those processes. Only fundamental changes, they argue, will yield the requisite combination of higher quality and greater affordability that a sustainable system of higher education demands.

    Many of these analysts...

  10. 7 A Different Footprint
    (pp. 110-125)

    The explosive growth of American higher education since the Second World War notwithstanding, the founding of a new research university has not proved to be a common occurrence. With few exceptions, the more than fifteen hundred new or transformed institutions created after the war were either community colleges, public comprehensive universities newly founded or converted from state normal institutions, or for-profit entities that made no claim to research proficiency. There have been no new private liberal arts colleges to speak of, only a few new private comprehensive universities, and just a handful, literally, of new public research universities: two in...

  11. 8 A Liberal Arts Conundrum
    (pp. 126-140)

    In 1994, David Breneman, already a scholarly rarity in that he was both a noted economist focusing on higher education and the past president of a liberal arts college, posed the central question then vexing what had once been the crown jewel of American higher education:Liberal Arts Colleges—Thriving, Surviving, or Endangered?He opened his volume bearing that title with a recitation of the unsettling statistics that had necessarily begged the question. To set the tone Breneman used David Starr Jordon’s 1903 prediction: “as time goes on the college will disappear, in fact if not in name. The best...

  12. 9 A New Peace Treaty
    (pp. 141-159)

    I have already told the story of the faculty delegation from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh journeying to a neighboring two-year institution that annually supplies the largest number of Oshkosh’s transfer students. Invited to participate in a faculty and staff workshop, the Oshkosh delegation was greeted, not with the polite applause they expected, but with a robust round of boos. When they tentatively inquired about the unfriendly welcome, they were told, frankly, that the college was tired of the mistreatment being dished out to the students it encouraged to transfer to Oshkosh to complete their collegiate educations. Too often, they...

  13. 10 A Stronger Faculty Voice
    (pp. 160-180)

    Despite my fondness for the Ecclesiastes metaphor, American higher education may at last have reached a moment of inflection—or as Robert Reich would want to say, “It’s just possible, maybe even this year, that American colleges and universities will have to change.” To be sure, I have made such predictions before, only to have the moment come and go, leaving things pretty much as they were before.

    Here are the three reasons why change may finally be upon us—change that can either rejuvenate the academy or transform it in ways we would neither recognize nor celebrate.

    In the...

  14. 11 A Competent Curriculum
    (pp. 181-202)

    Much of the clamor surrounding the high cost of a college education has focused on the numbers rather than the processes that produce the numbers. The result, more often than not, is more proclamation than analysis. Colleges and universities are portrayed as being inefficient to the point of being sloppy or undisciplined or simply indifferent to the impact their higher prices have on middle- and low-income students. Everyone blames someone else. Faculty do not teach enough, are too self-centered, or are simply out of touch with a changing America. Administrators are too fond of their perks and too quick to...

  15. 12 A Federal Commitment to Fix, Fund, and Facilitate
    (pp. 203-222)

    Had I been draftingChecklist for Changethirty years ago, there would have been no need for a twelfth chapter focusing on the federal government’s responsibilities in a process meant to recast American higher education. Thirty years ago, the federal government was largely seen as a disinterested source of critical funding that helped to ensure both U.S. continued supremacy in scientific research and education and family/student financing of undergraduate educations. Outside a handful of administrators at major research universities, who were suspicious of attempts to rationalize how their universities calculated the indirect costs they charged the government on their federal...

  16. References
    (pp. 223-230)
  17. Index
    (pp. 231-243)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 244-244)