Table of Contents
  Download PDF of Article
  Permission to Reprint


Table of Contents

American Higher Education
Journalistic and Policy Perspectives
from National CrossTalk

Edited by William H. Trombley and Todd Sallo



IN THE FIRST DECADE of the 21st century, the nation, the states, and colleges and universities began to grapple with the challenges of globalization, changing demography, the implications of the digital era, and of a less expansive public sector. Although not a transformative period for higher education, the decade saw significant innovations in teaching and learning, intense policy ferment, and debates over the future of colleges and universities and their roles and responsibilities in American society.

Parts one and two of this book describe several of the most interesting and significant developments in higher education, and in public policy, reported by leading journalists in the field of higher education. In part three, observers of American higher education comment on critical issues facing colleges and universities, the states and the nation. Most of the chapters appeared in their original form in editions of National CrossTalk, a publication of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Most of these articles were published between 2000 and 2011. Where appropriate, brief updates of these stories have been appended. The articles selected for this book focus on issues that remain relevant to policy and practice. The chapters describe, explain and interpret key events and issues as they were experienced, observed and debated.

Part one, Institutions and Innovations, focuses on how colleges and universities, new and old, engaged in new approaches to education. The first three chapters describe innovative colleges founded in earlier eras (St. John’s, Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and Berea College), which have been sustained, though not widely imitated. The new century brought new designs and new institutions of higher education as reflected in the creation of the Florida Gulf University, Olin College, the University of California’s Merced campus, the University of Minnesota at Rochester, and Western Governors University and its extension and adoption by the state of Indiana. Renewed emphasis on strengthening the readiness of students for college and the preparation of teachers is reflected in the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence and by the spread of early colleges. The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship program advanced a new model for teacher training that was implemented by universities in several states.

Community colleges—the nation’s largest sector of higher education—produced some of the most important innovations in higher education of recent years. These institutional and statewide initiatives are described in the chapters on Rio Salado and LaGuardia colleges, and the Virginia community colleges. In addition, several chapters describe past and current work of the Center for Academic Transformation. Working with a diverse set of institutions and their faculties to demonstrate the potential of courses redesigned to incorporate interactive technology, the Center has demonstrated how colleges and universities can implement cost-effective approaches to student learning. These methods are described in the chapters on Cal Poly Pomona, and on institutions that serve large numbers of underprepared students, including Virginia Tech and several Tennessee community colleges (including Cleveland State Community College, Northeastern State Community College, Jackson State Community College, Columbia State Community College, and Chattanooga State Community College).

In the last half of the decade, America’s problem of low rates of college completion attracted increasing attention of educators, policymakers and foundations. Two chapters on the efforts to improve retention and completion rates include the North Carolina initiative to address higher education’s “dropout” problem, and the University of New Mexico’s program to bring dropouts back to college. In addition, the declining male enrollment in America’s colleges and universities and its implications drew increasing attention in the media and among institutions of higher education. The challenges of the new century brought new leadership strategies and approaches at the California State University, Northern Kentucky University, and Denver’s Metropolitan State College.

Part two of this book shifts to public policy issues, with an emphasis on states confronted with economic volatility, demographic shifts, pressures to improve educational outcomes and the impact of budgetary constraints. The topics of this section range from the floundering of California higher education—often held up as the model state higher education system in the post World War II era—to innovations in public finance, including performance budgeting in South Carolina and Tennessee. Several chapters describe experiments with state vouchers in Colorado, new tuition policies in Illinois, and innovations in student financial assistance by Georgia, Oregon and Indiana. The next chapters offer accounts of initiatives by Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky to increase college participation in support of state economic development. Modifications of state governance structures and processes by Florida and Virginia are described in the following chapters. The systemwide “efficiency and effectiveness” campaign at the University System of Maryland is highlighted in the next chapter, followed by accounts of the responses of four states, Florida, California, New York and Pennsylvania, to economic distress and to financial pressures on higher education budgets. The evolving and highly volatile national and international context for higher education policy is represented by accounts of the British and Irish experiences and of the Obama administration’s first two years.

Part three, Perspectives, consists of opinion and commentary by higher education leaders and experts on issues that continue to resonate today. This section begins with the earliest article in the volume, Clark Kerr’s 1992 reflections on the recent past and the future of American higher education, the economy, changing demographics, the civic values that were the underpinning of the mid-20th-century expansion of higher education, and the California experience. This is followed by chapters by Michael Kirst and David Spence addressing the college readiness of high school graduates and the restructuring of high school curriculum to strengthen preparation and reduce college remediation. David Breneman, writing at the end of a decade that was bookended by recessions, places economic adversity in historical context.

Basic issues around core higher education values are raised by Robert O’Neil’s essay on academic freedom in the aftermath of September 11, 2001; in an interview with Derek Bok on the commercialization of higher education research; and by David Kirp’s article on the implications of the declining proportions of tenured and tenure-track college professors. The 1998 interview with University of Phoenix founder John Sperling preceded a decade when Phoenix and other for-profit higher education institutions emerged as the most rapidly growing sector of American higher education. Gene Maeroff’s essay on online learning was drawn from his widely read book on that topic. Robert Atwell’s essay articulates explicitly the theme of leadership that informs each section of this volume. This is followed by Donald Heller’s critique of merit aid addressing the continuing controversy about the appropriate role of student financial assistance.

The chapter by Joni Finney and Robert Zemsky proposes fundamental curricular restructuring to improve academic performance and cost effectiveness. Brian Noland’s essay follows by describing the components of a state policy agenda and West Virginia’s experience in articulating and implementing a “public agenda” for higher education. This section concludes with three chapters offering external perspectives on American higher education. Anne Roark recounts her experience as a parent negotiating the college admissions process; John Immerwahr summarizes two decades of research on the evolving views of the American public on colleges and universities; and Anthony Carnevale and Michelle Melton assess the demands that the knowledge-based global economy place on American higher education.

National CrossTalk was established by William Trombley, who came to the National Center as senior editor after a long and distinguished career in journalism, principally at the Los Angeles Times. Bill believed that the scholarly and analytic research that public policy centers undertake could be powerfully augmented by journalistic accounts of important developments and their implications for policymakers, institutions, students, faculty and others. We agreed at the outset that National CrossTalk would not be a house organ or newsletter focused on or promoting the National Center, but a set of eyes and ears with outstanding journalists independently reporting and interpreting key events and developments for the National Center and for our readers, and as a forum for policy debate. The quality and the extensive readership of National CrossTalk is primarily the result of Bill Trombley’s editorial leadership and the talented writers he enlisted. Bill was responsible for the basic organization of this volume and for selecting the chapters, until his death in 2009. The book was completed by his long-time colleague, Todd Sallo, who had worked with Bill on this project, and in editing and producing National CrossTalk since its inception. The book’s front cover and page layouts were designed by Mott Jordan, who worked on National CrossTalk for many years. Mae Kaven, who also worked on National CrossTalk over the years, reviewed the final copy of this book. Heather Jack, another of Bill’s former colleagues, previously the National Center’s first director of communications, served as project director and also played a critical role in bringing this volume to completion.

The National Center is grateful to the authors of these chapters and to all those who contributed to National CrossTalk over the years. We dedicate this book to the memory of our friend and colleague, William Trombley.

—Patrick M. Callan

© 2012 by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

The articles and opinion pieces included in this book are written independently of the National Center’s policy positions and those of its board members. Material may be duplicated with full attribution.

E-Mail this link to a friend.
Enter your friend's e-mail address:

American Higher Education:
Journalistic and Policy Perspectives from
National CrossTalk



National Center logo
© 2012 The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

HOME | about us | center news | reports & papers | national crosstalk | search | links | contact

site managed by NETView Communications