Mitchell Stevens, associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, and Michael Kirst, Stanford professor emeritus, are co-editors of Remaking College: The Changing Ecology of Higher Education.
From their Q & A with Brooke Donald:
Why does college need reimagining?--Marshal Zeringue
Stevens: A golden era of higher education is over. That's the period from the mid-1940s to about 1990, in which there was massive government investment in colleges coupled with almost complete institutional autonomy. That's no longer the case. Since 1990 we’ve experienced overall decline in government subsidy and higher costs, yet a growing demand for a college education. Inherited models aren't sustainable as they are, so it's necessary to come up with a new ways of providing, measuring and experiencing higher education.
Kirst: Just look at the funding. In California, for example, we give community colleges less per pupil than we do to high schools. And we have the least funding and resources at the institutions with the most needy students. We've stressed the four-year residential model and underinvested in community colleges, which are doing the lion's share of the work.
But the ideal "college experience" is the four-year model, correct?
Stevens: No. First, there's the exorbitant cost of residential delivery. There are also tepid learning gains by any direct measure. For some young people, four-year campuses can be dangerous in terms of substance abuse, depression and feelings of alienation. Also, some teenagers just aren't ready or able to commit to that because of money or family obligations. So the notion that the four-year residential model is the best way, the default way to experience college, is a problem. It's important that Americans embrace a much wider diversity of college forms.
Kirst: There is a problem - both in policy and in people's minds - with how college has been framed in the national conversation. We talk about needing to prepare everyone for college, but “college” currently is a loaded word that...[read on]