What's College For? The Struggle to Define American Higher Education

What's College For? The Struggle to Define American Higher Education

What's College For? The Struggle to Define American Higher Education

What's College For? The Struggle to Define American Higher Education

Synopsis

With spending for it topping $175 billion a year, rican higher education is poised to upstage healthcare and welfare as the national issue. Zachary Karabell offers a surprising look at what students get for their money in this exhaustively researched yet accessible book.

The crucial clash on campuses, Karabell claims, is not between traditionalists and multiculturalists, but between faculty and students. The problem: most students are working-class people seeking education to get a better job, while most faculty members are products of graduate schools that insulated them from the needs of real-world people. The solution: democratization of higher education, which requires a dramatic change in social structure and al presumptions about education beyond high school. Sure to spark intense debate, What's College For? should do for the 1990s what Illiberal Education did for the 1980s.

Excerpt

There was a time when the question "What's college for?" would have elicited an answer extolling the value of education as a necessary step up the social ladder. Parents dispatched their sons to college, and on occasion daughters, for that slip of paper that proclaimed the graduate acceptable to any corporation or profession, trained to handle himself through a long lifetime of trying social situations. If pressed, college-bound students and their parents would certainly admit to a financial consideration as well. That same slip of paper that certified the college graduate as interesting salon company also helped open career doors otherwise closed to those not high born. But even here the advantage of a college experience came from the reality that business was conducted among gentlemen who preferred the company of others with an appreciation of those finer things in life-art, music, literature, history, and philosophy.

Today, the "value of an education" is calculated in a more straightforward way: in terms of lifetime dollars and cents potentially to be earned. Indeed, working- and middle-class parents are now regularly spending or borrowing $50,000 to $100,000 per child to give their children the benefits of a college education because they know that without the degree their child's life chances will be severely restricted. And there . . .

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