The test of progress is not whether we add more to the
abundance of those who have much; it is whether we
provide enough for those who have little.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1937)
Since World War II, access to higher education in the United States has expanded rapidly. In the immediate postwar period, nearly one-third of the relevant age cohort, 18–22, was enrolled in postsecondary institutions. By the 1960s, this proportion had increased to approximately 50 percent, the highest proportion among the industrialized nations of the world (Altbach, 1992). This dramatic transition from elite to mass education was accompanied by an equally dramatic expansion of physical facilities—particularly new classrooms, laboratories, libraries, and residence halls—to accommodate the enormous influx of students.
broaden access and sustain growth, different types of providers, from the burgeoning public two-year [community] colleges to some of the most prestigious and expensive private universities in America, began to experiment with nontraditional venues, such as night and weekend classes, extension campuses, and distance education. Over time, however, the costs of expanded access and sustained growth were so staggering that many institutions faced the very real prospect of insolvency. Today, deferred maintenance costs nationwide for an aging campus infrastructure surpass $26 billion (Straight Talk, 1998). In many instances, expansion of existing facilities is not considered economically feasible, yet the two obvious alternatives—to further strain physical facilities by crowding classrooms beyond their intended capacity and to curtail access—are equally untenable. Both options would undermine educational quality and reverse three decades of public policy designed to expand college opportunity (Finney, 1997).
Properly designed, new and emerging technologies will open access to populations that have enjoyed only peripheral participa-tion in higher edu-cation.
In recent years, encouraging developments in digital communications technology, particularly in Web-based environments, have renewed hopes that expanded access to higher education can be achieved without sacrificing educational quality or courting financial disaster. Both reformers and restructuralists would agree that, properly designed, new and emerging technologies will open access to populations