This is a tough time to be in higher ed. Money is tight, competition for students and programs is fierce, dissension about how colleges and universities should be run– or why and if they should be run is a matter of public debate. Even the ways in which our value is or should be measured is contested. Our students will enter a rapidly changing world and will assume jobs that have not yet been invented. This necessarily adds pressure for us to change. Yet so much of our infrastructure is geared to stasis. This too contributes to a growing debate on what higher education in America is and should be.
As an anthropologist questions about what we should be point to questions of shifting cultural identity. In the academy we ignore questions about our identity at our peril. I would like to spotlight identity questions by drawing on my own experiences as an administrator at a small private liberal arts college.
In Higher Education in Crisis?: What Everyone Needs to Know Goldie Blumenstyk provides a prescient over-view of the current pressures:
“Over the past thirty years the price of college has gone up faster than prices of almost every other goods and services. Student debt is an all-time high of $1.2 trillion. Doubts about the value of college are on the rise. State support for the public-college sector, which educates seven of ten students, has yet to (and may never) return to the generous levels of the early 2000s. The financial model underlying many private colleges is becoming more and more fragile…. Demands for career-focused training are growing, even as experts argue that the skills of a liberal arts education are becoming increasingly important. And a restless reform movement, inspired by the promise of new technology and backed by powerful political and financial might is growing more insistent that the enterprise spend less, show better results, and become more open to new kinds of educational providers,” (2015: 1).
So what does this look like and feel like on the ground? How do the issues manifest in the classroom? How are they woven through the tension and drama of everyday college life and decisions? How do these issues define, shape and condition who we are and who we will become?
Sometimes you will get my opinions and reflections. Other times, you will get a synthesis of news items that point to some critical discourse. And still other times, I will pepper my blog with reflections on the rhythms of my own life and career decisions.
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