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Introduction
I
n 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 LloydWright 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, andWestern
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. TheWoodrowWilson
National Fellowship program advanced a newmodel 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 NewMexico’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 WorldWar 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,