As always, the National Center welcomes the reactions of readers to this report.
During the early 1970s, the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) achieved remarkable success in funding innovative and enduring projects that sought to improve higher education. FIPSE's funding was limited, but its aims were broad: to support innovation and improvement in higher education. Projects ranged from expanding educational opportunity to improving instructional programs, from increasing student choice to developing and implementing new kinds of evaluation systems. The kinds of institutions that received funding ranged from new, unaccredited colleges to comprehensive research universities. As John Immerwahr reports in Part I of this report, in many ways the early 1970s was a "golden age" of creative thinking about higher education. And FIPSE was at the center of it.
This report provides two complementary perspectives on how FIPSE's results were achieved. Part I, written by John Immerwahr, is based on interviews with several grant recipients and staff members who were associated with FIPSE from 1973 to 1978. Part II, written by FIPSE's early program officers, offers an inside view of how FIPSE's decision-making, its procedures, and its "culture" helped contribute to its success. Considering the many important policy issues facing higher education today (the vital importance of higher education for individuals and society, the significant changes in today's student body, the need for improved methods for evaluating student learning, and the problem of how to curtail spiraling increases in institutional costs, to name just a few), this report offers a timely look at the policies and procedures which FIPSE used to help institute improvement and innovation in higher education in the mid-1970s.
The National Center is grateful to the authors of this report and to the organizations whose funding made it possible: The Ford Foundation and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education