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Austerity Blues

Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education

Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier

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A generation of budget cutting has eviscerated the very idea of public higher education in America.

Public higher education in the postwar era was a key economic and social driver in American life, making college available to millions of working men and women. Since the 1980s, however, government austerity policies and politics have severely reduced public investment in higher education, exacerbating inequality among poor and working-class students of color, as well as part-time faculty. In Austerity Blues, Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier examine these devastating fiscal retrenchments…

A generation of budget cutting has eviscerated the very idea of public higher education in America.

Public higher education in the postwar era was a key economic and social driver in American life, making college available to millions of working men and women. Since the 1980s, however, government austerity policies and politics have severely reduced public investment in higher education, exacerbating inequality among poor and working-class students of color, as well as part-time faculty. In Austerity Blues, Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier examine these devastating fiscal retrenchments nationally, focusing closely on New York and California, both of which were leaders in the historic expansion of public higher education in the postwar years and now are at the forefront of austerity measures.

Fabricant and Brier describe the extraordinary growth of public higher education after 1945, thanks largely to state investment, the alternative intellectual and political traditions that defined the 1960s, and the social and economic forces that produced austerity policies and inequality beginning in the late 1970s and 1980s. A provocative indictment of the negative impact neoliberal policies have visited on the public university, especially the growth of class, racial, and gender inequalities, Austerity Blues also analyzes the many changes currently sweeping public higher education, including the growing use of educational technology, online learning, and privatization, while exploring how these developments hurt students and teachers. In its final section, the book offers examples of oppositional and emancipatory struggles and practices that can help reimagine public higher education in the future.

The ways in which factors as diverse as online learning, privatization, and disinvestment cohere into a single powerful force driving deepening inequality is the central theme of the book. Incorporating the differing perspectives of students, faculty members, and administrators, the book reveals how public education has been redefined as a private benefit, often outsourced to for-profit vendors who "sell" education back to indebted undergraduates. Over the past twenty years, tuition and related student debt have climbed precipitously and degree completion rates have dropped. Not only has this new austerity threatened public universities’ ability to educate students, Fabricant and Brier argue, but it also threatens to undermine the very meaning and purpose of public higher education in offering poor and working-class students access to a quality education in a democracy. Synthesizing historical sources, social science research, and contemporary reportage, Austerity Blues will be of interest to readers concerned about rising inequality and the decline of public higher education.

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Austerity Blues

Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier

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Reviews

Austerity Blues is a must read for people engaged in public higher education and an important addition to Critical University Studies.

Austerity Blues leaves readers wanting to know more about the forces that have facilitated this trend... Fabricant and Brier’s analysis raises important questions about the kinds of political change that will be necessary to reverse the austerity policies that they describe and what it will take to realize those changes. As such, this book establishes a powerful agenda for future research.

Austerity Blues raises many crucial questions about the purposes of public higher education, pervasive (and growing) inequality, and the consequences of divestment and austerity politics. Most importantly, it ends by asking: "What's next?" And in that question, it urges each one of us to individually and collectively think about the future and our contribution to that future.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
320
ISBN
9781421420677
Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I: The Political-Economic Context of Public Higher Education
Chapter 1: Public Assets in an Era of Austerity
Deregulation, Disinvestment, and Degradation
Six Propositions for

Introduction

Part I: The Political-Economic Context of Public Higher Education
Chapter 1: Public Assets in an Era of Austerity
Deregulation, Disinvestment, and Degradation
Six Propositions for Understanding the Restructuring of Public Higher Education
Economic Crisis and the Capitalization of Public Goods
The Radical Restructuring of Public Higher Education

Chapter 2: The State Expansion of Public Higher Education
The G.I. Bill
The Presidential Panel on Higher Education
Public Higher Education in California, New York, and Beyond
The Founding and Expansion of SUNY and the Status of New York City’s Municipal Colleges
The California Master Plan for Higher Education

Chapter 3: Students and Faculty Take Command
New York State, CUNY and the Struggle for Open Admissions-
The Multiversity and the Student Movement
The Fate of Open Admissions

Part II: The State of Austerity
Chapter 4: The Making of the Neoliberal Public University
Neoliberal Reform I: Corporatizing University Culture
Neoliberal Reform II: The Perfect Storm of Online Technology and the Commodification of Knowledge
Elite Politics and Economics
The Curricula of Austerity
Technology as the Tool of Austerity Managers
College Readiness, Low Graduation Rates, and Fiscal Starvation
Resetting Course: Investing in Disposable Citizens

Chapter 5: The Public University as an Engine of Inequality
Unequal Investments in Public Higher Education
Cheapening Public Higher Education
Qualitative Shifts in the Experience of Public Higher Education
The Ascent of For-Profit Colleges
Accountability in an Era of Austerity
Cheap Part-time Labor as an Austerity Fix
Managing Public Universities in a Time of Inverted Priorities

Chapter 6: Technology as a "Magic Bullet" in an Era of Austerity
Expanding Beyond Classroom Instruction
The Emergence of Digital Technology
The Rise of DigitalU
The Open Educational Resources Movement
The Khan Academy
MOOCs and the Reshaping of Public Higher Education
Neoliberal Reformer: Michael Crow and the "New American University"

Part III: Resistance Efforts and the Fight for Emancipatory Education
Chapter 7: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education
Restructuring, Abandonment, and Dissolution
The Struggle Over Purposes and Practices
Achieving Emancipatory Education
What Types of Strategic Investments Are Needed?
Building a Better Knowledge Production Workforce
Where Should Public Higher Education Be Situated?
Deploying Technology to Improve Teaching and Learning
Political Choice and Struggle
Fault Lines in Current Struggles
Grassroots Struggles and Educational Policy Reforms:
Student Debt and the Choice to Strike
Free Tuition and Community Colleges
Increasing Wages and Job Protections for Part-Time Faculty
Cross-Sector Campaigns and Increased Investment
Sustaining and Expanding Universal Access
Resisting Curricular Dilution
Scaling Up and Drilling Down

Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bios
Michael Fabricant
Featured Contributor

Michael Fabricant PhD

Michael Fabricant is a professor of social work at the City University of New York Graduate Center and the vice president of CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress. He is the author of Organizing for Educational Justice: The Campaign for Public School Reform in the South Bronx and the coauthor of The Changing Politics of Education: Privatization and the Dispossessed Lives Left Behind.
Stephen Brier
Featured Contributor

Stephen Brier PhD

Stephen Brier is a professor of urban education and the coordinator of the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy program at the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the cofounder of CUNY’s American Social History Project and the coauthor and coproducer of the ASHP’s Who Built America? multimedia curriculum.