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The Great Mistake

How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them

Christopher Newfield

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A remarkable indictment of how misguided business policies have undermined the American higher education system.

Winner of the CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title of the Choice ACRL

Higher education in America, still thought to be the world leader, is in crisis. University students are falling behind their international peers in attainment, while suffering from unprecedented student debt. For over a decade, the realm of American higher education has been wracked with self-doubt and mutual recrimination, with no clear solutions on the horizon. How did this happen? In this stunning new book…

A remarkable indictment of how misguided business policies have undermined the American higher education system.

Winner of the CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title of the Choice ACRL

Higher education in America, still thought to be the world leader, is in crisis. University students are falling behind their international peers in attainment, while suffering from unprecedented student debt. For over a decade, the realm of American higher education has been wracked with self-doubt and mutual recrimination, with no clear solutions on the horizon. How did this happen? In this stunning new book, Christopher Newfield offers readers an in-depth analysis of the "great mistake" that led to the cycle of decline and dissolution, a mistake that impacts every public college and university in America. What might occur, he asserts, is no less than locked-in economic inequality and the fall of the middle class.

In The Great Mistake, Newfield asks how we can fix higher education, given the damage done by private-sector models. The current accepted wisdom—that to succeed, universities should be more like businesses—is dead wrong. Newfield combines firsthand experience with expert analysis to show that private funding and private-sector methods cannot replace public funding or improve efficiency, arguing that business-minded practices have increased costs and gravely damaged the university’s value to society.

It is imperative that universities move beyond the destructive policies that have led them to destabilize their finances, raise tuition, overbuild facilities, create a national student debt crisis, and lower educational quality. Laying out an interconnected cycle of mistakes, from subsidizing the private sector to "the poor get poorer" funding policies, Newfield clearly demonstrates how decisions made in government, in the corporate world, and at colleges themselves contribute to the dismantling of once-great public higher education. A powerful, hopeful critique of the unnecessary death spiral of higher education, The Great Mistake is essential reading for those who wonder why students have been paying more to get less and for everyone who cares about the role the higher education system plays in improving the lives of average Americans.

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The Great Mistake

Christopher Newfield

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Reviews

A well-written and readable work in the area of critical university studies, this book will be of interest to academics and general readers wanting more information on the causes of current issues in today's public educational institutions.

[S]traightforward and compelling

It’s a compelling case and an important vision.

Newfield creates a way to think of the entire landscape for the complex situation institutions face when trying to educate students with the highest quality, best learning outcomes, and fewer resources than ever before.

This book is a major addition to the Critical University Studies corpus, and should be required reading for anyone concerned about the fate of public education in the United States... Newfield’s writing is clear and accessible enough for beginning college students even as his larger argument is sophisticated enough for graduate-level study.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
5
x
8
Pages
448
ISBN
9781421427034
Illustration Description
2 halftones, 33 charts
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Part I
Holding Back Public Colleges
The Price of Privatization
The Devolutionary Cycle
Part II
Stage 1 The University Retreat from Public Goods
Stage 2 Subsidizing the Outside Sponsors
Stage 3

Acknowledgments
Part I
Holding Back Public Colleges
The Price of Privatization
The Devolutionary Cycle
Part II
Stage 1 The University Retreat from Public Goods
Stage 2 Subsidizing the Outside Sponsors
Stage 3 Large, Regular Tuition Hikes
Stage 4 The States Cut Public Funding
Stage 5 The States Cut Public Funding
Stage 6 Private Vendors Leverage Public Funds
Stage 7 Unequal Funding Cuts Attainment
Stage 8 Universities Build the Post– Middle Class
Part III
Reconstructing the Public University
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Christopher Newfield

Christopher Newfield (LONDON, UK) is the director of research at the Independent Social Research Foundation and was formerly a distinguished professor of literature and American studies at UC Santa Barbara. He is the author of The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them.