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What's Public about Public Higher Ed?

Halting Higher Education's Decline in the Court of Public Opinion

Stephen M. Gavazzi and E. Gordon Gee

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Exploring the current state of relationships between public universities, government leaders, and the citizens who elect them, this book offers insight into how to repair the growing rift between higher education and its public.

Higher education gets a bad rap these days. The public perception is that there is a growing rift between public universities and the elected officials who support them. In What's Public about Public Higher Ed?, Stephen M. Gavazzi and E. Gordon Gee explore the reality of that supposed divide, offering qualitative and quantitative evidence of why it's happened and what…

Exploring the current state of relationships between public universities, government leaders, and the citizens who elect them, this book offers insight into how to repair the growing rift between higher education and its public.

Higher education gets a bad rap these days. The public perception is that there is a growing rift between public universities and the elected officials who support them. In What's Public about Public Higher Ed?, Stephen M. Gavazzi and E. Gordon Gee explore the reality of that supposed divide, offering qualitative and quantitative evidence of why it's happened and what can be done about it.

Critical problems, Gavazzi and Gee argue, have arisen because higher education leaders often assumed that what was good for universities was good for the public at large. For example, many public institutions have placed more emphasis on research at the expense of teaching, learning, and outreach. This university-centric viewpoint has contributed significantly to the disconnect between our nation's public universities and the representatives of the people they are supposed to be serving. But this gulf can only be bridged, the authors insist, if people at the universities take the time to really listen to what the citizens of their states are asking of them.

Gavazzi and Gee draw on never-before-gathered survey data on public sentiment regarding higher education. Collected from citizens residing in the four most populous states—California, Florida, New York, and Texas—plus Ohio and West Virginia, the authors' home states, this data reflects critical issues, including how universities spend taxpayer money, the pursuit of national rankings, student financial aid, and the interplay of international activities versus efforts to create "closer to home" impact. An unflinching, no-holds-barred exploration of what citizens really think about their public universities, What's Public about Public Higher Ed? also places special emphasis on the events of 2020—including the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst racial unrest seen in half a century—as major inflection points for understanding the implications of the survey's findings.

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What's Public about Public Higher Ed?

Stephen M. Gavazzi and E. Gordon Gee

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Reviews

This engaging and informative book provides today's college and university leadership with evidence-based insights into the way the public views a range of issues faced by higher ed leaders. Using a survey of respondents in six states to marshal fresh evidence, What's Public about Public Higher Ed? is helpful at a time when more Americans have begun to view our nation's colleges and universities—like most large institutions—in more critical terms.

This engaging, intriguing book made me ponder the whole of higher education and the current state of the world. Timely and groundbreaking, it will generate debate and discussion that will eventually and hopefully move education forward beyond petty partisan divides.

In their typical outspoken style, Gavazzi and Gee address the growing public skepticism toward higher education. Their fact-based analysis and practical suggestions will be helpful to all who believe that an educated and informed citizenry is critical to a functioning democracy.

As accessible as it is scholarly, Gavazzi and Gee's latest book is premised on the straightforward notion that if you want to understand how citizens view public universities, you need to ask them. And that's just what the authors do, via a national survey of Americans' opinions about the major tensions facing public universities. A bracing but optimistic take on higher education today.

Gavazzi and Gee provide insight on what the court of US public opinion believes about higher education and how institutions might be better able to share contributions, showcase value, and garner further support. It is a useful read for anyone who works at a public college or university.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
232
ISBN
9781421442525
Illustration Description
2 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. Opportunities and Threats to Higher Education
Chapter 2. What Citizens Think about Their State's Public Universities: Steps toward Ground Truthing
Chapter 3

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. Opportunities and Threats to Higher Education
Chapter 2. What Citizens Think about Their State's Public Universities: Steps toward Ground Truthing
Chapter 3. Public Funding for Teaching, Research, and Community Engagement
Chapter 4. Focusing Attention on Rural and Urban Communities
Chapter 5. Global Footprint versus Closer to Home
Chapter 6. Merit-Based Aid and Needs-Based Aid for Students
Chapter 7. National Rankings: The Scourge of Higher Education
Chapter 8. Jobs and Politics and Sports, Oh My!
Chapter 9. Disdain the Beaten Path: The Year 2020 as a Turning Point for the American Public University
Appendixes
1. Study Survey
2. Multivariate Tests
3. Tests of Between-Subjects Effects
4. Multiple Comparisons
Notes
Index

Author Bios
Stephen M. Gavazzi
Featured Contributor

Stephen M. Gavazzi

Stephen M. Gavazzi is a professor of human development and family science at The Ohio State University. He is the author of Families with Adolescents: Bridging the Gaps between Theory, Research, and Practice.
E. Gordon Gee
Featured Contributor

E. Gordon Gee

E. Gordon Gee is the president of West Virginia University. He is the coeditor of Leading Colleges and Universities: Lessons from Higher Education Leaders, and a the coauthor of Land-Grant Universities for the Future.