The Struggle to Reform Our Colleges

Princeton University Press
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Why efforts to improve American higher educational attainment haven't worked, and where to go from here

During the first decade of this century, many commentators predicted that American higher education was about to undergo major changes that would be brought about under the stimulus of online learning and other technological advances. Toward the end of the decade, the president of the United States declared that America would regain its historic lead in the education of its workforce within the next ten years through a huge increase in the number of students earning “quality” college degrees.

Several years have elapsed since these pronouncements were made, yet the rate of progress has increased very little, if at all, in the number of college graduates or the nature and quality of the education they receive. In The Struggle to Reform Our Colleges, Derek Bok seeks to explain why so little change has occurred by analyzing the response of America’s colleges; the influence of students, employers, foundations, accrediting organizations, and government officials; and the impact of market forces and technological innovation. In the last part of the book, Bok identifies a number of initiatives that could improve the performance of colleges and universities. The final chapter examines the process of change itself and describes the strategy best calculated to quicken the pace of reform and enable colleges to meet the challenges that confront them.

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About the author

Derek Bok is the 300th Anniversary University Research Professor, professor of law, and president emeritus of Harvard University. His many books include Higher Education in America, Our Underachieving Colleges, and Universities in the Marketplace (all Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 28, 2017
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9781400888344
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Educational Policy & Reform / General
Education / Higher
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A personal account of the implementation of a controversial credit transfer program at the nation's third-largest university

Change is notoriously difficult in any large organization. Institutions of higher education are no exception. From 2010 to 2013, Alexandra Logue, then chief academic officer of The City University of New York, led a controversial reform initiative known as Pathways. The program aimed to facilitate the transfer of credits among the university’s nineteen constituent colleges in order to improve graduation rates—a long-recognized problem for public universities such as CUNY. Hotly debated, Pathways met with vociferous resistance from many faculty members, drew the attention of local and national media, and resulted in lengthy legal action. In Pathways to Reform, Logue, the figure at the center of the maelstrom, blends vivid personal narrative with an objective perspective to tell how this hard-fought plan was successfully implemented at the third-largest university in the United States.

Logue vividly illustrates why change does or does not take place in higher education, and the professional and personal tolls exacted. Looking through the lens of the Pathways program and factoring in key players, she analyzes how governance structures and conflicting interests, along with other institutional factors, impede change—which, Logue shows, is all too rare, slow, and costly. In this environment, she argues, it is shared governance, combined with a strong, central decision-making authority, that best facilitates necessary reform. Logue presents a compelling investigation of not only transfer policy but also power dynamics and university leadership.

Shedding light on the inner workings of one of the most important public institutions in the nation, Pathways to Reform provides the first full account of how, despite opposition, a complex higher education initiative was realized.

All net royalties received by the author from sales of this book will be donated to The City University of New York to support undergraduate student financial aid.

During the past forty years, thousands of studies have been carried out on the subject of happiness. Some have explored the levels of happiness or dissatisfaction associated with typical daily activities, such as working, seeing friends, or doing household chores. Others have tried to determine the extent to which income, family, religion, and other factors are associated with the satisfaction people feel about their lives. The Gallup organization has begun conducting global surveys of happiness, and several countries are considering publishing periodic reports on the growth or decline of happiness among their people. One nation, tiny Bhutan, has actually made "Gross National Happiness" the central aim of its domestic policy. How might happiness research affect government policy in the United States--and beyond? In The Politics of Happiness, former Harvard president Derek Bok examines how governments could use the rapidly growing research data on what makes people happy--in a variety of policy areas to increase well-being and improve the quality of life for all their citizens.

Bok first describes the principal findings of happiness researchers. He considers how reliable the results appear to be and whether they deserve to be taken into account in devising government policies. Recognizing both the strengths and weaknesses of happiness research, Bok looks at the policy implications for economic growth, equality, retirement, unemployment, health care, mental health, family programs, education, and government quality, among other subjects. Timely and incisive, The Politics of Happiness sheds new light on what makes people happy and how government policy could foster greater satisfaction for all.

“Drop the flashcards—grit, character, and curiosity matter even more than cognitive skills. A persuasive wake-up call.”—People

Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control.

How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators, who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough reveals how this new knowledge can transform young people’s lives. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do—and do not—prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to improve the lives of children growing up in poverty. This provocative and profoundly hopeful book will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.

“Illuminates the extremes of American childhood: for rich kids, a safety net drawn so tight it’s a harness; for poor kids, almost nothing to break their fall.”—New York Times

“I learned so much reading this book and I came away full of hope about how we can make life better for all kinds of kids.”—Slate
Why a strong mission and inspired leadership are vital to the success of America’s colleges and universities

In 1998, soon after assuming the presidency of Tulane University, Scott Cowen was confronted with a setback. Despite an undefeated football season and putting the best financial deal on the table, Cowen was unable to retain the school's football coach. The coach wanted something the president didn't have--a football program so popular, as the coach put it, that fans would line up their Winnebagos on Wednesdays in anticipation of Saturday games. In that moment, Cowen improbably found himself in the entertainment business—and his university was deemed wanting.

At a time when schools seem overrun by sports programs, spiraling costs, and absurd ranking systems, Winnebagos on Wednesdays argues that colleges and universities of all stripes and sizes can achieve their educational aims if they possess two things: visionary leadership and a strong mission. Cowen, named one of the nation's top university presidents by Time magazine in 2009, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the critical demands faced by many education leaders. He profiles a range of situations, from how Diana Natalicio of the University of Texas at El Paso expanded a school serving a specific demographic into an academic powerhouse to how Michael Sorrell shifted Paul Quinn College's mission to urban entrepreneurship in order to save the institution. Cowen also draws from his own hard-won experiences, including the rebuilding of Tulane and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the decision to maintain Tulane's football program. He shows how crucial choices in tough situations shape organizations, for better or ill.

A sweeping overview of the higher education landscape, Winnebagos on Wednesdays demonstrates that the courage of transformative leadership is essential for colleges and universities to remain vital.

A compelling memoir by the first woman president of a major American university

Hanna Holborn Gray has lived her entire life in the world of higher education. The daughter of academics, she fled Hitler's Germany with her parents in the 1930s, emigrating to New Haven, where her father was a professor at Yale University. She has studied and taught at some of the world's most prestigious universities. She was the first woman to serve as provost of Yale. In 1978, she became the first woman president of a major research university when she was appointed to lead the University of Chicago, a position she held for fifteen years. In 1991, Gray was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to education.

An Academic Life is a candid self-portrait by one of academia's most respected trailblazers. Gray describes what it was like to grow up as a child of refugee parents, and reflects on the changing status of women in the academic world. She discusses the migration of intellectuals from Nazi-held Europe and the transformative role these exiles played in American higher education--and how the émigré experience in America transformed their own lives and work. She sheds light on the character of university communities, how they are structured and administered, and the balance they seek between tradition and innovation, teaching and research, and undergraduate and professional learning.

An Academic Life speaks to the fundamental issues of purpose, academic freedom, and governance that arise time and again in higher education, and that pose sharp challenges to the independence and scholarly integrity of each new generation.

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