It is common to hear the rhetoric of crisis to describe the current situation of the U.S. higher education system. Critics point to rising costs, burdensome student debt, the decline of the humanities, the dubious quality of much undergraduate education, the rise of online competition, and campus climates that are seen as hostile to dissenting speech. While acknowledging that many of the criticisms of American higher education have merit, Professor Steven Brint provides broad new evidence of the strength of American universities and their growing prominence in public life. To understand the success of the American system, he points to the size of investments in the system and the interplay of three logics of development: the traditional logic of academic professionalism, the logic of the market (with particular emphasis on new technology development), and the logic of social inclusion. Tensions have existed among these three logics, but together they have created an unusual dynamism for American universities and a record of achievement that is unrivaled. In the last section of the presentation, Brint provides evidence-based suggestions about how best to meet two of the most important challenges facing American universities: rising costs and a highly uneven quality of undergraduate instruction.
Steven Brint is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside and the Director of the Colleges & Universities 2000 study. He is the author of four books: The Diverted Dream (with Jerome Karabel), In an Age of Experts, Schools and Societies, and Two Cheers for Higher Education (Princeton University Press 2018) and has published more than 70 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. He has also written for The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Washington Post. His book, The Diverted Dream, won the American Education Research Association's “Outstanding Book” award and the Council of Colleges and Universities' “Outstanding Research Publication” award. His article, “Socialization Messages in Primary Schools: An Organizational Analysis." won the American Sociological Association's Willard Waller Award. His work has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Sociological Research Association.