Higher Ed as a Public Good


University Business has published an article that initially caught my eye because of its title–“A Pillar of the American Dream: Higher Education as a Public Good.”

But what really caught my eye was the list of co-authors: Lloyd A. Jacobs is president emeritus and professor at the University of Toledo; Janine E. Janosky is dean and professor, College of Education, Health, and Human Services, University of Michigan­Dearborn; Thomas Stuckey is president, Northwest State Community College.

I don’t know anything about Janosky or Stuckey, but I know enough about Lloyd Jacobs’s time as President of the University of Toledo to be very surprised that he would be the lead author of an article with such a title. Without beating a dead horse, Jacobs seemed to represent some of the worst possibilities in the corporatization of the university, regularly dismissing academic freedom and shared governance in favor of administrative fiat and privilege. When he left Toledo, I wrote a post suggesting that he would probably not be missed by many faculty at the university.

That said, the article in University Business does make some good points succinctly and persuasively:

“Amid the stress and scandal besetting many universities, regional campuses and two-­year colleges have quietly and steadfastly gone about the business of promulgating education as a public good and in so doing supporting the American Dream. . . .

“Many regional universities and two­-year colleges have continued to be and have grown in being responsive to local, regional, and state needs through providing educational and training programs for industry sector demand. . . .

“Increasingly the American ethos is to see Higher Education as an enterprise whose benefits accrue to individuals or institutions instead of to the society at large. Benefits originally thought to accrue to society at large include good health, prosperity, and full societal participation. Major changes in the source of funding have followed this changed perception: a far greater dependence on tuition is now characteristic of almost every institution of higher education.

“Regional campuses and two-­year institutions have kept the ‘public good’ most clearly in their mission commitment. This commitment must be recognized if these institutions are to continue to fulfill this mission.”

The complete article includes relevant historical background and descriptions of illustrative institutional initiatives. It is available at: https://www.universitybusiness.com/article/1016-pillar.



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