HC 410H: Higher Education in the United States: An Introduction to Key Issues and Challenges

Professor: Michael H. Schill

2.00 credits

  • CRN 37045: Mondays, 1515-1715 @ REMOTE               

       Higher education today faces an unprecedented set of challenges.  Even before COVID-19, many of the most divisive issues facing our nation were playing themselves out in the ivory tower.  Partisan politics either cast universities as places overrun by the left and inhospitable to freedom of speech or as corporativist entities out to exploit the poor and middle class.  The Black Lives Matter movement added fuel to the critique by suggesting that universities were failing to adequately serve marginalized populations.  Costs rose every year faster than inflation as universities competed for faculty and administrative talent, as students demanded greater levels of services, and as government saddled universities with costly requirements.  State support dropped precipitously and student tuition and debt increased to fill the void.    In 2020, COVID-19 threatened the very underpinnings of many universities by making it difficult or impossible for people to study together in a residential setting.

                This class will survey a number of different forces and issues facing the higher education sector.  We will begin by examining the structure of higher education and some of the changes that have taken place over the past 75 years.  We will then discuss the financing of higher education and how that has affected tuition and increasingly widened the gap between well-funded “elite” institutions and the rest.  As part of this analysis we will discuss the critique of universities as “neoliberal” institutions.  We will then launch into a discussion of a number of issues such as access and affordability, diversity and inclusion, freedom of speech, lagging levels of student achievement, and intercollegiate athletics.

                The class will be in the form of a discussion with only occasional lectures.  Expert guests may join once and a while.  Student participation will be highly valued and grades will be based upon a combination of a final paper, short class presentations, and participation in weekly discussions.