As I said in an earlier post about William Tierney’s HuffPo article on for-profits, I respect Bill a great deal. However, with today’s memo on Inside Higher Education about the importance of political investment in higher education I am a bit confused.
In the HuffPo article, Bill says:
With all this bad press, one might wonder if we should keep for-profits around. I happen to be someone who believes that they are essential to the country’s welfare. We need more people participating in postsecondary education, and our public institutions simply do not have the capacity or wherewithal to grow. If our policy amounts to looking for ways to defund for-profits, such as appears to be the goal in California, we will not improve the long-term economic vitality of the state.
I did not, in my HuffPo response, disagree with that, per se. I disagreed that the framing of Bill’s argument made the importance of for-profits a logical solution to a problem framed to justify the solution. The other option not discussed, but just as viable, is strengthening the system of public higher education; incentivizing public colleges to engage in more flexible learning options like online and hybrid programs, and challenging the status culture that prizes selectivity over accessibility at all levels. It is, perhaps, an audacious suggestion but I fear that if we take audacious off the public policy table we concede to the rightness of market logics in education AND I DO NOT CONCEDE THAT.
Today, Bill (with Micheal Olivas) issued a memo, published by Inside HigherEd (IHE). It is a public call to the presidential cabinets to seriously engage the needs of higher education during this election cycle. I agree that we must agitate for these discussions to be had. What I am somewhat befuddled by is the language in this essay when juxtaposed against the earlier article:
Student debt now exceeds credit card debt. Whereas significantly more people should be participating in the postsecondary sector the potential exists that the country will see fewer students entering and graduating with a certificate or degree. Ample empirical evidence points to the impact of financial aid and debt on attending college, on persistence, and on graduation. Until recently the country could anticipate that increasing number of students of color and first-generation students would participate in higher education, but now the very real possibility exists that fewer students will attend college in the future. Until we resolve the vexing issues concerning needed immigration reform, we squander significant talent.
Throughout the 20th century a hallmark of American higher education was the idea of academic freedom. Tenure came about to protect academic freedom. Although advances in technology and online learning provide significant possibilities for improving learning, a postsecondary education cannot be bereft of engaged critical inquiry amongst students and faculty.
America’s postsecondary institutions exist to advance the common good.
Few people believe that as deeply and fundamentally as do I. In this I am a Deweyian all the way.