Chronicle Editor: Higher Education Is in Flux

Posted: October 23, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Elena Barbre

The categories that are used to define higher education are rapidly merging or disappearing–a hallmark of significant change in the field, said Scott Jaschik, editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, at a meeting of the University Taskforce of Concerned Faculty held yesterday.

Among the changes transforming higher education are blurrier distinctions between types of institutions as community colleges train Ph.D.s and four-year colleges scramble to provide Microsoft certification programs; more time spent on fund-raising to shrink the widening gap between the rich and the poor; and the increasing nationalization of higher education as less attention is focused on the Ivy League model, Jaschik said.

Jaschik also noted the rising influence of the for-profit sector in redefining what higher education is. “A new set of leaders is emerging in American higher education–one with a different set of values,” he said. “The old categories no longer apply. Nobody is secure–the competition is always looking over your shoulder. If George Mason doesn’t offer a program, Northern Virginia Community College or the University of Phoenix will.” Distance education is also growing in influence, he said, as the power structure shifts and students become “designers” of their academic programs.

As Americans revered doctors generations ago, we “still have tremendous respect for higher education at some level,” said Jaschik. “We’re still loyal to our alma mater and we still want higher education for our children.” But as many today seek a second medical opinion, “we no longer feel higher education is above question.”

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