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America's colleges and universities are social institutions -- embedded in the wider society and subject in various ways to its constraining forces. In American Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century, researchers who share this understanding explore the new realities of higher education and consider its greatest challenges for the next century.
Subject to increasing scrutiny by the media and the public, colleges and universities must wrestle with a wide range of issues generated by their various external constituencies. Academic leaders rearrange their curricula to meet demands for multiculturalism. They seek an appropriate response as race-based admissions procedures come under attack. They assess student learning and monitor faculty productivity--while simultaneously responding to calls for the end of tenure and for explanations of why the cost of attending college has risen so dramatically.
Using the changing social, political, and economic contexts of colleges and universities as a lens for examining these complex issues, the contributors seek to understand the forces -- whether unique to our era or rooted in the past -- that currently influence higher education and will continue to do so in the next century. Whether discussing finance or technology or academic freedom or the canon, the authors find that relations between academic institutions and their surrounding societies have generally been ambivalent: both involved and withdrawn, servicing and criticizing, needing and being needed. Understanding the complex interplay between institutions and external forces, they conclude, is the key to guiding the endeavors of faculty, students, and administrative leaders alike.