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President Glassner refutes doomsayers in Chronicle of Higher Education commentary

October 06, 2014

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College presidents often hear dire warnings about higher education from parents, donors, public officials, and many others.

In a recent commentary for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Lewis & Clark President Barry Glassner and Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro take on the doomsayers and their pessimism regarding everything from student debt to the “return on investment” of education.

“For more than a century, there have been predictions about the impending demise of higher education; they have all proved wrong,” Glassner and Schapiro write. “Though college debt is something to monitor…the vast majority of students graduate with relatively modest loans—under $30,000, on average—and almost one-third leave college with no debt at all. Meanwhile the college premium—the ratio of earnings by college graduates to those by high-school graduates—is at or near a record level.”

Fearmongers succeed by characterizing isolated incidents as trends and misleading their audience, the authors write.

“Breathless stories about the wonders of MOOCs for educating the masses similarly misdirect attention away from real factors that limit students’ access and success in college, such as dwindling public support for higher education, the persistent link between college preparedness and family income, and much more.”

Glassner and Schapiro express concern that predictions of doom can become self-fulfilling prophecies if taken too seriously.

“Our sector must apply some of our vaunted critical thinking to the claims of self-interested scaremongers all too eager to get us to adopt new models,” Glassner and Schapiro write. “The residential-college experience and the core commitment to quality that have made American higher education the leader in the world are too valuable to allow that to come to pass.”

Chronicle of Higher Education Commentary by President Glassner

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