How college strengthens a class-based society

Lumina Foundation senior adviser Gordon Davies writes in The Huffington Post why the “best” higher-ed institutions have had to abandon their original mission of serving the public and instead become “engines of inequality”:

The formerly blue-collar commuter institution now is a flashy residential university seeking a high place in a magazine’s ratings. The land grant university, established to provide education to the rural population of the state, all but abandons this mission in a headlong quest to become one of the nation’s top 30 research universities. The urban university in a city with high poverty and high unemployment announces that it, too, will become a great research institution.

This is not because college and university leaders are bad or incompetent. But institutions always will act in their own best interests unless their behavior is governed to some extent. This is as true for universities as it is for banks and investment companies. Whether we like it or not, both the media and higher education leaders define “quality” in higher education primarily by research volume and admissions selectivity. The people hired to run universities will not survive unless they act accordingly.