Schapiro comments on the end of higher education

Cat Zakrzewski

For college students investing countless dollars and hours into higher education, it is often impossible to ignore the many reports that their investments will not pay off, that soon, higher education will no longer exist as they know it.

University President Morton Schapiro attempted to put those fears to rest in an Op-Ed column published on July 3 in the Los Angeles Times. Schapiro co-wrote the column with Barry Glassner, the president of Lewis & Clark College in Oregon.

Schapiro and Glassner wrote that the state of colleges and universities has been a target of paranoid predictions for over a century. The two cited historical events ranging from the president of Stanford’s prediction of the demise of liberal arts education in 1990, to those who believed the G.I. Bill would mark the end of “educational excellence.”

To Schapiro and Glassner, the “doomsayers” of the 21st century seem no better than those of the past. They wrote that while many are concerned about the system’s future, the majority of college graduates have “relatively small debt burdens,” the ratio of college earnings to high school earnings is “at or near record levels” and the demand for education at selective universities and colleges is increasing.

In the article, the university presidents wrote that just as “alarmists” of higher education have been a constant through time, the concerns for leaders in higher education like themselves have also remained the same. They said in the published article they are kept awake at night by thoughts of how to shape their students to impact society and what their institutions’ roles in society should be.

They also wrote about their concern that such fears about higher education’s demise may be the catalyst of the decline. They said a resulting model might “… (eliminate) outstanding professors and their passion for teaching, research budgets and the pursuit of new knowledge, the residential college experience and the core commitment to excellence that have made American higher education the leader in the world.”

– Cat Zakrzewski