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Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free: How to Decrease Cost and Increase Quality at American Universitiesby Robert Samuels
Synopses & Reviews
Universities tend to be judged by the test scores of their incoming students and not on what students actually learn once they attend these institutions. While shared tests and surveys have been developed, most schools refuse to publish the results. Instead, they allow such publications as U.S. News & World Report to define educational quality. In order to raise their status in these rankings, institutions pour money into new facilities and extracurricular activities while underfunding their educational programs.
In Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free, Robert Samuels argues that many institutions of higher education squander funds and mislead the public about such things as average class size, faculty-to-student ratios, number of faculty with PhDs, and other indicators of educational quality. Parents and students seem to have little knowledge of how colleges and universities have been restructured over the past thirty years.
Samuels shows how research universities have begun to function as giant investment banks or hedge funds that spend money on athletics and administration while increasing tuition costs and actually lowering the quality of undergraduate education. In order to fight higher costs and lower quality, Samuels suggests, universities must reallocate these misused funds and concentrate on their core mission of instruction and related research.
Throughout the book, Samuels argues that the future of our economy and democracy rests on our ability to train students to be thoughtful participants in the production and analysis of knowledge. If leading universities serve only to grant credentials and prestige, our society will suffer irrevocable harm. Presenting the problem of how universities make and spend money, Samuels provides solutions to make these important institutions less expensive and more vital. By using current resources in a more effective manner, we could even, he contends, make all public higher education free.
"Samuels (Writing Prejudices), president of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers union and lecturer at U.C.L.A. and U.C. Santa Barbara, outlines the pricing problem American colleges create for undergraduates. As he explains, universities are often run like corporations, and research and graduate programs come at a cost to undergraduate education. Graduate students provide cheap labor for research projects, but are less prepared for teaching. The creation of online courses diminishes the educational experience for undergrads, and incorporating new technology in the classroom is costly. Further, universities' risky investments can shrink their endowments, leaving less money for financial aid. Budget cuts cause class sizes to swell and the quality of education to shrink. The solution, Samuels argues, is making public higher education free, which would eliminate the burden of student loans for high-achieving but less affluent students, by rerouting government assistance that goes to for-profit institutions or tax breaks for the wealthy. By restructuring how education is financed, the emphasis could be shifted from prestigious researchers toward quality undergraduate education. While the book would have benefited from a plan of action to bring about this reform, Samuels's argument is a persuasive and informative introduction to the higher education industry." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Robert Samuels explains why universities cost so much and offers solutions as to how they can reduce their expenses by concentrating on their core mission of instruction and research. Not only can tuition be reduced, but public universities and colleges can be made free by allocating existing resources to provide quality undergraduate education and diminishing the amount of money spent in the areas of athletics, administration, and public research.
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