Higher Education and the American Dream

Success and its Discontent
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232 pages

Marvin Lazerson (professor at the Central European University and the University of Pennsylvania) considers the successes of higher education in the USA and how this has also bred discontent. He traces the development of higher education from the last half of the twentieth century, and considers why the expansion occurred, how it became an industry, and the increasing role of education in job attainment, as well as problems like rising costs, debates about the economic worth of higher education, and the decline in its civic, moral, and intellectual purposes. He also discusses changes in governance to a more business-like model, the managerial imperatives colleges face, changes to curriculum and research, and reform.


Introduction: Houses, automobiles, and higher education

Part I The Gospel of Getting Ahead

Chapter 1 Building the dream (and worrying about it)
Chapter 2 Higher education as vocational education

Part II Governance and Managerial Dilemmas

Chapter 3 Who governs higher education?
Chapter 4 Managerial imperatives

Part III The Learning Conundrum

Chapter 5 Research, teaching, and undergraduate education
Chapter 6 A revolution in teaching and learning?

Part IV Making Things Better

Chapter 7 Why is higher education so hard to reform?


"The unique perspective of this long-term administrator and education historian made Lazerson's memoir particularly compelling. Lazerson acknowledges many of the challenges facing American higher education, especially in the current economic downturn. Perhaps with hard work, including strong systems of truly shared governance, more and more Americans will be able to partake in the American dream Lazerson professes."
"In prose remarkable for its clarity and analysis remarkable for its fair-mindedness, this volume delivers a penetrating, nuanced account of American universities in the twenty-first century. Blessedly without rant or cant, the book tackles topics that range from the rise of the managerial class to the failed attempts to reform practice in the classroom. It’s a smart provocation—a must-read for anyone who cares about where our universities are heading.”
"Professor Lazerson gives an insightful account of American higher education based on years of study and first-hand experience. He discusses both the problems and the accomplishment of our universities with equal care and thus, succeeds in providing a useful and illuminating analysis.”
"Marvin Lazerson’s new book is exactly what is needed: a readable, cogent explanation of how the U.S. can have the best system of higher education in the world, but also a system that seems to be coming apart at the seams.”
"How, asks Marvin Lazerson, can a higher education system that depended so heavily on the dreams of so many millions of Americans have lost its way so completely? His readable and quietly authoritative response to this value-laden question has relevance far beyond the US."
"Marvin Lazerson’s magnificent book is not only comprehensive, but it is written from an all-embracing point of view: seeing higher education in America as an expression of the American Dream. This book should be on the reading list of all who want to understand America’s actions, role and image in the world today, with and equal emphasis on their successes and the discontents they create.”