Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Next Great Wave in American Higher Education is Washing over us

English: A big wave is breaking in Santa Cruz,...
English: A big wave is breaking in Santa Cruz, California. Français : Une grosse vague déferle à Santa Cruz, en Californie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

AUTHOR:James Ottavio Castagnera
TITLE:The Next Great Wave in American Higher Education
SOURCE:Planning for Higher Education 31 no2 52-9 D 2002/F 2003
The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited.

    Four distinct epochs or waves can be discerned in the history of higher education. This article argues that a fifth wave, perhaps the most revolutionary of all, has only just begun, posing a unique challenge to higher education planners. The four previous waves can be summarized briefly as follows:
    * In the 85 years between the Declaration of Independence and the Civil War, some 800 liberal arts colleges sprang up across the United States. My own alma maters are typical. Franklin & Marshall College owes half its name to a modest amount of seed money donated by the great Benjamin Franklin in 1787. Case Western Reserve University first saw the light of learning as Western Reserve Academy. "The undergraduate college took ... the essential step necessary for a broad education for general citizenship. ... These institutions were of a size and scale that could be created by a group of private individuals--not requiring great fortunes or state support" (Cox 2000, p. 14).
    * The end of the Civil War until the turn of the last century was the era of the great land-grant institutions. This expansion of higher education led to the first shakeout. "By 1900, only 180 of those first 800 small colleges remained active; larger, subsidized state universities consumed market share by offering more educational services, subsidized prices, and often more pragmatic and career-oriented curricula" (Cox 2000, p. 14).
    * Around the turn of the last century, the third great wave broke upon the shores of higher learning. Wealthy industrialists, such as John D. Rockefeller (The University of Chicago), Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Mellon University), Cornelius Vanderbilt (Vanderbilt University), and Leland Stanford (Stanford University) founded high-quality, private universities. The institutions were often world-class in their curricula, faculty, and architecture, importing many of these elements from their great European counterparts. Thus, with Chicago, "Cambridge inspired the architecture, while Berlin inspired the pedagogy and faculty structure" (Cox 2000, p. 14).
    * Fast forward yet another 50 years and we see the GI Bill and the postwar technology boom, fueled in part by the Cold War, driving the creation of the "megaversity." This term is commonly used to describe a variety of large institutions, all of which share at least the following characteristics: faculty numbering in the thousands and student bodies numbering in the tens of thousands; sprawling and/or multiple campuses containing a large number of undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges; and a large and cumbersome administrative bureaucracy overseeing these complex operations. (We have also seen the proliferation and maturation of the community college. However, this article will limit its focus principally to four-year institutions.)
    In all, then, we can identify four distinct waves of institutional development in American higher education, each of which spanned about a half century of American history.
    The fifth wave is about to break. "The age of the Internet and other new media forms is giving rise to a new wave of institution building, right before our eyes .... Ours is an extraordinary moment in history" (Cox 2000, p. 17). What is it we may expect to observe and experience among the phenomena of this new era? Among the main indicia of this new wave are the following:
    * There will be a shakeout of weaker institutions as the current expansion leads inevitably to a concomitant contraction.
    * When the shakeout is complete, higher education will not be populated exclusively by e-educators. Nor will the landscape of higher education boast only the largest and wealthiest bricks-and-mortar institutions. Rather, as in the past, we should anticipate a mix of liberal arts colleges, land-grant universities, and wealthy private universities, including megaversities, coexisting in rationalized competition with the e-educators and other for-profit entrants of this 21st century wave of institution building.
    * The wealthiest among us need not worry about this latest wave of change. For example, with $18-$19 billion in endowment moneys and a reputation second to none, Harvard University has a secure position. An apt analogy might be to the oil industry. At the turn of the last century, Standard Oil was the most powerful corporation in the United States and Rockefeller was its wealthiest citizen. Despite the government's antitrust suit 100 years ago against Standard Oil, our love affair with automobiles ensures a powerful position in corporate America for the Seven Sisters, those seven corporations, inclucling Mobil and Chevron, that succeeded Standard Oil in settlement of the suit. Similarly, a market always will exist for quality classroom teaching and the traditional residential campus experience, with modest alterations in the new era.
    * At the opposite extreme are institutions that might be no more than one or two bad freshman enrollments away from closing their doors. For these, daring solutions make sense. With little to lose, risk taking is their best bet.
    For the rest of us--the overwhelming majority of traditional institutions of higher learning, which are neither assured of success nor in imminent canger of failing--the observations of Fernand Braudel may be worth noting. One of the world's leading economic historians, he stated the following concerning the waves of prosperity and poverty that have buoyed up and sunk nations: "The moral of the story is that a loss is never the result of a single throw--nor indeed is a triumph. Success depends on seizing the opportunities of a given period, on doing so time and time again, and piling advantage on advantage" (Braudel 1984, p. 50).
    Colleges and universities are often the targets of criticism, particularly from would-be or actual corporate partners, for the slowness of decision processes. But corporate America has come in for criticism from its counterparts in Japan and Germany for just the opposite trait--too much attention to a single quarter's profits as against long-range planning and performance. In the midst of the current mad dash to capture shares of the e-education and corporate-partnership markets, the hundreds of colleges and universities in the middle of the pack may be well advised to take a time-out.
    We might very well reflect upon the possibility--dare I say, the probability--that we are only at the very start of the next wave of change, a wave that will wash over higher education and ebb around the middle of the new century. We also might consider that, while the weakest members of the herd will fall and perish, representatives of every species--liberal arts college, land-grant institution, private university, megaversity--will survive as part of the new higher education landscape. And survival may depend upon adopting medium- to long-range strategies, rather than racing after quick fixes.
    My belief is that the majority will survive. What leads me to this conclusion, rather than the conclusion that the decline of small liberal arts institutions in the second wave will be proportionately repeated? At present, only 1 percent of the world's population holds college degrees. In this Information Age, the world's uneducated masses will look to the United States to meet an enormous, pent-up demand. There will be plenty of "customers" for everyone. And while many millions will want the convenience of learning at a distance, millions more will continue to buy a traditional product or some combination of the two. Therefore, there is ample room for all of us to ride the new wave of change. With good medium- to long-range strategies, which match historical mission, current strengths, and particularized opportunities, we all have a chance to land safely on the beach by mid-century.
THE SECOND WAVE: 1865-1900
    The period 1820-1896 has been termed "The Victorian Equilibrium":
The new change-regime might be called the price equilibrium of the Victorian era. It coincided almost exactly with the life of Queen Victoria herself (1819-1901), and was closely linked to the cultural values that she represented. Its character was most clearly evident in Great Britain. Prices in that nation fell sharply from 1813 to the early 1820s, then fluctuated within a fixed range for more than fifty years. They fell again during the depression of 1873, and stabilized once more until nearly the end of the nineteenth century. There was no sustained inflation in Britain from 1820 to 1896. (Fischer 1996, p. 156)
    In the United States, the Civil War stimulated an inflationary spike that disrupted this equilibrium. For the failed Confederacy, the spike was one of hyperinflation. But the war's aftermath was characterized by deflation; by 1880, the 1861-65 inflation had been wrung right out of the U.S. economy (Fischer 1996, p. 157). During the latter half of the 19th century, "[l]ong-term improvement was the rule for both highly skilled artisans and farm laborers" (Fischer 1996, p. 160).
    Although depression engulfed the Western world in 1873, from about 1876 onward, a "public health revolution" caused death rates to decline dramatically (Fischer 1996, p. 186). The effect was a general rise in world populations, with the United State getting much more than its share due to immigration. While Rockefeller was building Standard Oil and revolutionizing the way American business operated in the eastern part of the country (see Yergin 1992, chapter 2), East Coast cities, notably New York, were bulging and bustling (Kazin 1985, p. 257).
    Among the notable developments of this era were the great land-grant institutions, the genesis of which may be seen from an examination of the career of John Wesley Powell, best remembered as the explorer of the Colorado River (see Worster 2001). Powell's achievements were supported mostly by government largess, as were the land grant institutions, including the future University of Illinois, with which he enjoyed an early affiliation. Powell was the son of immigrants whose story typifies that of millions who came to America during the 19th century. Combining an old-world trade (tailoring) with attempts at farming, the family moved from upstate New York to the Midwest. There they bought, developed, and sold a succession of ever-larger tracts of rural land, building their nest egg, until they finally retired in modest affluence to Wheaton, Illinois, by about the time of the Civil War.
    The founding of the town, a bit northwest of Chicago, is a typical tale not only of American frontier society but of American higher education in that early era.
A conference of Wesleyan Methodists meeting in Batavia, Illinois, in 1851 ... resolved to create a new comprehensive school and college under church auspices--an Oberlin for the prairie. Two brothers named Wheaton stepped forth to offer forty acres of land for a campus in the new town they were platting, a town bearing their name. They conceived of a Christian community free of alcohol, with a Christian school at its core. The conferees readily accepted their offer, for the location was ideal. The new town of Wheaton lay on the outskirts of Chicago in DuPage County, twenty-five miles west of the city's Michigan Avenue, and the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad came directly through it. Within a couple of years five hundred inhabitants were living here, some of them commuting to work in the city, and they were a sober, diligent bunch. Soon a school, the Illinois Institute, was under construction in their midst. (Worster 2001, p. 54)
    In 1859, President Jonathan Blanchard of Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, left there to become the institute's first leader. Early in his tenure, he proposed that the college be called Wheaton College, probably to encourage further generosity from the brothers who were its first benefactors. The school's vision was "a combination of intellectual growth and Christian faith" (Wheaton College). Because Blanchard was an avid abolitionist, it's no surprise that the student body contributed some 67 soldiers to the Union cause during the Civil War.
    Blanchard served Wheaton until 1882. Then, as was not unusual in those times, he was succeeded in the presidency by his son, Charles Albert, whose run was equally impressive--all the way to 1925. An 1870 alumnus of the college, he built both the curriculum and the campus. Science and the industrial arts became important parts of the college (Wheaton College).
    One of that fortunate group of antebellum liberal arts institutions to survive and prosper during the successive waves of competition, Wheaton today is a member of the Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges. The consortium is an organization "comprising many of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States, chartered to explore and promote the use of information technology in the service of [their] liberal arts educational missions" (Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges 2002). Dating to 1984 and naming as its founding catalyst President S. Frederick Starr of Oberlin College, the consortium is a fetal form of the consortia that must be fostered for higher education to fulfill its promise and its potential in the 21st century (see Worster 2001, chapter two).
    In the mid-1850s, the young Powell was drawn neither to Wheaton nor to the mother of all great Midwestern liberal arts colleges, Oberlin, though he briefly sampled both. Seeking science, he was drawn to Illinois College in Jacksonville. Founded in 1829 by the self-styled "Yale Band" of that university's alumni, Illinois College followed Yale University's example and opened a scientific department in 1852 (Worster 2001, pp. 70-71).
    Like Wheaton, Illinois College is among those early liberal institutions of the first wave that have survived into the 21st century. Today, one of nine Phi Beta Kappa members in the Land of Lincoln, Illinois College enrolls about 900 undergraduates. Among its 19th century alumni was William Jennings Bryan, class of 1881. By its own account, "A basic strength of Illinois College is its large productive endowment" (Illinois College). Along with membership in a consortium, a large and productive endowment is a key to the survival of these precious morsels in the roiling stew of 21st century American higher education.
    When Powell, after the Civil War, commenced his career as a western explorer and scientist, among his first patrons he counted the new Illinois Industrial University, now the University of Illinois. Here, at last, having had three years of college education by moving among Wheaton, Oberlin, and Illinois College, Powell encountered an early arrival on the second great wave of American higher education.
Ever since the first student walked through its doors in 1867, the University of Illinois has been a tremendous resource for the State of Illinois. Founded in response to the federal Land Grant Act of 1862, the University immediately met an important need to provide higher education opportunities for working class people. (University of Illinois)
    Today, the University of Illinois employs more than 5,400 faculty, 6,500 administrators and other professionals, and 8,700 graduate assistants. It awards almost 16,000 degrees per year and counts more than half a million living alumni. Its annual operating budget is about $2.6 billion, while it enrolls some 65,000 students in 800 buildings scattered across three campuses (University of Illinois).
THE THIRD WAVE: 1900-1945
    While one might choose any of the great private universities to illustrate the third great wave in American higher education, I have selected Case Western Reserve University for two reasons. The first reason is personal: Case Western Reserve is my alma mater; I care about it very much and come to this place in my narrative knowing something about it. The second is that Case Western Reserve--today one of the 30 or so American universities in the so-called "Billion Dollar Club," comprised of institutions boasting $1 billion or more of endowment--is a splendid example of a resilient institution, whose long history spans all four great waves identified above and which seems well-positioned to survive and prosper in this fifth one.
    Western Reserve Academy, founded in Hudson, Ohio, in 1826, can be counted among the proliferation of liberal arts colleges established during the first wave. Of the 800 such colleges founded during that 85-year cycle, only about 180 survived the second great wave of land-grant institutions during the second half of the 19th century. In 1880, the college moved to Cleveland. Amasa Stone, an ally of Vanderbilt and an adversary of Rockefeller, financed the move. Said to be the "richest man in Cleveland," he gave the college $600,000 over a three-year period (Cramer 1976, pp. 77-78).
    In 1881, the Case School of Applied Science opened in downtown Cleveland. Through the sustained generosity and vision of Stone and other moneyed Clevelanders, 43 acres were acquired on Cleveland's east side and Case's first permanent building was built beside the new facilities of Western Reserve. Thus, Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology, as the institutions came to be name, grew together, their campuses more or less divided by Euclid Avenue, the city's major east-west thoroughfare. Symbolic of the symbiosis between the two institutions was the Michelson-Morley ether-drift experiment in 1887. Albert Michelson was a Case physicist who was at The University of Chicago by the time he won a Nobel Prize for his work. Edward Morley was a Western Reserve chemist. Their collaboration would one day help confirm Einstein's theoretical work (Cramer 1976, pp. 57-70).
    While the two institutions would not formally merge until 1967, in a very real sense they were to Cleveland what The University of Chicago was to the Windy City and Carnegie Mellon University was to Pittsburgh for the half century before they tied the legal knot.
    It was the titans of American industry, enriched, sometimes to fabulous levels of wealth, during the latter half of the 19th century, who built these great private universities. Case in point was Rockefeller. No industrial magnate's story is more closely tied to the rise of American industrial might than his. On February 1, 1865, Rockefeller bid $72,500 and bought his first oil refinery--in Cleveland. "I ever point to that day as the beginning of the success I have made of my life," he later wrote (Yergin 1992, p. 35). The purchase was the start of the rationalization of the chaos that was the western Pennsylvania oil boom. And Standard Oil was the instrument of Rockefeller's power. By the end of the 1870s, Rockefeller and his associates ruled an empire of refineries, pipelines, and oil fields that amounted to a near monopoly.
    So powerful had Standard Oil become by the turn of the century that in 1904, recently elected President Theodore Roosevelt targeted the conglomerate for attack under the newly enacted Sherman Anti-Trust Act. In 1909 the federal district court found in favor of the government in its suit to bust the Standard Oil trust, and in 1911 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that verdict. Although the remedy resulted in the creation of seven separate companies from the Standard monopoly, the so-called Seven Sisters (Yergin 1992, pp. 109-10). Rockefeller himself would end up even wealthier than before the lawsuit. Indeed, he was the wealthiest American of his time, his riches surpassed only by some few potentates and royal families.
    Rockefeller's charitable activities touched a wide range of causes and projects. In higher education, his baby was The University of Chicago, where his largess enabled the theft of top faculty from competitor institutions around the nation, including Michelson of Case (Cramer 1976, p. 213). But Rockefeller did not ignore the leading private institutions of his hometown. For example, in 1904 he provided Case with $200,000 to build two new buildings, one for physics, the other dedicated to mining and metallurgy (Cramer 1976, p. 243).
THE FOURTH WAVE: 1945-2000
    For a while, at least, all boats rose on the gargantuan fourth wave of American higher education. Millions of returning servicemen, supported by the GI Bill, sought learning at institutions of all shapes and sizes across the country. To this day, the odd Quonset hut, hastily erected to help house this vast influx, is still being used in one way or another on a few campuses. While World War II devastated the rest of the world, the United States was much more than just untouched: its economy was strengthened and expanded. Population growth drove a housing boom that swept into the countryside, where William Levitt used Henry Ford's techniques in the development of suburban sprawl (Halberstam 1993, p. 132).
    Added to the influx of students was an influx of government funding as higher education was enlisted into the Cold War in the 1950s. The Vietnam War kept the largess flowing throughout the 1960s, notwithstanding the leftist critique of the megaversity and the antiwar sentiment and the campus violence the war spawned. Only in the 1970s, as the war wound down and new competition--notably, a proliferation of community colleges--grew did the quarter century of growth and affluence show signs of weakening.
    By the early 1970s, many universities were overbuilt and financially overextended. The male student population dropped off as the draft gave way to a lottery system and then ended entirely. In Cleveland, meanwhile, two new institutions, Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College, competed primarily for undergraduates with Case Western Reserve and the other private colleges and universities in the city. On top of all this, in Cleveland the great steel mills were starting to contract and finally close in the face of foreign competition from countries economically recovered from World War II. During the first year of its merger, Case-Reserve suffered a $3 million deficit. Shortfalls of $4 million followed in each of the succeeding three fiscal/academic years (Cramer 1976, p. 284).
    During the past three decades, higher education has pursued a range of strategies that have enabled most of its institutions to survive challenges and even to grow and prosper. Numerous colleges have expanded their offerings anc activities and become universities.
    Major private institutions like Case Western Reserve discovered the capital campaign and learned to overlap the private stage of each new campaign with the public stage of the one just winding down, ideally having surpassed its stated monetary goal. By the end of the century, billion-dollar capital campaigns had become almost common. The billion-dollar club among university endowments included some 30 members. Harvard is consistently on top with an endowment approaching $20 billion, and the likes of Case Western Reserve bring up the rear with about $1.5 billion in the bank (Chronicle of Higher Education 2002).
    Prestigious liberal arts institutions, some dating all the way back to the first wave--such as Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Franklin & Marshall Colleges--chose to remain small, selective colleges and enjoyed the financial soundness to sustain that choice (Chronicle of Higher Education 2002).
    Public universities, enduring declining appropriations, learned to play the endowment game, cultivating contributions from their often-vast alumni associations, while competing successfully for the soft dollars of government and private grants. Community colleges are also learning to raise private funds in the face of legislative austerity, though their alumni are not so easily tapped, because many go on to shift their affiliations to four-year institutions. Population growth in the last decade of the 20th century helped all these boats to rise.
    American higher education enters the 21st century with great advantages. The world respects it and wants what it has to offer. World population is growing, many would say at an alarming rate. And only one person in 100 on this planet has a college degree. In short, there is a massive market out there and American higher education has the product that most in that market wish to purchase.
    It must be added, though, that not all current entrants in the market will benefit proportionally from this unique opportunity. To the contrary, some will not even survive. Thus far into the new century, four U.S. colleges have closed (Selingo 2002, p. A10).
    But no one would be surprised to learn that the many weak sisters among the large number of U.S. institutions are planning and striving to survive and to improve their financial and competitive positions. The surprising news is that Harvard's new, and already controversial, president, Lawrence H. Summers, is arguing that the nation's richest and most prestigious institution needs "nothing less than a cultural revolution on campus" (Symonds 2002). According to the article, Summers has concluded that "Harvard College is failing to provide undergrads with the education they need in today's fast-changing global economy." He also wants to place Harvard at the center of education reform and medicine and the life sciences, making Cambridge/Boston the Silicon Valley of biotechnology.
    While a powerhouse like Harvard can pick and choose the paths it will take to ensure its primacy in the new era, most colleges and universities may be said to be reacting rather than leading. And much of this reaction has been to the challenge of for-profit, often Internet-based competitors. For many schools, meeting this challenge meant a leap (often, a leap of faith) into distance learning ventures. Results have been decidedly mixed to date. Some, like Temple University, shut down their e-ventures after losing a bundle and took a step back from the distance learning market. This corresponded with some disappointing results for business schools that bet heavily on e-commerce programs (Alexander 2001) only to be fried in the great dot-com meltdown of 2000-01 (Carr and Blumenstyk 2000, p A-39). But the online learning enterprises of at least some traditional, nonprofit universities appear to be prospering in the rough-and-tumble world of distance learning. Columbia University's Fathom, which is strategically aligned with several for-profit players, is one example (Arnone 2002).
    As for the for-profit bogeymen themselves, consolidation is the order of the day. Geoffrey Cox is correct that "a new wave of institution building" is occurring "right before our eyes" (Cox 2000, p. 14). For example, the University of Phoenix started with a class of only eight working adults in 1976. Today, it is the nation's largest for-profit university, under the umbrella of a publicly traded parent, Apollo Group. It boasts some 70,000 part-time students attending classes at 100 physical locations across the country. Its sister, the University of Phoenix Online, which trades separately from Apollo Group, counted more than 25,000 degree-seekers in its virtual classrooms as it marked a 47 percent increase in revenues and an 11 percent climb in profits between 2000 and 2001 (Brenowitz 2001, p. 22).
    The response of many traditional nonprofit institutions to the challenge of these for-profit players is to forge partnerships across the gap. Some prime examples include the following:
    * Columbia's Fathom has teamed with four for-profits, including Kaplan Colleges, to offer online learning.
    * As the University of Phoenix made a second attempt to be licensed by the State of New Jersey, it announced in 2001 a deal with New Jersey City University to use the latter's library facilities, thus overcoming a major problem that had led to denial of its application several years earlier (Smith 2001).
    * Corporate universities, which tailor their offerings to the perceived needs of major corporations in partnership with nearby colleges and universities, have reportedly ballooned from 400 to 2,000 during the past dozen years or so. Some examples include Walt Disney World and Valencia Community College; the Bank of Montreal and Dalhousie University; Ford Motor Company and Mott Community College; and The Hartford Financial Services Group and the University of Connecticut (Meister 2001, p. B-10).
    * Faced with increasing student enrollments and the deferred maintenance of aging dormitories, some institutions, such as McNeese State University and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, are partnering with such private developers as University Housing Services to build new residence halls (Sausner 2002, pp. 35-36).
    Other traditional nonprofits are looking to merge with one another rather than partner with the for-profit sector. At the very start of this century, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that "a wave of collegiate mergers ... appears to be picking up steam. Since November [2000] six mergers of higher-education institutions have been announced. At least three more are in the talking stages" (Van Der Werf 2001, A-26). In 2000, 24 of the nation's 28 Jesuit colleges and universities formed JesuitNET to pool resources, mostly via distance education offerings (McMurtrie 2000, p. A-45).
    Lastly, it's worth noting that a few universities are moving beyond the well-established study-abroad models of international institutional relationships to form more intimate links. These links are aimed at enabling the American partner to deliver desired educational services to needy foreign institutions, the logistical, financial, and cultural hurdles notwithstanding. For example, early in 2002 Purdue University signed a contract with Afghanistan's minister of higher education under which the Midwestern university will work closely with the new Afghan government in the rebuilding of shattered Kabul University (Del Castillo 2002).
    While not all strategies or all institutions will survive, much less prosper, my prediction is that most institutions of higher learning are demonstrating their creativity in planning and their resilience in surviving as this next great wave hits.
    James Ottavio Castagnera holds a J.D. and a Ph.D. in American studies from Case Western Reserve University. Currently, he is the associate provost at Rider University. Having published a dozen books and some 50 articles, chapters, and presentations, he has current professional and research interests in the role of higher education in the 21st century, particularly with regard to technology, entrepreneurship, and social justice. The author wishes to express particular gratitude to Geoffrey M. Cox, whom he heard speak at the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education alumni seminar and whose article inspired this piece
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Source: Planning for Higher Education, December 2002/February 2003, Vol. 31 Issue 2, p52, 8p
Item: 507789877

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