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Re: Where Can I Get Some

Posted By: Ross Mitchell on August 19, 2011
I think the longer time period for the "Unmaking" is the right way to understand what has been happening to public higher education, and that limiting the period of relevance to the last decade or so misses the setup.

That said, I don't think anyone would disagree that the last decade or so is certainly when the "unmaking" has become obvious to many observers. Brian Pusser's (2004) Burning Down the House: Politics, Governance, and Affirmative Action at the University of California, which was reviewed in TCR (http://www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=11361), is a great case study of the class- and race-based turmoil that arose from declining access to public higher education. And, yes, at least in California, access was clearly declining (i.e., enrollment growth was slower than growth in the population of those who would pursue higher education).

Another reason for highlighting the longer period of change is that income inequality in the United States has been expanding for several decades (at least since the 1970s, if not before; see, e.g., Piketty & Saez, 2004, at http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/piketty-saezOUP04US.pdf). The top ten percent have seen huge increases in their share of the national income. Income inequality has been around for a long time, not just the last decade or so.

Also, as a matter of timing, the cost of a college education has outpaced income
growth, making college increasingly less affordable, for at least the last three decades (see, e.g., The National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education, 1998, at http://www.nyu.edu/classes/jepsen/costreport.html, and The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2002, at http://www.highereducation.org/reports/losing_ground/affordability_report_final.pdf).

Looking beyond higher education over a similarly longer term, as Grubb and Lazerson (1982, Broken Promises: How Americans Fail Their Children) pointed out three decades ago, the nation has not committed its resources to advancing the lower or the middle classes' opportunities to advance themselves through public institutions, generally.

We are not looking at an isolated problem of declining support for middle class access to public higher education. We are looking at declining support, especially in real dollars, for personal and family advancement through public institutions generally.

Finally, having lived in California for nearly four decades, Newfield's story rings very true here. Other states may have experienced steadier commitments to public higher education (i.e., preserving affordability for the middle class) than California, but essentially everyone has arrived at the same place now. Peter Schrag (1999, Paradise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future), unfortunately, seems to be right about the bellwhether status of the California experience.

Ross E. Mitchell
University of Redlands

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 Where Can I Get Some "Unmaking"? by Dick Schutz on August 16, 2011
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