The US higher education system is on the verge of a revolution, so some observers claim. Archibald and Feldman, leading analysts, provide an incisive overview of the challenges facing and possibilities for America's universities and colleges in their training future generations. And they demonstrate that our higher education system is resilient and adaptable enough to weather the internal, external, and technological threats without changing campuses beyond recognition. The Road Ahead examines the threats posed to the current health of higher education by rising tuition and falling government support, as well as from new digital technologies rippling through the entire economy. Some predict disaster, pointing to high costs, exploding debt, and a digital tsunami that supposedly will combine to disrupt and sweep away many of the nation's higher education institutions, or change them beyond recognition. Archibald and Feldman provide a more nuanced view. They argue that the bundle of services that four-year colleges and universities provide will retain its value for the traditional age range of college students.
Less certain, Archibald and Feldman argue, is whether the system will continue to be a force for social and economic opportunity. The threats are most dire at schools that disproportionately serve America's most underprivileged students. At the same time, growing income inequality reduces the ability of many students and their families to pay for higher education. Archibald and Feldman suggest a range of policy options at the state and federal level that will help America's higher education system continue to fulfill its promise.
Robert B. Archibald is Chancellor Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the College of William and Mary. He has served as department chair, director of the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy, interim dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and faculty representative on William and Mary's Board of Visitors. David H. Feldman is Professor of Economics and Public Policy, and former chair of the Department of Economics at the College of William & Mary. He has been honored by W&M with a University Professorship for Teaching Excellence and by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) with the Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award.