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The True Genius of America at Risk

Are We Losing Our Public Universities to De Facto Privatization?

Katherine C. Lyall and Kathleen R. Sell

A perfect storm of fiscal and political trends is rapidly forcing the privatization of America's public universities. Unless those who care about preserving these valuable public assets redefine the core purposes of public higher education, college will quickly become a very difficult goal for lower-income citizens to achieve, and the economic future of America will suffer as a consequence. To help avoid this crisis, Lyall and Sell have opened a candid public policy discussion about the future of public universities. This is the only book-length treatment of public higher education finance at the beginning of the twenty-first century that looks comprehensively at state experiments and dilemmas, and attempts to envision possible future paths. Lyall and Sell describe market forces that are eroding the traditional partnership between states and public universities, and explain how the search for new revenue sources is refocusing the basic goals of public universities. Through their focus on the past and the future of public higher education, the authors manage to clarify what has gone wrong and what can be done to save these valuable American institutions.

A number of new state experiments in restructuring higher education governance and organization are summarized and used as models in the work. Both economic and political evidence is also summarized for the reader's benefit. The authors demonstrate how the interaction between recent trends has driven unintended consequences. Chapters in the book stand on their own and can be used selectively in courses, and appendix pages provide thumbnail summaries of individual issues. Higher education leaders, governors and legislators with education and economic development agendas, and statewide education governing boards should all find this book to be of strong interest.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers / Amer Council Ed Ac1 (Pre Acq)
Pages: 232
978-0-275-98949-1 • Hardback • December 2005 • $55.00 • (£37.95)
978-1-4616-4588-7 • eBook • December 2005 • $52.00 • (£34.95)
Subjects: Education / Higher
Katherine C. Lyall is President Emeritus of the University of Wisconsin System and professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; she is currently Visiting Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Kathleen R. Sell is senior lecturer in the Integrated Liberal Studies Program, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; she formerly served as Vice President for Budget Planning and Chief Budget Officer for the University of Wisconsin System.
This volume suggests that leaders become proactive in redefining the central mission of their respective universities. Each chapter can be read separately, as basic information is repeated throughout so the main points are never lost. The authors offer suggestions, yet the complexity of the issues is maintained throughout the discussion. This is an important read for anyone studying higher education policy. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

The strength of Lyall and Sell's book is the rich and quite up-to-date documentation of the financial austerity that has befallen most public universities....[t]heir book is the first (and so far, of course, the best) to document the severity of the fiscal dilemma of our great public universities and to suggest what a realistic future might unfortunately hold. In this they have made a significant contribution that should be read by university leaders, scholars, and (one can only hope) some politicians and their aides, in whose hands lie the real turn around, which is an end to the political assault on public sectors generally and to the myth of the overtaxed American.
Journal of Higher Education