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American Higher Education in Transition

Listed author(s):
  • Ronald G. Ehrenberg

American higher education is in transition along many dimensions: tuition levels, faculty composition, expenditure allocation, pedagogy, technology, and more. During the last three decades, at private four-year academic institutions, undergraduate tuition levels increased each year on average by 3.5 percent more than the rate of inflation; the comparable increases for public four-year and public two-year institutions were 5.1 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. Academic institutions have also changed how they allocate their resources. The percentage of faculty nationwide that is full-time has declined, and the vast majority of part-time faculty members do not have Ph.D.s. The share of institutional expenditures going to faculty salaries and benefits in both public and private institutions has fallen relative to the share going to nonfaculty uses like student services, academic support, and institutional support. There are changing modes of instruction, together with different uses of technology, as institutions reexamine the prevailing "lecture/discussion" format. A number of schools are charging differential tuition across students. This paper discusses these various changes, how they are distributed across higher education sectors, and their implications. I conclude with some speculations about the future of American education.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 26 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
Pages: 193-216

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:26:y:2012:i:1:p:193-216
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.26.1.193
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  19. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2010. "Does Cheaper Mean Better? The Impact of Using Adjunct Instructors on Student Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(3), pages 598-613, August.
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