James E. Cote and Anton Allahar are the authors of Lowering Higher Education: The Rise of Corporate Universities and the Fall of Liberal Education. They argue that colleges should “step back and consider” whether the closer ties they are cultivating with corporations will result in “the sacrifice of important academic values.”
Inside Higher Ed has interviewed these authors about their book. Here is a taste:
Q: Why do you link this trend to the disengagement of students?
A: The corporate model treats students like customers, and as customers they expect services and products for their tuition fees. The services include high grades in return for little effort. The products include guaranteed credentials with a guaranteed value. With this sense of entitlement, most will not prepare for classes, and expect all material to be told to them in simple terms in entertaining classes. What is lost here is the implicit bilateral contract of higher education for students to meet their teachers “halfway.” When students put out the effort to partner with professors in the teaching/learning process, classes assume their proper place as the “tip of the iceberg” of learning rather than the “iceberg.” Programs that require students to learn only in classes — thereby misleading students that classes are the “iceberg of learning” — are little more than (pseudo-) vocational high schools. We now have many universities where a “culture of disengagement” prevails and students in this culture have a sense of “entitled disengagement” never found before in institutions of higher learning (i.e., while grade inflation and disengagement can be found in the past, never have both simultaneously occurred in such proportions and been condoned by universities).