Title: Precipice or Crossroads?: Where America’s Great Public Universities Stand and Where They Are Going Midway Through Their Second Century
Author(s): Daniel Mark Fogel & Elizabeth Malson-Huddle (eds.)
Publisher: State University of New York Press, Albany
ISBN: 1438444923, Pages: 362, Year: 2
Leon Cremonini, Teachers College Record
Precipice or Crossroads?: Where America’s Great Public Universities Stand and Where They Are Going Midway through Their Second Century, edited by Fogel and Malson-Huddle, takes a broad yet in-depth look at the Morrill Land-grant Act’s relevance—for yesterday, today and for the future. Through a set of independent essays, the book provides an exhaustive overview of what the Act has meant for generations of US students and scholars, how it contributed to national development and—perhaps most importantly—how its vision today transcends national boundaries to have the potential to be a “global ideal.” It is, perhaps, the latter that may be the key to averting the threats America’s great public research universities face.
At the heart of this book lies the question whether being an “affordable” public research university providing accessible higher education—the very paradigm of the Morrill Land-Grant Act—is still a realistic ambition. Are the threats of shrinking state funding, growing tuition fees and elitist institutional rankings making Morrill’s vision an unsustainable and outdated dream? “No” is the bottom-line answer this publication suggests. The challenges are not underestimated, but as a whole the book signals hope over gloom. It is clear, however, that hope can thrive only if we adapt to new realities. The key argument is that US public universities are still doing a great job in education, research and community service—equal if not exceeding their private counterparts—despite a growing resource gap as emphasized for example in Shulenburger’s chapter “Challenges to Viability and Sustainability: Public Funding, Tuition, College Costs, and Affordability.”
The book includes ten essays, plus an introduction and a foreword by the President of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Peter McPherson. It covers the Morrill Act from different angles, which makes it an interesting and timely contribution to the debate on the societal relevance of public universities and their role in democratizing access. Starting off with a look at the history of the Land-Grant Act, this collection of essays follows a logical path. First, it zooms in on its role in improving access for traditionally underprivileged (black) students and developing studies otherwise considered “second class” yet essential for the nation’s development, such as agricultural sciences.