By John Warner
October 15, 2020
In 1983, U.S. News and World Report started to rank colleges and universities, throwing them into competition with each other for students and precious resources. Over the course of the next thirty or so years everything went to shit. A Reagan-era ethos of privatization and competition has turned students into consumers and colleges into businesses. Tuition is unaffordable. Student loan debt is more than $1.6 trillion, and a majority of college faculty work in adjunct positions for low pay and with no security. Colleges exist to enroll students, collect tuition, and hold classes. When learning happens, it is in spite of the system, not because of it.
The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare what we already know: the current system is unsustainable. We have forgotten that education is infrastructure, and are paying a high price for this wrong turn thirty-plus years ago.
In Sustainable. Resilient. Free., author and educator John Warner maps out a way forward, one by which our public colleges and universities are reoriented around enhancing the intellectual, social, and economic potentials of students while providing broad-based benefits to the community at large. As Warner explains, it’s not even complicated. It’s no more costly than the current system. We just have to choose to live the values we claim to hold dear.