The Great Upheaval
Higher Education's Past, Present, and Uncertain Future
How will America's colleges and universities adapt to remarkable technological, economic, and demographic change?
The United States is in the midst of a profound transformation the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Industrial Revolution, when America's classical colleges adapted to meet the needs of an emerging industrial economy. Today, as the world shifts to an increasingly interconnected knowledge economy, the intersecting forces of technological innovation, globalization, and demographic change create vast new challenges, opportunities, and uncertainties. In this great upheaval, the nation's most enduring social institutions are at a crossroads.
In The Great Upheaval, Arthur Levine and Scott Van Pelt examine higher and postsecondary education to see how it has changed to become what it is today—and how it might be refitted for an uncertain future. Taking a unique historical, cross-industry perspective, Levine and Van Pelt perform a 360-degree survey of American higher education. Combining historical, trend, and comparative analyses of other business sectors, they ask
• how much will colleges and universities change, what will change, and how will these changes occur?
• will institutions of higher learning be able to adapt to the challenges they face, or will they be disrupted by them?
• will the industrial model of higher education be repaired or replaced?
• why is higher education more important than ever?
The book is neither an attempt to advocate for a particular future direction nor a warning about that future. Rather, it looks objectively at the contexts in which higher education has operated—and will continue to operate. It also seeks to identify likely developments that will aid those involved in steering higher education forward, as well as the many millions of Americans who have a stake in its future.
Concluding with a detailed agenda for action, The Great Upheaval is aimed at policy makers, college administrators, faculty, trustees, and students, as well as general readers and people who work for nonprofits facing the same big changes.
About the Authors
Arthur Levine is a distinguished scholar of higher education at New York University's Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy; a senior fellow and president emeritus of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation; and president emeritus of Columbia University's Teachers College. He is the author or coauthor of many books, including Generation on a Tightrope: A Portrait of Today's College Students. Scott Van Pelt is the associate director of the Wharton Graduate Communication Program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also a lecturer.
"On the subject of higher education, Arthur Levine is astonishingly prescient, spotting trends on the horizon long before they come into focus for the rest of us. In this thoughtful and engaging book, he and Scott Van Pelt offer a clear-eyed assessment of the changes—and the potential disruption—facing colleges and universities. An indispensable guide to rethinking our assumptions about learning and preparing to thrive in a transformed educational landscape."
"This clearly written book will be of interest to a broad spectrum of readers, including educators, policymakers, nonprofit professionals, students, and families. Levine and Van Pelt focus not only on colleges and universities but also on the challenges and opportunities of the larger postsecondary world, as they explore the dramatically different future of higher education and proposed actions to shape it."
"A crisp, cogent case for the future of higher education in America. Levine and Van Pelt argue that technological change is empowering consumers in new ways and offers innovative ideas about how higher ed can address these changes. Bravo to the authors for being clear-eyed instead of overwrought, suggesting a positive way forward for a critically important institution."
"With tectonic shifts underway in higher education, The Great Upheaval could not be more timely. Levine and Van Pelt smartly outline the challenges facing the industry and suggest ways for institutions, policy makers, and funders to respond. A well-researched, well-written, and measured analysis fueled by a burning urgency to see higher education reclaim its central role in the American promise of opportunity and social mobility for all."
"An easy read on a complex topic. Levine and Van Pelt reject the forced choices for higher education of 'Stay the course!' or 'The sky is falling!' They claim higher education is undergoing significant transformation and argue the well-being of the nation is tied to the health of higher education. We had better get it right."
"Levine and Van Pelt provoke us to reimagine higher education as a dynamic learning-driven enterprise capable of harnessing the nation's talent to achieve far better and more equitable outcomes for the generations ahead. They make the compelling case that sustainable positive transformation must leverage the best lessons learned from the intersecting forces of the status quo and whole-scale disruption."
"At a crucial moment for American higher education, this erudite, clear, and witty book asks and answers the Big Question—where do things go from here? It employs a historical framework to predict changes that are big, digital, structural, and good for students. Leaders of the system of today—take this to heart now!"
"Levine and Van Pelt make the compelling case that higher education must urgently shift its focus to prepare learners and workers for an increasingly fractured world—one where subjects and disciplines are less important than enhancing our human traits and capabilities and contributing to our shared social, democratic, and economic well-being."
"With powerful insight and unprecedented command over their subject matter, this magisterial account by Levine and Van looks to higher education's past and present to identify trend lines shaping its futures, helpfully drawing in lessons from industries disrupted by technology: music, film, newspapers. While past is not prologue—institution- and policy-level choices matter here—education's futures looks very different than the present even, and woe be to those who sit by passively waiting for it to play out."
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