A Compendium of Recent Research and Books of Interest to Higher Education Professionals


 The Agile College: How Institutions Successfully Navigate Demographic Changes

Nathan D. Grawe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021)

Following Nathan D. Grawe’s 2018 book, Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, which discussed the demographic changes in student populations that will reshape the market for higher education over the next 15 years, this second book explores how colleges and universities can prepare for demographic disruptions. Although each institution will face its distinctive challenges, Grawe believes that most colleges and universities can mitigate the effects of demographic trends. He draws on interviews with higher education leaders from a wide range of institutions to identify promising strategies, including recruitment initiatives, retention programs, revised academic programs, institutional growth plans, retrenchment efforts, and collaborative action. Here, Grawe also incorporates new information on college-going after the Great Recession and pushes forecasts into the mid-2030s; in addition, he analyzes other dynamics in the higher ed market, such as dual enrollment, transfer students, and the role of immigration in college demand. Grawe is Ada M. Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor of the Social Sciences and a professor of economics at Carleton College. He presented at CIC’s 2021 Presidents Institute and the 2018 Institute for Chief Academic Officers.

Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education

Justin Reich (Harvard University Press, 2020)

An especially timely book given the global expansion of online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, Failure to Disrupt assesses various educational technologies that were predicted to be transformative in recent years—such as MOOCs, autograders, and computerized “intelligent tutors”—and concludes that technology alone does not disrupt education or provide shortcuts to institutional change. Learning technologies, even those that are free for students, generally benefit affluent students most and do little to combat inequality in education; and institutions and investors often favor programs that scale up quickly, but at the expense of true innovation. Justin Reich believes that technology has a crucial role to play in the future of education, but that careful research must be conducted on where, when, and how to apply new digitally mediated educational methodologies to control impact and maximize efficiency. Reich is Mitsui Career Development Professor of Comparative Media Studies and director of the Teaching Systems Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; he hosts the TeachLab podcast and has written about education and technology for numerous publications.

Beyond Free College: Making Higher Education Work for 21st Century Students

Eileen L. Strempel and Stephen J. Handel (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers/American Association of Community Colleges, 2021)

This book aims to galvanize higher education advocates in an effort to reorganize and reignite transfer pathways to serve the needs of nontraditional students better—boosting both access to higher education and completion of degrees. The book builds on U.S. higher education models such as the G.I. Bill and outlines a national agenda that is more comprehensive than the current “free college” movement. The authors call for greater investment in postsecondary education, focusing on a single metric—lower-cost-per-degree-granted—as the driver of a transfer pathway that will move the needle on key metrics. Eileen L. Strempel is the inaugural dean of the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA and an American Council on Education fellow; she previously served as senior vice provost for academic affairs at the University of Cincinnati. Stephen J. Handel is executive director of higher education assessment use for the College Board; he previously served as the chief admissions officer for the University of California System. Beyond Free College is part of The Futures Series on Community College, edited by Debbie L. Sydow and Kate Thirolf.

How to Market a University: Building Value in a Competitive Environment

Teresa M. Flannery (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021)

In this book, Teresa M. Flannery draws on nonprofit marketing scholarship, the expertise of higher education marketing practitioners and administrators, and her own experiences over two decades in the field, to define marketing, identify its purposes in the higher education context, and help campus leaders cultivate student, alumni, donor, and partner loyalty through strategic integrated marketing. This guide offers campus leaders the language, examples, and questions they need to address in order to build or refine their custom marketing strategy. The book explores how to establish marketing leadership; build organizational capacity; develop a strong brand strategy; encourage institution-wide integration of marketing and communications; consider resource requirements to succeed in digital marketing; plan for appropriate investment; and prepare for future trends. Flannery is interim vice president for marketing and communication at Stony Brook University; she previously held senior communications and marketing positions at American University and the University of Maryland.

I Had No Idea You Were Black: Navigating Race on the Road to Leadership

Ronald A. Crutcher (Clyde Hill Publishing, 2021)

In this memoir, University of Richmond (VA) President Ronald A. Crutcher describes his journey as a musician and educator. Born to parents who never graduated from high school, Crutcher grew up to become a leader in the arts and in academia—as a Black classical cellist and as a thinker and academic who helped shape the futures of thousands of young students. Crutcher learned the formative power of mentorship through a chance meeting at a music competition that opened him to the possibilities contained within everyone. The book chronicles this awakening and how it led to his own mission to improve access and inclusivity on liberal arts campuses. The memoir also emphasizes the importance of inquiry and the necessity for American citizens to rededicate themselves to the practice of actively listening to one another. Crutcher became president and professor of music at the University of Richmond (VA) in 2015; previously, he served for ten years as president of Wheaton College (MA). Journalist and Civil Rights pioneer Charlayne Hunter-Gault wrote the book’s foreword.

Living Vocationally: The Journey of the Called Life

Paul J. Wadell and Charles R. Pinches (Cascade Books, 2021)

Many religions embrace the idea that divine purposes should guide people’s lives. Exploring the challenges and joys of the “called life,” Living Vocationally provides a historical overview of the idea of vocation in Christianity, followed by a brief discussion of the idea in other religious traditions, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism. The book considers the benefits of living vocationally; examines why vocation pertains not only to careers, but to all aspects of lives; and considers the virtues required to live the called life well. Paul J. Wadell is professor emeritus of theology and religious studies at St. Norbert College (WI) and is the author of several books including, most recently, Happiness and the Christian Moral Life (2016). Charles R. Pinches is professor of theology at the University of Scranton (PA) and has written several books including, most recently, A Gathering of Memories (2006). Both authors have been active in CIC Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) programs and events, and both contributed to the first volume produced by the NetVUE Scholarly Resources Project (At This Time and In This Place: Vocation and Higher Education, 2016). While that book is designed primarily for educators, Living Vocationally targets undergraduate students.

The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?

Michael J. Sandel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020)

Written by renowned political theorist Michael J. Sandel, this book explores how society defines success and how meritocracy hurts the common good. The book opens with a discussion of the recent college admissions scandal that raised larger questions about who gets ahead and why, and that demonstrated the fallacy of the American belief “you can make it if you try.” Sandel urges readers to rethink the attitudes toward success and failure that have accompanied globalization and rising inequality. He reveals the hubris a meritocracy generates among the winners, the harsh judgment a meritocracy imposes on those left behind, and its consequences on American society. Sandel also offers an alternative way of thinking about success—one that recognizes the role of luck in human affairs, encourages an ethic of humility and solidarity, and acknowledges the dignity of work. Sandel is Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University. His writings on justice, ethics, democracy, and markets have been translated into 27 languages, and his course “Justice” was the first Harvard course to be made freely available online.

Let’s Be Reasonable: A Conservative Case for Liberal Education

Jonathan Marks (Princeton University Press, 2021)

In Let’s Be Reasonable, conservative political theorist Jonathan Marks makes the case for the enduring relevance of the liberal arts and highlights why colleges and universities are worthy of renewed confidence in these difficult times. He explores what is truly liberal about liberal education—the ability to reason for oneself and with others—and shows why the liberally educated person considers reason to be more than just a tool for “scoring political points.” The book finds that professors and administrators frequently adopt the language and priorities of the left, but that the extreme liberal persecution and indoctrination feared by conservatives rarely occurs in college classrooms. Stating that higher education’s story has been poorly told, the book examines why advocates for liberal education struggle to offer a coherent defense against their conservative critics and demonstrates why such a defense must rest on the cultivation of reason. Marks is professor of politics at Ursinus College (PA) and a blogger for Commentary magazine; he has written on higher education for publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, Wall Street Journal, and Weekly Standard.

 Colleges in Crisis: How Private Colleges and Universities Can Survive

Michael Townsley and Debra Townsley (Gatekeeper Press, 2021)

Colleges in Crisis projects how demographic trends and other key issues, such as the pandemic, will devastate private colleges and universities if they cannot quickly transform their curriculum, operations, and marketing methods. The book explores two models for implementing change that have been used successfully over the last 20 years: a shared governance strategic model (drawn from the work of John Stevens, president of Stevens Strategy) and a president-led turnaround transformation model. In addition, the book discusses challenges that leaders may face when guiding a transformational turnaround, such as dual authority, tenure, accreditation and government regulations, and legal restrictions. Michael Townsley is a financial consultant for Stevens Strategy; he has nearly 40 years of experience in higher education and has held positions at Becker College (MA) and Wilmington University (DE). Debra Townsley has 40 years of experience in higher education as a professor, department chair, dean, and president of multiple institutions; she conducted successful turnarounds as president of Nichols College (MA) and William Peace University (NC).

 The New PhD: How to Build a Better Graduate Education

Leonard Cassuto and Robert Weisbuch (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021)

In this book, Leonard Cassuto and Robert Weisbuch argue that colleges and universities should prepare graduate students for the jobs they most likely will get, as opposed to the rare research university positions that only a few students can expect to obtain. The authors document the expanding movement for a student-centered, career-diverse graduate education and highlight promising innovations that are taking place on campuses. They review the numerous national graduate school reform efforts that took place between 1990 and 2010, examine why the attempts failed, and consider efforts that will create a more humane and socially dynamic PhD experience. Through examples, the book details how graduate programs can reduce the time it takes students to earn a degree, expand career opportunities after graduation, encourage public scholarship, create coherent curricula, attract a representative student cohort, and provide the resources students need to complete advanced degrees. Cassuto is a professor of English and American studies at Fordham University and the author of The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It. Weisbuch is professor emeritus at the University of Michigan as well as former president of Drew University (NJ) and the Institute for Citizens & Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation).


2021 Survey of College and University Presidents

Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman, editors (Inside Higher Ed and Hanover Research, March 2021)

Inside Higher Ed’s 11th annual survey of college and university presidents, conducted for the first time by Hanover Research, was designed to understand how campus leaders perceived a wide range of higher education issues over the year, such as institutional financial and economic stability; concerns related to COVID-19; anticipated effects of the Biden administration’s policies; change management; and race relations. A total of 433 presidents of two- and four-year institutions responded to the survey (a smaller sample size than in recent years), 177 of whom were from private nonprofit colleges and universities. The survey found that many presidents believe their institutions will respond to the pandemic and economic recession by fundamentally transforming or by resetting for growth. For example, 42 percent of presidents at private baccalaureate colleges and 46 percent of presidents at public institutions indicate that their institution will respond to COVID-19 by making difficult but transformative changes to core structure and operations, while 36 percent of private college presidents and 33 percent of public institution leaders say they will use this period to focus more on what their institution does best to expand in those areas after the recession ends. About three-fourths of presidents believe that the Biden administration’s policies will have a positive effect on their institution. Respondents believe that the administration will pursue reversing immigration policies that affect international student enrollment (98 percent), reinstating DACA (98 percent), increasing aid for historically Black and other minority-serving institutions (96 percent), and reversing Trump administration guidance on campus sexual assault (94 percent). View the full report.

Mental Health, Substance Use, and Wellbeing in Higher Education: Supporting the Whole Student

(National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, February 2021)

Higher education institutions across the U.S. are seeing increased levels of mental illness, substance use, and other forms of emotional distress among their students. While present for decades, instances have intensified noticeably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic consequences. This report was produced after an 18-month study to examine the degree to which the mental health and well-being support systems on U.S. campuses provide adequate services, programming, and other resources to students as well as to the faculty, staff, and health systems with which students interact. The report explicates ten recommendations for improving the delivery of mental health and substance use services on campus as well as suggestions for further research. The recommendations address ways assessment, training, external partners, intentional leadership, and campus policies can work together to create a healthier campus environment. Colleges and universities are urged to take a new, more holistic approach to campus counseling in which all campus constituents—including institutional leaders, faculty members, staff, and students themselves—play a larger role. View the full report.

 College and University Presidents Respond to COVID-19: 2021 Spring Term Survey

Morgan Taylor, Charles Sanchez, Jonathan M. Turk, Hollie M. Chessman, and Anna Marie Ramos (American Council on Education, 2021)

The American Council on Education (ACE) has surveyed college and university presidents since April 2020 to capture how they are responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19. The February 2021 iteration of the survey, completed by 348 presidents (147 of whom lead private four-year institutions), assessed the leaders’ top concerns, the pandemic’s effects on spring enrollment and financial health, adaptations made to institutional services and support for students, and predictions about fall 2021 enrollment. The survey shows that mental health and financial issues continue to loom large on the minds of presidents. And a new item on the list of most pressing concerns, “racial equity issues,” scored high, with more than one-third of all presidents (37 percent) selecting it as a key concern. The survey asked presidents to consider which changes made to student services in light of the pandemic might remain after the pandemic. Presidents at private four-year institutions were most likely to anticipate keeping changes made to student counseling and mental health services (69 percent), academic support services (67 percent), academic advising (59 percent), and admissions (58 percent). View the full report.

 Strategies for Recruiting Students to the Humanities: A Comprehensive Resource

Scott Muir and Younger Oliver (National Humanities Alliance, March 2021)

The National Humanities Alliance (NHA) has since 2018 conducted broad surveys to observe the state of the humanities at higher education institutions nationwide. Grounded in NHA’s 2020 Humanities Recruitment Survey of nearly 400 faculty members and administrators, this latest resource documents effective strategies for reversing declines in humanities majors and enrollments—highlighting more than 100 exemplary initiatives with the goal of strengthening recruitment efforts across campuses. The 2020 survey showed that career pathways, curricular innovations, marketing initiatives, and efforts to foster humanities identity and community top the list of recruitment strategies campuses use. This resource illuminates a range of approaches within those four primary categories through the use of “Project Snapshots,” “Voices from the Field,” “Impact Research Spotlights,” and in-depth case studies. The resource concludes with a discussion on identifying initiatives that engage students from historically underrepresented groups in the humanities and foster an inclusive learning environment. View the full report. (CIC President Richard Ekman was a founding member of the NHA and served on its board of directors.)

 Toward Greater Inclusion and Success: A New Compact for International Students

Chris R. Glass, Kara A. Godwin, and Robin Matross Helms (American Council on Education, February 2021)

In response to disheartening enrollment trends noted in its 2012 and 2017 iterations of Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses, subsequently heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Council on Education published a monograph that outlines a new compact for international student inclusion and success. The compact encourages a commitment to building lifelong relationships between international students and U.S. institutions from the first point of contact to their postgraduate careers. The monograph details five tenets of this new compact: to create a more sustainable, culturally responsive, networked, human-centered, and equity-minded way to engage international students. It describes the vision and framework that underlies the tenets as well as ways institutions can implement them on their own campus, for example by focusing on enrollment planning, student decision factors, and facilitating fit. Toward Greater Inclusion and Success emphasizes that international education and exchange benefits students, institutions, and society, strengthening scientific collaboration, cultural diplomacy, alumni development, liberal learning, and economic development. View the full report.

The Trust Gap among College Students

(National Survey of Student Engagement [NSSE], Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, February 2021)

This is the fourth of five installments NSSE has released to explore the 2020 edition of Engagement Insights: Survey Findings on the Quality of Undergraduate Education. The installment explores data collected from a total of 8,351 first-year and senior students enrolled across 29 U.S. colleges and universities on the issue of trust. Trust was examined across five categories: college, out-group, social institutional, media, and civil society. The results show that those occupying the highest rungs of institutional administration were regarded with the lowest levels of trust by respondents, while advisors and faculty members were most trusted. The data also found that, when controlling for the pandemic relative to time, trust levels varied sharply across racial/ ethnic lines and disability status. For example, after COVID-19 disruptions, Hispanic or Latino/Latina and white students expressed more trust in colleges while Black or African American students expressed less trust. The report notes potential reasons for this decline, including that campus closures left Black or African American students feeling unseen and uncared for in a time of significant uncertainty and stress. View the full report. (CIC was the first national association to endorse NSSE in 2001 and has continued to encourage member colleges to participate.)