June 23, 2006

Access to public higher education and its quality are in crisis, says book by Cornell's Ehrenberg

Publicly funded higher education is on the ropes like never before. A 20-year decline in state funding for public higher education institutions -- where 65 percent of all four-year college students are educated -- is one of several factors contributing to what some experts describe as an American crisis.

In a critical collection, "What's Happening to Public Higher Education?" (Praeger Publishers), Cornell's Ronald G. Ehrenberg brings together the works of two-dozen researchers in the field of public higher education to spell out the sobering truths on the subject.

Ehrenberg, the Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics and director of CHERI, the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, writes in his introduction, "The twin goals of increasing, or at least maintaining, both the quality of public higher education institutions and their accessibility to students from all family-income levels will be difficult to achieve in the years ahead."

The rest of the book is a compilation of essays taken from revised papers originally presented at CHERI's spring 2005 conference devoted to analyzing public education in the early 21st century. The essays explore the causes of change in the funding of public higher education and the resulting consequences, social and otherwise, for current and potential students as well as colleges and universities.

The book also addresses the decline in average faculty salaries at public doctoral institutions and the impact on the ability of public institutions to recruit and retain top-notch faculty.

Ehrenberg is also chair of the National Research Council's Board on Higher Education and the Workforce and was recently elected to the Cornell Board of Trustees. He is author or co-author of 20 books and more than 120 papers, largely on the economics of higher education and labor economics. This current book serves as something of a companion to piece to Ehrenberg's, "Tuition Rising: Why Colleges Cost So Much" (Harvard University Press, 2002) and "Governing Academia" (Cornell University Press, 2004).