Higher Education Crises

Drop-out rates are frighteningly high. Even those who finish, moreover, often emerge from college with staggering debts, no technical qualifications and few basic skills.

In two new books, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus — a political scientist and a reporter — and Mark Taylor — a professor of religion — examine the ivory tower’s alleged demise. Their emphases differ in certain ways. Hacker and Dreifus explore a range of problems — including the corrupting role of big-time sports and admissions preferences for the children of alumni and donors. Taylor, by contrast, limits himself to elite institutions like Williams and Columbia. At the core, the two offerings have a great deal in common. Both point out — with considerable justice — that the financial condition of American universities is at best precarious.

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