Assessing Public Higher Education at the Start of the 21st Century

July 2005
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As the overall slice of state budgets allocated to higher education has declined significantly over the past three decades, public institutions are faced with enormous challenges of trying to maintain quality while preserving broad-based access to education. Institutions have been forced to hire more part-time and adjunct faculty instead of higher-cost tenured or tenure-track faculty, which, according to recent research, can result in higher drop-out rates among students. As the resources of state institutions have fallen relative to those of private institutions, it has become more challenging for state institutions to lure top talent and the research dollars they attract. A recent conference by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute (CHERI), and supported by the TIAA Institute, brought top administrators and researchers together to examine the issues and explore options for coping with financial pressures. This Trends & Issues by TIAA Institute Fellow and CHERI Director Ronald G. Ehrenberg summarizes the discussions and papers presented at the conference.