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Speaker: Private Sector Models Damage Public Universities

February 2, 2016
man speaking
Christopher Newfield (Jessica Zhou, Daily Trojan Photo)

An overview of how privatizing public colleges has made them more expensive for students while lowering their educational value will be the focus of a talk Thursday, Feb. 4, at 4:15 p.m. in Room 214 of the University of Wyoming Classroom Building.

Christopher Newfield, professor of literature and American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), will be the speaker. He spent many years involved in academic planning and budgeting for the UCSB and UC-systemwide senate. Newfield says he will outline more productive policy directions.

Nearly all public universities now accept the conventional wisdom that the era of public funding is over and that universities must commercialize and economize, Newfield says. This "new normal" has polarized observers: Most senior officials assert that higher tuition, continuous fundraising, corporate partnerships and sports enterprise support the public mission; faculty critics say the university will then no longer support independent thought. 

“But, both positions assume that private-sector changes will make universities more efficient,” Newfield says. “On this point, both positions are wrong: Private sector ‘reforms’ are not the cure for the college cost disease, for they are the college cost disease.”

Much of his research is in critical university studies, which links his enduring concern with humanities teaching to the study of how higher education continues to be re-shaped by industry and other economic forces. His most recent books on this subject are “Unmaking the Public University: The Forty Year Assault on the Middle Class” (2008) and “Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the American University, 1880-1980” (2003). He recently completed a new book on the post-2008 struggles of public universities to rebuild their social missions for contemporary society, to appear with Johns Hopkins University Press. 

He writes for the Huffington Post, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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