Two Cheers for Higher Education: Why American Universities Are Stronger Than Ever--And How to Meet the Challenges They Face

Steven Brint (Author)


A leading expert challenges the prevailing gloomy outlook on higher education with solid evidence of its successes

Crushing student debt, rapidly eroding state funding, faculty embroiled in speech controversies, a higher-education market disrupted by online competition--today's headlines suggest that universities' power to advance knowledge and shape American society is rapidly declining. But Steven Brint, a renowned analyst of academic institutions, has tracked numerous trends demonstrating their vitality. After a recent period that witnessed soaring student enrollment and ample research funding, universities, he argues, are in a better position than ever before.

Focusing on the years 1980-2015, Brint details the trajectory of American universities, which was influenced by evolving standards of disciplinary professionalism, market-driven partnerships (especially with scientific and technological innovators outside the academy), and the goal of social inclusion. Conflicts arose: academic entrepreneurs, for example, flouted their campus responsibilities, and departments faced backlash over the hiring of scholars with nontraditional research agendas. Nevertheless, educators' commitments to technological innovation and social diversity prevailed and created a new dynamism.

Brint documents these successes along with the challenges that result from rapid change. Today, knowledge-driven industries generate almost half of U.S. GDP, but divisions by educational level split the American political order. Students flock increasingly to fields connected to the power centers of American life and steer away from the liberal arts. And opportunities for economic mobility are expanding even as academic expectations decline.

In describing how universities can meet such challenges head on, especially in improving classroom learning, Brint offers not only a clear-eyed perspective on the current state of American higher education but also a pragmatically optimistic vision for the future.

Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publish Date
January 08, 2019
6.4 X 1.6 X 9.4 inches | 1.85 pounds

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About the Author

Steven Brint is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside, where he directs the Colleges & Universities 2000 Project. His books include Schools and Societies, In an Age of Experts, and The Diverted Dream, and he has written for the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Washington Post.


"A comprehensive, authoritative, and original analysis of trends in American universities, Two Cheers for Higher Education transcends the polemics that currently dominate discussion of the subject. The data the book presents are enormously informative in establishing the basic realities of the higher education system and clarifying controversial issues."--Roger L. Geiger, author of The History of American Higher Education
"An important book from an important scholar, Two Cheers for Higher Education offers a distinctive and distinctly positive take on developments in American higher education over the past thirty years."--Gary Rhoades, author of Academic Capitalism and the New Economy
"Two Cheers for Higher Education is an antidote to the Chicken Littles who say the academic sky is falling. Sure, higher education faces challenges, but Steven Brint argues that the kids--and the institutions they attend--are all right. This well-researched and scholarly book is thoughtful, provocative, and timely."--William G. Tierney, University of Southern California
"The most thorough, sweeping, and balanced book that I have read on the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary colleges and universities."---Steven Mintz, Inside Higher Education
"Brint's agenda-setting book maps out a number of surprisingly optimistic trends for higher education while engaging deeply with decades of scholarship. He brilliantly combines an original big-picture framework with rich and compelling data analysis. My advice is to buy it, read it, study it, think with it, argue with it, build on it."--Jerry A. Jacobs, author of In Defense of Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity and Specialization in the Research University
"Honorable Mention for the Pierre Bourdieu Award for Best Book, Sociology of Education Section of the American Sociological Association"