What Are Universities For?


Pretty much anyone you talk to in America today has an opinion about what’s wrong with our universities. Parents think they’re too expensive. Recent graduates fear being crushed by debt and ending up untrained for the current job market. Professors worry that entering students have not been adequately prepared by their high schools. Economists and sociologists point to troubling studies about a lack of diversity—in both income and race—on American campuses. In Silicon Valley, they talk about MOOCs and STEM, flipped classrooms and gamification. And in Washington, D.C., they talk about federal aid and compliance, Title IX and irresponsible lending.

It’s safe to say that American universities are under fire—for everything from perpetuating inequality to failing to adapt to our digital age. In advance of the Zócalo event “What Are Universities For?” we asked scholars: Does the contemporary university need to be redesigned to address these problems—and…

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