Our Higher Calling

Rebuilding the Partnership between America and Its Colleges and Universities

By Holden Thorp, Buck Goldstein

208 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4686-2
    Published: September 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4687-9
    Published: July 2018

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There is a growing sense of crisis and confusion about the purpose and sustainability of higher education in the United States. In the midst of this turmoil, students are frequently referred to as customers and faculty as employees, educational outcomes are increasingly measured in terms of hiring and salary metrics for graduates, and programs are assessed as profit and loss centers. Despite efforts to integrate business-oriented thinking and implement new forms of accountability in colleges and universities, Americans from all backgrounds are losing confidence in the nation's institutions of higher learning, and these institutions must increasingly confront what has proven to be an unsustainable business model. In Our Higher Calling, Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein draw on interviews with higher education thought leaders and their own experience, inside and outside the academy, to address these problems head on, articulating the challenges facing higher education and describing in pragmatic terms what can and cannot change--and what should and should not change. They argue that those with a stake in higher education must first understand a fundamental compact that has long been at the heart of the American system: a partnership wherein colleges and universities support the development of an educated and skilled citizenry and create new knowledge in exchange for stable public investment and a strong degree of autonomy to pursue research without undue external pressure. By outlining ways to restore this partnership, Thorp and Goldstein endeavor to start a conversation that paves the way for a solution to one of the country’s most pressing problems.

About the Authors

Holden Thorp is editor-in-chief for the Science family of journals. He is the author of Engines of Innovation, now in its second edition.
For more information about Holden Thorp, visit the Author Page.

Buck Goldstein is Professor of the Practice and University Entrepreneur in Residence in the Department of Economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Engines of Innovation, now in its second edition.
For more information about Buck Goldstein, visit the Author Page.


"Critics of higher education should read the book in the spirit it was written, that of building bridges and beginning a conversation about the best way forward for higher education."--Jenna A. Robinson, The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal

"American higher education has long enjoyed intricate partnerships with government and society, but in recent decades, those have frayed. Thorp and Goldstein offer penetrating insights about the challenges faced as well as a comprehensive prescription for a new and enduring compact."--Mary Sue Coleman, president, Association of American Universities

"U.S. higher education critics complain that tuitions are too high, while students are terrified they will have too much debt without the twenty-first-century job skills to pay it off. Thorp and Goldstein argue convincingly that innovation and entrepreneurial approaches can reengineer, reenergize, and reposition the sector to be the undisputed best in the world."—Michael L. Lomax, president & CEO, United Negro College Fund

"American higher education faces significant challenges, but they are not insurmountable. In this book, Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein dispel myths and recommend solutions that must be taken seriously. A degree from an American university is still the envy of the world. The ideas shared in this book show how that can remain true in the future."--Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande, serial entrepreneur and Life Member, MIT Corporation

"Clearly and appealingly written, this book is an important call for universities to reimagine their partnerships with society. Thorp and Goldstein combine the benefits of their own deep experience with interviews with key educational figures and offer insight on nearly every major issue facing universities today. I enjoyed this book from beginning to end."--Christopher Newfield, author of The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them

"For more than a century, a strong system of American higher education has been one of the greatest drivers for prosperity, not just in our own country but in the world. This thought-provoking book shows that our future depends on restoring a common understanding of the purpose of higher education. With a clear-eyed sense of challenges and failings in our colleges and universities, Thorp and Goldstein also show the elements of meaningful strategies to address demographic, technological, and other changes."--Peter Grauer, chairman, Bloomberg L.P.

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