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Higher education in America: What kind of future does it have?

by AirTalk®

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What is the future of higher education campuses like the University of Southern California (pictured)? The presidents of USC and Pitzer College, as well as the chancellors of UCLA and the California Community Colleges join Larry for discussion. David McNew/Getty Images

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008, 2.2 million freshman students, or 68.6 percent of all high school graduates, were enrolled in college. Most of the high school graduates who attend college are full-time students, though just under 40 percent of non-traditional, older or working students went to college full-time.

Higher education is still considered necessary for success in the American economy, but institutions of higher learning are being challenged as never before by rising tuition, rising operating costs, student unrest, online learning, challenges from for-profit colleges and reductions in funding for public colleges and universities.

What is the future of higher education in America? Is the four-year degree model with students living on or near a campus, is the idea of creating a well-read, well-rounded cohort of critical thinkers perhaps outdated? Can the nation's colleges and universities prepare students for the competitive challenges of a global economy?

A distinguished panel of university heads that represent the diversity of California’s higher education institutions joins Larry Mantle to discuss. The event was sponsored by Community Advocates Inc. It was made possible by generous grants from the Righteous Persons Foundation and the California Wellness Foundation.


Chancellor Gene Block became chancellor of UCLA in August 2007. As chief executive officer, he oversees the university's three-part mission of education, research and service. He holds faculty appointments in the David Geffen School of Medicine and the College of Letters and Science. Chancellor Block serves as chairman of the board of the Association of Public Land-grant Universities, the nation's oldest higher education association. Chancellor Block has called for UCLA to define for California and the nation the role of a great public research university in a major urban center in the 21st century.

President C. Max Nikias has been president of USC since 2010. He has been part of the USC community for more than twenty years, having previously served in a number of positions, including provost and dean. He is an internationally recognized engineer who also holds an appointment in USC's department of classics.

Chancellor Jack Scott is chancellor of the California Community Colleges. Chancellor Scott came to his statewide office in 2009 after a distinguished career in academia and politics. He was the president of Pasadena City College from 1987 until his election to the California legislature in 1996. He served four years in the state Assembly and eight years in state Senate. He earned his doctorate in American history from Claremont Graduate University.

President Laura Skandera Trombley is in her tenth year as president of Pitzer College. She is an internationally renowned Mark Twain scholar and has authored three books, with her latest, "Mark Twain's Other Woman," published by Knopf. Under her leadership, Pitzer has annually produced more Fulbright scholars than any other undergraduate college or university in the country. She is also a national leader in sustainable building with eight new residence halls built at the highest LEED levels.

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