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Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free

How to Decrease Cost and Increase Quality at American Universities
Robert Samuels (Author)
192 pages, 6 x 9
Paper, August 2013 $25.95   ADD TO CART
Cloth, August 2013 $78.00   ADD TO CART
Web PDF, August 2013 $25.95   EBOOK VERSION AVAILABLE
epub, August 2013 $25.95   EBOOK VERSION AVAILABLE


Universities tend to be judged by the test scores of their incoming students and not on what students actually learn once they attend these institutions. While shared tests and surveys have been developed, most schools refuse to publish the results. Instead, they allow such publications as U.S. News & World Report to define educational quality. In order to raise their status in these rankings, institutions pour money into new facilities and extracurricular activities while underfunding their educational programs.

In Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free, Robert Samuels argues that many institutions of higher education squander funds and mislead the public about such things as average class size, faculty-to-student ratios, number of faculty with PhDs, and other indicators of educational quality. Parents and students seem to have little knowledge of how colleges and universities have been restructured over the past thirty years.

Samuels shows how research universities have begun to function as giant investment banks or hedge funds that spend money on athletics and administration while increasing tuition costs and actually lowering the quality of undergraduate education. In order to fight higher costs and lower quality, Samuels suggests, universities must reallocate these misused funds and concentrate on their core mission of instruction and related research.

Throughout the book, Samuels argues that the future of our economy and democracy rests on our ability to train students to be thoughtful participants in the production and analysis of knowledge. If leading universities serve only to grant credentials and prestige, our society will suffer irrevocable harm. Presenting the problem of how universities make and spend money, Samuels provides solutions to make these important institutions less expensive and more vital. By using current resources in a more effective manner, we could even, he contends, make all public higher education free.


"Samuels's argument is a persuasive and informative introduction to the higher education industry."
—Publishers Weekly

"Adding his voice to a growing chorus of critiques of the state of higher education, Samuels, a prolific blogger on the subject of higher education, seeks to convince his readers of the disconnect between the cost of tuition and the quality of instruction and, furthermore, that a high-quality combination of research and instruction could be maintained without the need for tuition at all. He explains how a large portion of tuition dollars go toward administration costs, research, noneducational programs (e.g., athletics, recreational extras, etc., and technology.) Samuels also points out that many universities are making risky investments and borrowing large sums to fund construction of new facilities that do not necessarily enhance learning and to increase compensation to already highly paid faculty and administrators. He argues that if current government funding to higher education were used more effectively, public institutions could be tuition free. Samuels presents a thought-provoking case for reform, and his book will appeal to anyone concerned with the current and/or future state of higher education in the United States."
—Library Journal

"The important message of Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free is that the solutions to current problems of higher education cannot be achieved...until institutional priorities change."

"Bracing and incisive, Samuels offers that rare call to arms that speaks simultaneously to faculty, students, parents, and administrators."
—Marc Bousquet, author of How the University Works

"In this important and timely book, Samuels makes a powerful case for fundamental reforms in higher education that are critical not only for the future of the American university but also for the future of our nation and the world at large."
—Mark Bracher, author of Radical Pedagogy: Identity, Generativity, and Social Transformation

Author / Editor Bio

ROBERT SAMUELS is the president of the University Council–American Federation of Teachers union representing over 3,000 lecturers and librarians in the University of California System. He is a lecturer at the University of California at Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and the author of the popular blog Changing Universities. He often writes for the Huffington Post on higher education, and his books include New Media, Cultural Studies, and Critical Theory after Postmodernity and Writing Prejudices: The Psychoanalysis and Pedagogy of Discrimination from Shakespeare to Toni Morrison.

Table Of Contents


1. Why Tuition Goes Up and Quality Goes Down at American Research Universities
2. Where the Money Goes in Research Universities
3. Shortchanging Instruction at Research Universities, and Why Students Don't Complain
4. The Role of Faculty and Graduate Students in Changing Universities
5. The Rise of the Administrative Class
6. The University as Hedge Fund
7. The High Cost of Research
8. Technology to the Rescue?
9. Making All Public Higher Education Free
10. Educating Students for a Multicultural Democracy

Works Cited


Playing Smart
Catherine Keyser
Romance of Race
Jolie A. Sheffer
From Canton Restaurant to Panda Express
Haiming Liu
Beautiful Terrible Ruins
Dora Apel