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ings is more a testament to the durability of its original design than to the good work of its present-day stewards. Over the last two decades (and especially right after the 2008 financial crisis), the UC system has been rocked by budget reductions imposed by a legislature more interested in tax cuts and mass incarceration than building a world-class higher education system for the twenty-first century. The few private universities near the top of our list, such as Harvard and Stanford, are there because they have accumulated incredible amounts of wealth, allowing them to offer generous financial aid to the lower-income students they admit. This is a commendable but irreplicable model. And as Mamie Voight and Colleen Campbell note in this issue (page 40), many public universities are shirking their obligations to enroll and graduate a reasonable share of low-income students. Because institutions such as Penn State University (all the way down at number eighty-four in our rankings) appear to have little desire to promote socioeconomic mobility, tens of thousands of students are being shut out of universities where they would have a better chance of earning a degree. The swell of public anger over the high price of college and rising levels of student debt is now manifesting itself in national politics at the highest level. The Democratic presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley have already released proposals for free public higher education and "debt-free college," and overwhelming favorite Hillary Clinton is expected to release her own, similar plan soon. Whoever wins the nomination will have a knowledgeable and crucially placed ally in the chancellor of Louisiana State University, F. King Alexander. As Alexander Holt's indepth profile describes (page 49), King Alexander has spent the last two decades fighting a lonely battle to roll back a momentous and largely unknown set of policy decisions made in the early 1970s, in which a cabal of New England politicians and college leaders struck a far-reaching bargain that guaranteed vast public revenues to private institutions with no public accountability. The LSU president believes that decision doomed American higher education to perpetually rising prices. Now it appears that his moment has arrived. Political pressure on colleges is also building on other fronts. Caroline Frederickson argues (page 74) that the longterm reduction in the proportion of college classes taught by tenure-track professors is part and parcel of the broad societal trend of more "contingent labor." Somehow, none of the cost savings produced by this exploitation have been passed on to students in the form of lower prices. Now adjunct professors are agitating to unionize even as courts are beginning to challenge the legality of contingent labor arrangements in other industries. The biggest obstacle to setting higher education on a better path is the belief, shared by many Americans and used to advantage by college lobbyists making common cause with congressional Republicans, that the federal government shouldn't be allowed to regulate colleges in any meaningful way. In reality, the absence of effective regulation is what aids TOP 30 LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES RANK IN U.S. NEWS (2015) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. BRYN MAWR COLLEGE (PA) 27 Carleton College (MN) 8 Berea College (KY) 69 Swarthmore College (PA) 3 Harvey Mudd College (CA) 15 Reed College (OR) 77 Pomona College (CA) 5 Bates College (ME) 19 Haverford College (PA) 8 New College of Florida (FL)* 87 Knox College (IL) 81 Macalester College (MN) 24 Williams College (MA) 1 Wesleyan University (CT) 15 Grinnell College (IA) 19 Oberlin College (OH) 23 Wellesley College (MA) 4 Michigan Jewish Institute (MI)** School not listed Amherst College (MA) 2 Smith College (MA) 19 Rhodes College (TN) 54 Tougaloo College (MS) Rank not published Claflin University (SC) Rank not published Allegheny College (PA) 81 Kalamazoo College (MI) 64 Davidson College (NC) 11 Xavier University of Louisiana (LA) 178 Centre College (KY) 45 Vassar College (NY) 11 Salem College (NC) 148 *Public institution **Under federal investigation and abets crushing tuition hikes. The federal aid system that King Alexander wants to reform is a blank check for higher education-$150 billion per year in student grants and loans, in exchange for virtually no accountability for results. Alexander believes that state governments should be prohibited from wantonly cutting university budgets, and he's right. Of course, effective regulation can't be taken for granted. As Samuel Bagenstos describes (page 68), inept federal oversight has allowed many universities to botch the implementation of the sexual assault prevention provisions of Washington Monthly 25

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Monthly - September/October 2015

Contents
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