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Forum 31:

Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education

Held Monday, May 8, 2017

Forum Summary

Public higher education in the postwar era was a key economic and social driver in American life, making college available to millions of working men and women. In Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2016), Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier describe the extraordinary growth of public higher education after 1945, the alternative intellectual and political traditions that defined the 1960s in public higher education, and the social and economic forces that have produced austerity policies and inequality beginning in the late 1970s and 1980s. The austerity policies and politics of severely reduced public investment in higher education, exacerbating inequality among poor and working-class students of color, as well as part-time faculty since 1980 are also discussed.

Austerity Blues also analyzes the many changes currently sweeping through public higher education, including the growing use of educational technology, online learning, and privatization. The book explores the ways these developments hurt students and teachers. A central theme is the ways in which developments as diverse as online learning, privatization, and disinvestment have cohered into a single powerful force driving deepening inequality. Brier and Fabricant will also offer examples in their presentation of oppositional and emancipatory struggles as well as practices that can help reimagine public higher education in the future.