This year saw a number of outstanding books about a host of higher education topics, ranging from policy issues such as college costs and student learning to hot button subjects like academic freedom and online cheating. The list even includes one murder mystery. Here are my selections for the best titles in 2022.
Breaking Ranks: How the Rankings Industry Rules Higher Education and What To Do About It by Colin Diver, former president of Reed College. Diver has written a spirited, often witty critique of the college ranking industry, particularly the well-known “gorilla” of the neighborhood, U.S. News. He does a particularly good job of tracing the development of various ranking systems and exposing their methodological shortcomings along with the pernicious effects they – and their components like graduation rates, social mobility and graduates’ salaries – can have on institutions living “under their ominous, often oppressive, shadow.”
As the college ranking industry has grown, so has one of its spinoffs – critiques of rankings. As these critiques go, Diver’s is one of the best. He does more than carp about rankings. By situating them in the larger context of American higher education, he reveals how important, but insidious, they’ve become.
Who Killed Jane Stanford? by Richard White is part whodunit and part history of the troubled beginnings of Leland Stanford Junior University in Gilded Age California. White, an emeritus professor at Stanford, spins the tangled tale of the murder of Jane Stanford, who, with her husband Leland, dedicated much of their fortune to found Stanford University in memory of their deceased son. Stanford got off to a messy start, in large measure because of the eccentric beliefs and incessant meddling of Jane Stanford as well as the faults and duplicities of its first president, David Starr Jordan. While several suspects had motives to kill Jane, a murder that was hushed up for decades by Stanford officials, White assembles a convincing case fingering the most likely culprit(s).
The Complete Guide To Contract Cheating In Higher Education by Dave Tomar is the definitive book on contract cheating, where college students pay to have others write their assigned essays, papers and capstone projects for them. Tomar, whose public admission a decade ago that he was a well-compensated ghostwriter, earned him both the title of the “Shadow Scholar” and the widespread enmity of college faculty, blows the whistle on the contract cheating industry in this highly engaging, often disturbing, account of online cheating-for-hire.
Part confessional, part expose, this is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn the ins-and-outs of ghostwriting, the reasons why students cheat and how the problem should be understood and addressed. Grounded in a genuine concern about the pressures students face, a frank recognition of higher education’s contribution to the problem, and thoughtful perspectives on college teaching, this eye-opener of a book grabs your attention and never lets go.
Leadership Matters: Confronting the Hard Choices Facing Higher Education by two former college presidents – W. Joseph King (Lyon College) and Brian C. Marshall (Bucknell University and Washington and Jefferson College) – discusses how higher education leaders can help institutions adapt to the changing economic, social and political forces that increasingly challenge them.
They describe three presidential types: the presider, the change agent and the strategic visionary and offer wise counsel about the relationships that presidents should have with two other senior campus leaders – the provost and the chair of the board of trustees – as they face “the challenges of the post-pandemic world.” This book offers thoughtful advice for both novice and experienced campus leaders, particularly in the areas of shared governance and constituent relationships.
Phillip B. Levine’s A Problem of Fit: How the Complexity of College Pricing Hurts Students – And Universities examines the confusing issue of college pricing. Levine, the Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics at Wellesley College, explores how colleges set their prices as well as how financial aid systems contribute to problems of access. Providing detailed economic analysis of the effects of sticker price, tuition…
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