It’s easy (and cheap) enough to allow a handful of relatively small, extremely famous, and fabulously wealthy private universities to get richer and more famous still. Building a high-quality college and university system for the large majority of high school graduates is a lot tougher and more expensive—but that’s what the nation needs.
Thats Matt Yglesias writing, in an excellent post entitled What Really Matters in Higher Education."
He addresses why the much-discussed Shanghai rankings of the world's elite research universities are not whats important for the future of the American (or in fact the Nevada) economy, society and culture.
While some view these rankings as a key measure of the standing of our, or any, nation in the global competition in higher education, which almost all agree is a (or maybe the) crucial battlefield of the 21st century.
Those countries with highly educated societies, and workforces, will prosper; those who do not educate their citizenry will be surpassed.
But he argues that instead of measuring our success by the ranking of our elite institutions, he argues that its the success of building, maintaining quality and making affordable excellent research-based higher education on a broad basis that will be the measure the of our success on this battlefield.
This question is one that we're deciding in the next few weeks for our state, Nevada, with consequences that will determine, for a generation or more, if we will compete with other states and other countries, or be surpassed.