The Chronicle of Higher Education
April 6th, 2015
Economic engine. Powerhouse. Transformative force.
Today, college after college, urban and rural, from the tiniest
liberal-arts institution to the sprawling research university, is
pitching itself as a driver of economic revitalization, its region’s
greatest competitive asset. Universities’ very presence, the rhetoric
seems to suggest, can spur a metamorphosis from decaying factory town to
21st-century knowledge hub.
At a time when the dominant narrative casts the value of college in
purely personal terms — an advantage that accrues to the individual
graduate — the economic-development pitch comes off as refreshingly
retrograde, a throwback. It posits the university as a benefit to the
broader community, not just the collegegoer. It’s one last go at the
public-good case for higher education.