Vartan Gregorian, the President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the former President of Brown University, wrote this lovely blurb for “Higher Education?”

The editors of the book had to abridge Dr. Gregorian’s generous thoughts to fit them onto a happily crowded cover. But we thought readers might want to see all of it.

vartanimage1Recently, a number of thoughtful books have been published about the role of the university in American society, and more are on the way.

But “Higher Education?: How Colleges are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do About It, stands out. With facts, figures and probing analysis, authors Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus clearly lay out why so many colleges and universities are helping to support a de facto American class system while failing their primary mission of preparing not only skilled labor but also producing educated, knowledgeable citizens who can play a role advancing our national life and strengthening our democracy.

Hacker and Dreifus, both noted writers, also draw on their shared experience as educators (Hacker at Queens College and Dreifus at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs) to raise provocative questions about how much of what schools are offering “can reasonably be called education” as opposed to what more or less amounts to vocational training.

By trying to serve both these aims, the authors charge that many higher education institutions achieve excellence in neither area and as a result, have come bloated “multiversities” promoting their athletic programs, esoteric research efforts and other activities that are not essential to their central purpose, namely, advancing student learning, hence wasting enormous resources as well as opportunities to develop young minds.

Proudly calling themselves “born again Jeffersonians,” Hacker and Dreifus remind us that “college should be a cultural journey, an intellectual expedition, a voyage confronting new ideas and information,” and that it is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that colleges and universities set a high bar for themselves.

In short, this is a thought-provoking study that I hope will generate serious national debate.