Divided We Fail: Are Leaders and Citizens Talking Past Each Other on Higher Education?


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In 2012–2013, NIF forums held around the country have brought college students, high school students, parents, faculty, employers, retirees, and others together to deliberate about the mission of higher education and the role it should play in the nation’s social, political, and economic progress. This interim report finds that Americans outside the policymaking arena want to think and talk about the mission of higher education and its role in shaping our collective future. How does their vision compare with that of leaders now proposing and adopting reforms? The challenge highlighted here is that the country is now having two very different, largely separate, conversations about the future of higher education.

The final report, which will follow after the conclusion of the Shaping Our Future forums in fall 2013, will showcase the enormous divide between the policymaker debate on higher education and the ideas and concerns among the more typical citizens who participated in the forums. Both groups bring important values and issues to the table but, at present, there is substantial crosstalk and miscommunication between them. Indeed, the principal take-away from the forums is the need for broader, more inclusive deliberations—conversations that bridge the customary divisions in our society.

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Higher Education
Reports on NIF forums

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