The Conditions for Admission: Access, Equity, and the Social Contract of Public Universities

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The progressive idea that any citizen who meets specified academic conditions can gain entry to their state university has profoundly shaped American society. This book offers the first comprehensive examination of admission policies and practices at public universities. Using the University of California, the nation's largest public research university and among its most selective, as an illuminating case study, it explores historical and contemporary debates over affirmative action, gender, class, standardized testing, the growing influences of privatization and globalization, and indeed the very purpose and future of these important public institutions.

The United States has been the world leader in developing mass higher education, using its pioneering network of public universities to promote socioeconomic mobility and national economic competitiveness. But the author warns that access and graduation rates have stagnated and may even be declining, particularly among younger students. Other countries, including key members of the European Union, along with China, India, and other developing nations, are aggressively reshaping and expanding their higher education systems. The "American advantage" of a high-quality and high-access higher education system is waning. The closing chapters explore why this is the case and the consequences within an increasingly competitive global economy.

About the Author:
John Aubrey Douglass is Senior Research Fellow for Public Policy and Higher Education at the Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[Douglass] confronts feel-good terms like 'disadvantaged' and 'underrepresented' that defy precise definition... The point of the book is that our popular belief in the social contract that America has with its colleges, that such institutions exist for the public good, is imperiled by dwindling government support."—Chronicle of Higher Education

"The Conditions for Admission economically covers the development of early access policies at the university and devotes majority of its pages to a discussion of modern admissions controversies occurring between UC's 'Master Plan' of 1960 and the present day. The book is lean, engaging, and judiciously supported by documents from UC archives... [The] tension between academic leadership and the volatile political sphere may have forged (and may continue to forge) the social contract celebrated by Douglass's excellent new book."—History of Education Quarterly

"an insightful and novel discussion of the movement toward privatization of public institutions, and the resulting abatement of the social contract. Douglass's analysis of the future of public education is a worthwhile read for anyone with a stake in public education... a thought-provoking analysis of the future of U.S. public education."—Journal of the National Academic Advising Association

"John Aubrey Douglass's The Conditions for Admission connects past and present in the enduring policy debates about who goes to college and where. Admissions and access, whether from the point of view of system planners or parents and their children, provides the focus for putting the complex experience at the heart of serious analysis of American educational institutions and society." —John Thelin, The University of Kentucky

"The Conditions for Admission expands our understanding of America's pioneering breed of public universities and confronts the real and often ignored differences between public and independent universities. The author notes that the United States is arguably no longer preeminent in its effort to build a high access and high quality network of colleges and universities—a lead lost in part by a decline in government investment, but also by the increased demands of a constituent-driven society and by the actions of the institutions themselves." —David Ward, President, American Council on Education

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804755597
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/21/2007
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

John Aubrey Douglass is Senior Research Fellow for Public Policy and Higher Education at the Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The California Idea and American Higher Education (Stanford, 2000).
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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables     ix
Preface     xi
Building a Public University and Creating the Social Contract     1
The Public University Movement and California     3
Building a Higher Education System and Broadening Access     31
Inclusion, Exclusion, and the Issue of Race     46
The Managerial University and the Post-World War II Era     77
The Master Plan, the SAT, and Managing Demand     79
Countervailing Forces: Standardized Testing and Affirmative Action     93
For Every Action a Reaction: Race, Bakke, and the Social Contract Revisited     120
Modern Battles over Equity, Affirmative Action, and Testing     149
California's Affirmative-Action Fight     151
The First Aftermath: Outreach and Comprehensive Review     184
The Second Aftermath: President Atkinson Versus the SAT     214
Whither the Social Contract? The Postmodern World and the Primacy of Higher Education     235
Perils and Opportunities: Autonomy, Merit, and Privatization     237
The Waning of America's Higher Education Advantage     261
Notes     293
Index     323
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