The Real World of College: What Higher Education Is and What It Can Be

MIT. Mar. 2022. 408p. ISBN 9780262046534. $34.95. ED
In this fascinating book, Gardner and Fischman (both, Harvard Graduate Sch. of Education) share the quantitative and qualitative results of a study conducted from 2013 to 2018, intended to ascertain how participants viewed higher education; they conclude that it has “lost its way and stands in considerable peril.” The authors found that students are struggling with mental health and feelings of belonging and alienation—from their fellow students, from their scholarly work, and from their institutions. The study focused on 10 colleges and relied on surveys and interviews with students, faculty, staff, administrators, trustees, young alumni, and parents. The book examines four mental models, which explain students’ reasoning for pursuing higher education, and notes that students and administrators may feel at odds if they have different mental models. The authors end with recommendations for specific actions to help foster a sense of belonging in students; an epilogue includes a thought-provoking dialogue between the authors as they reflect on their own educational journeys.
VERDICT Recommended for college faculty, administrators, and trustees keen on aligning a college’s mission with the needs of its constituencies.
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