Clair Maple Memorial Address: Public Universities Will Survive. Can Public Higher Education?


Universities are currently caught between the hammer of enormous and rising public expectations and the anvil of financial limitations. In the public sector, the stresses are severe by historical standards, as a consequence of both figurative and literal public ownership, and because the financial models are becoming unsound. The outlook for the research side of most leading public universities is positive, but that for the teaching side is not. While the perceived and real social value of public universities will ensure their continued operation and success in some missions, the peculiar combination of teaching-side stresses raises the question whether public higher education at a competitive level with private universities will continue in this country. This presentation will cover present forces on public higher education, how public universities will likely evolve in the absence of changes in the pattern of forces, opportunities for redefining the scope and character of public universities positively in the next decades, and the particular role of information technology in creating a path to a future where public universities and public higher education can flourish.

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