Higher education is a central institution in U.S. democracy. In the 2010s, however, many states that spent previous decades building up their higher education systems began to tear them down. Growing hostility toward higher education reflected changing social forces that remade the politics of U.S. higher education. The political Right became increasingly reliant on angry white voters as higher education became more racially diverse. The Republican party became more closely connected to extremely wealthy donors as higher education became more costly. In Wrecked, Barrett J. Taylorshows how these social changes set a collision course for the Right and higher education. These attacks fed a policy agenda of deinstitutionalization, which encompassed stark divestment from higher education but was primarily characterized by an attack on the institution’s social foundation of public trust. In response to these attacks, higher education officials have offered a series of partial defenses that helped higher education to cope in the short-term but did nothing to defend the institution itself against the long-term threat of declining public trust. The failure to address underlying issues of mistrust allowed conflict to escalate to the point at which many states are now wrecking their public higher education systems. Wrecked offers a unique and compelling perspective linking higher education policymaking to broader social and political forces acting in the twenty-first century.
About the Author
BARRETT J. TAYLOR is an associate professor of higher education at the University of North Texas in Denton. He is co-author with Brendan Cantwell of Unequal Higher Education: Wealth, Status, and Student Opportunity (Rutgers University Press).
"Taylor's Wrecked is a bold, unapologetic, and thought-provoking analysis and manifesto that addresses how the long-ignored elephants of race and partisan politics continue to shape higher education policy. A must-read for anyone interested in understanding and improving higher education equity in policymaking." — Sosanya Jones
"Wrecked offers a compelling and instructive indictment about the rise of political and policy hostility of states toward higher education. Armed with a decade of data reflecting the political Right’s retreat from supporting public higher education, Barrett Taylor explains clearly and honestly its devastating effects. Implications for the future of college access and equity are sobering, yet hopeful in how we understand the complexities of social divisions and their political consequences. Wrecked demands our attention in addressing the collateral policy damage and the diminishing possibilities of higher education." — James Earl Davis