If you’ve looked at Time’s “Ten Best College Presidents,” you probably rolled your eyes (or gnashed your teeth). I’m not criticizing the presidents themselves at this point, just the journalists at Time for their profound ignorance about the state of our universities and their fawning treatment of its most prominent presidents.
Just for starters, let me quote from Time’s profile of the top president, Gordon Gee of Ohio State, the highest-paid president of any public university. Time calls Gee a “thoroughbred politician” who is “campaigning for a revolution in higher education at a time when the field is more important, and perhaps more troubled, than ever before.” It doesn’t say what the revolution is (even Gee hasn’t made that clear). Time then pontificates about how nothing else is quite as important as higher ed these days:
Forget the ivory tower: colleges and universities are catalysts of economic development, stewards of public health, incubators of social policy and laboratories of discovery. . . . Classrooms and labs are today what mines and factories were a century ago: America’s regional economic powerhouses, one of the few certain engines of growth in good and bad economic times. As a result of these challenges and opportunities, college presidents are on the line as never before.
Someone should have checked with Rich Vedder, whose studies of states tend to show that high public investment in universities correlates with mediocre economic growth or comparatively low numbers of college graduates.
There is much more silliness. Have a look.