Higher Education Books

Higher education is in a season of change. Rising tuitions, cuts in government subsidies, the impact of new technologies on what is taught and how it is taught, campus social ethics, and more. I read regularly in this area because I work in collegiate ministry. This past year, I have been reading more in this area in preparation for a conference I am directing on “The ‘End’ of Higher Education” for faculty and colleagues in our organization. So I thought I would share the list. The links in the titles are to my full reviews of the books. They are listed in the reverse order of when I read them, most recent first.

1. Peter Brooks (ed.) The Humanities and Public LifeThis is a transcript of the proceedings from a symposium exploring the contribution of the humanities to public life. It features a keynote by Judith Butler.

2. Suzanne Mettler, Degrees of InequalityMettler exposes how the failure to maintain our higher ed funding policies and other change dynamics are putting the dream of a college education out of the reach of many Americans.


3. Sharon Daloz Parks, Big Questions, Worthy DreamsParks explores how higher education professionals can address the spiritual longings and aspirations of college students.

4. Paul Socken (ed.), The Edge of the PrecipiceSocken and the other essayists explore why read in a digital age and how digital media changes for good or ill the act of reading and how those who teach in the humanities ought pursue their work.

5. Andres T. Tapia, The Inclusion ParadoxTapia argues that “diversity is the mix, and inclusion is making the mix work.” He contends that places that “make the mix work” are not only better for the people but more productive as well.

6. Julie J. Park, When Diversity DropsPark’s book is a case study of a collegiate ministry group in California, the practices they pursued to become more diverse, and how Proposition 209’s “color blind” admissions policies and the subsequent drop in racial diversity affected this group.


7. John Henry Newman, The Idea of a UniversityNewman’s classic work on what a university is for, from a Catholic Christian perspective.

8. Ellen Schrecker, The Lost Soul of Higher Education.  Schrecker traces the history of the idea of academic freedom and decries the erosion of that freedom in what she calls the “corporatization” of the university.

9. Stanley Fish, Save the World on Your Own TimeFish argues that it is not the job of the university professor to save the world or mobilize students to do the same, but rather to teach course content with excellence.

10. Donna Freitas, The End of SexThis is a follow-up to her book, Sex and the SoulIn The End of Sex she chronicles the hook-up culture prevalent on most campuses, how this undermines real intimacy, and even calls for a recovery of the lost art of dating.

11. Anthony T. Kronman. Education’s End. His subtitle captures the essence of what he explores in the book: “why colleges and universities have given up on the meaning of life.” The book is a well-argued and passionate plea for the importance of discussing the “big questions” in university courses and other university venues.

12. Philip E. Dow. Virtuous MindsThis is not a “higher ed” book per se’ but it explores from a Christian perspective how one develops “intellectual virtues”, actually relevant to Anthony Kronman’s concerns.

13. Jose A. Bowen, Teaching NakedThis provocatively titled book is part of a trend advocating “flipping” the classroom, where technology is moved out of the classroom to students outside personal and group work, while the professor focuses on what can best happen inside the classroom, the interaction of professor and student engaging the course content.


14. Mark Edmundson, Why Read? Edmundson pursues a similar question to that in Edge of the Precipice but argues far more hopefully for the power of great works to engage the great questions and to exercise a transformative influence in the lives of students through the power of words.

15. Andrew Delbanco, College: What it Was, Is, and Should BeThe book follows the plan of its title, surveying the history of the university, particularly in America, which unavoidably includes its Christian roots, the current state of higher education, including the challenges mentioned at the beginning of this post, and his call for universities to continue to pursue “color blind” and ‘class blind” admissions and to be centers where the great questions are explored.

16. Lawrence W. Levine, The Opening of the American MindThis is an older book that serves as a spirited argument in reply to Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. He defends ethnic, gender, and cultural studies as a corrective endeavors to the biased majority culture’s marginalization of the non-white and those not in power.

17. P. Felton, H.D.L. Bauman, A. Kheriaty, and E. Taylor, Transformative ConversationsThe book explores how one might go about developing formational mentoring communities among colleagues in the higher education setting. These are communities that honestly and without judgment pursue the large questions of vocation and purpose that continue to be important throughout life, and that rarely can be explored in a work setting.

18. Joe R. Feagin, The Agony of Education. This work, from 1996, explores the unique challenges faced by black students in the higher education setting.

These are by no means the only or even the best books on various aspects of higher education. They are those for which I have reviews online, going back to 2012.

What books have been helpful to you in understanding higher education? What books would you add to this list?

6 thoughts on “Higher Education Books

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Humanities and Public Life | The Emerging Scholars Blog

  2. Pingback: The End of Higher Ed — Update #1 | The Emerging Scholars Blog

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Education’s End | The Emerging Scholars Blog

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  5. Pingback: Dialogue Within the University: A Reading List | Bob on Books

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