Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 26 No. 1 (Winter 2012)


Quick Tools:

Print Article Summary
Export Citation
Sign up for Email Alerts Follow us on Twitter


JEP - All Issues

American Higher Education in Transition

Article Citation

Ehrenberg, Ronald G. 2012. "American Higher Education in Transition." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26(1): 193-216.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.26.1.193


American higher education is in transition along many dimensions: tuition levels, faculty composition, expenditure allocation, pedagogy, technology, and more. During the last three decades, at private four-year academic institutions, undergraduate tuition levels increased each year on average by 3.5 percent more than the rate of inflation; the comparable increases for public four-year and public two-year institutions were 5.1 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. Academic institutions have also changed how they allocate their resources. The percentage of faculty nationwide that is full-time has declined, and the vast majority of part-time faculty members do not have Ph.D.s. The share of institutional expenditures going to faculty salaries and benefits in both public and private institutions has fallen relative to the share going to nonfaculty uses like student services, academic support, and institutional support. There are changing modes of instruction, together with different uses of technology, as institutions reexamine the prevailing "lecture/discussion" format. A number of schools are charging differential tuition across students. This paper discusses these various changes, how they are distributed across higher education sectors, and their implications. I conclude with some speculations about the future of American education.

Article Full-Text Access

Full-text Article (Complimentary)

Additional Materials

Online Appendix (13.98 KB)


Ehrenberg, Ronald G. (Cornell U)

JEL Classifications

I22: Educational Finance
I23: Higher Education and Research Institutions


View Comments on This Article (0) | Login to post a comment

Journal of Economic Perspectives

Quick Tools:

Sign up for Email Alerts

Follow us on Twitter

Subscription Information
(Institutional Administrator Access)


JEP - All Issues

Virtual Field Journals

AEA Member Login:

AEAweb | AEA Journals | Contact Us