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Restoring the Promise
Restoring the Promise

Restoring the Promise

Higher Education in America


416 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Cloth, EPUB

Cloth, $28.95 (US $28.95) (CA $38.95)

Publication Date: May 2019

ISBN 9781598133271

Rights: WOR

Independent Institute (May 2019)


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American higher education is increasingly in trouble. Universities are facing an uncertain and unsettling future with free speech suppression, out-of-control Federal student aid programs, soaring administrative costs, and intercollegiate athletics mired in corruption. Restoring the Promise explores these issues and exposes the federal government's role in contributing to them. With up-to-date discussions of the most recent developments on university campuses, this book is the most comprehensive assessment of universities in recent years.


"In his book, Restoring the Promise, Richard Vedder continues in his role as the conscience of modern higher education. Readers will have to determine their own answers, but Dr. Vedder is asking all the right questions." —Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., President, Purdue University; former Governor, State of Indiana "Richard Vedder is among America's foremost students of higher education. His indictment of America's colleges in his book Restoring the Promise is on the mark and his recommendations thought provoking. Everyone interested in higher education should read and ponder this book." —Benjamin Ginsberg, David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Chair, Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, Johns Hopkins University; author, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters "In his book Restoring the Promise, Richard Vedder pinpoints the issue plaguing higher education early on, identifying the 'precarious position' of higher education as the outgrowth of government—particularly federal—intervention in the sector. That intervention has fueled pernicious regulations and a student loan debt crisis that, cumulatively, exceeds aggregate credit card debt. Moreover, his provocative suggestion that higher education as currently structured 'may exacerbate income inequalities rather than reduce it' will no doubt spur a critical conversation about the efficacy of the American college system moving forward. Fifty-four years of university teaching have made Dr. Vedder uniquely situated to diagnose the many problems plaguing higher education. Restoring the Promise is a must-read for anyone interested in how to address the $1.5 trillion question, improve university efficiency and effectiveness, and who generally appreciates the good-natured wit and insight of Richard Vedder." —Lindsey M. Burke, Director and Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy; Center for Education Policy; Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity; Heritage Foundation

"Richard Vedder is a major national resource on higher education. No one knows it better-especially what is wrong with it, why and how it got to be wrong, and how and where we might make it right, or at least better. In Restoring the Promise, Vedder chronicles higher education's waste, duplication, overpricing, and broken promises. So much wrong and so many misrepresentations for so much money!! If we want to fix it, his chronicle is a good place to start. Thorough, scholarly, probative and revealing." —William J. Bennett, former Secretary, U.S. Department of Education; former Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities; author (with David Wilezol), Is College Worth It?A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education; editor, The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories "At last, Restoring the Promise is a lucid 360-degree examination of the whole of American higher education, sparing no idols. Richard Vedder commands near-encyclopedic knowledge of his subject and he writes with flair. His excellent book is not another sky-is-falling pronouncement of doom on colleges and universities that have become unaffordable, unaccountable, and intellectually mediocre. Rather, he takes the failures one by one and shows how we as a nation could solve them though practical policy choices. Vedder is a distinguished economist and possesses an economist's eye for the trade-offs we inevitably make when we demand a dozen things from colleges and universities besides teaching and research. He asks tough questions, adduces pertinent data, and advances compelling answers. His tone is temperate but his conclusions will surely dismay those who are complacent about how we are preparing the next generation for leadership. This is one of the best books written about higher education in the last quarter-century. The inherited strengths of our system weighed against its flaws, temptations, and corruptions are laid forth with precision by a scholar who knows exactly what's what." —Peter W. Wood, President, National Association of Scholars; former Provost, The King's College, New York

"In Restoring the Promise, Richard Vedder brings experience from a venerable career as economist and historian to an analysis of the troubled state of higher education. His research is data driven, his writing is uncomplicated, and his arguments are persuasive enough to worry standard-issue academic administrators. Hurrah!" —John W. Sommer, Knight Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of North Carolina; former Dean, School of Social Science, University of Texas at Dallas; editor, The Academy in Crisis: The Political Economy of Higher Education "Richard Vedder's book, Restoring the Promise, provides a tough-minded blueprint for resolving American higher education's crisis of confidence. He skillfully draws from historical and economic analyses as the base of reason to achieve the revelation that our colleges and universities can regain their proper footing and missions. This well-written, thoroughly researched work cuts through the public relations images and ideologies that have stalled higher education of the 21st century at a time when they most need to confront a host of internal and external problems that will no longer be fixed by business as usual. Vedder combines good writing with critical thinking in dissecting the dilemmas of prices and costs along with access and affordability that have been turning the American Dream of higher education into an educational and financial nightmare. Vedder's book helps leaders in American higher education turn away from complacence and indecision toward informed reflection and discussions about institutional practices and public policies in rebuilding a base that in turn will be essential to restoring the promise of going to college." —John R. Thelin, University Research Professor, History of Higher Education and Public Policy, College of Education, University of Kentucky; author, A History of American Higher Education and Going to College in the Sixties

"Building on a lifetime of scholarship and experience in his book Restoring the Promise, Richard Vedder provides a backstage tour of the multitudinous dysfunctions of American higher education. You may not like what he shows you, but you'll savor the tour." —Bryan D. Caplan, Professor of Economics, George Mason University; author, The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money "In Restoring the Promise, Richard Vedder has used his vast experience and research to craft an exceptional critique of U.S. higher education. I daresay that nobody will agree with all of his conclusions. But I am also sure that nobody will fail to be challenged by his arguments and data. Higher education is an area where the participants regularly pat themselves on the back for what they are doing and regularly suggest that the only real problem is that there is not enough of it. Vedder offers a refreshing contrarian view." —Eric A. Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; former Deputy Director, Congressional Budget Office; former Member, Equity and Excellence Commission, U.S. Department of Education

"Richard Vedder has seen our higher education problems coming miles away. From skyrocketing tuition and crushing student debt to the diminishing utility of a college education and the underemployment of graduates, Vedder has spent decades looking at the data and warning that this will not end well. If you want to understand how higher education came to this crisis and how it can be fixed, start with his book, Restoring the Promise." —Jason L. Riley, Member of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board and Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and Naomi Schaefer Riley, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute "In Richard Vedder, and with his book Restoring the Promise, higher education has found a determined and articulate gadfly, ready to sting it out of its dysfunction and lethargy. Not everyone will agree with all of Dr. Vedder's diagnosis and remedies, but any higher education leader who ignores them imperils the future of the colleges and universities that are the engines of our progress and prosperity." —Michael B. Poliakoff, President, American Council of Trustees and Alumni; former Director, Division of Education Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities

"American higher education promises so much—excellence, access, diversity, world-class research—and yet it delivers far too little for so many students. The problems are many—high cost, micromanaging from the federal government, diversity programs that do more harm than good—the list goes on. The book, Restoring the Promise by Richard Vedder, America's premier expert on higher education, offers a comprehensive and sobering look at how we got here and where we might head in pursuit of better higher education. Forget the bromides of politicians, this book is a clear-eyed starting point for higher education policy. If I could put one book in the hands of university boards (and their presidents), it would be this one." —Jonathan J. Bean, Professor of History, Southern Illinois University "Richard Vedder takes readers on a most sobering campus tour. Though America's universities may be the pride of the world, Vedder marshals meticulous evidence to argue they are delivering services of declining educational quality at escalating prices. As its title suggests, Restoring the Promise offers numerous ideas for arresting these trends. Most every reader will agree with some and disagree with others, but everyone concerned with the future of higher education would benefit from bringing them into the conversation." —Jacob L. Vigdor, Daniel J. Evans Professor of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington  

"Richard Vedder is the leading economist of higher education in America. Higher education today is too expensive, too irrelevant, and too plagued by political correctness to deliver promised value to its students or the country at large. And not only do those problems persist, they are getting increasingly worse. Why is the system so resistant to change? Vedder provides the time-honored lesson—'Follow the money.' Reform of higher education means changing incentives, and changing incentives means reviewing the thicket of regulations and subsidies that distort the industry. Restoring the Promise is Vedder's magnum opus and an important read for anyone concerned about students, parents, and taxpayers are getting their money's worth." —Todd J. Zywicki, University Foundation Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School; Co-Editor, Supreme Court Economic Review "America's ivory tower is cracking—all over. Richard Vedder, informed by decades of working in the tower, and years of analyzing its myriad faults, has answers. If you care at all about higher education—and you'd better, because you're paying for it—you need to read the invaluable, incisive volume, Restoring the Promise." —Neal P. McCluskey, Director, Center for Educational Freedom, Cato Institute

"With Restoring the Promise, Richard Vedder has written a thorough and thoughtful book on higher education in nearly all of its aspects. It is a marvelous endeavor and a rich resource for wonks as well as bystanders. One is not obliged to agree on philosophy or politics to appreciate this important contribution." —A. Lee Fritschler, former Vice President and Director, Center for Public Policy Education, Brookings Institution; former Assistant Secretary for Post-Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education; former President, Dickinson College; Professor Emeritus, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University; former Chairman, U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission "Richard Vedder is known as a strident critic of the higher education establishment in the U.S. But, it would be wrong to think he doubts the value of education. Instead, much of his ire, and the power of his critiques, come from his intimate knowledge of the failings of the public education system. Restoring the Promise documents how college education falls short of what it should be, and our society desperately needs it to be. College is expensive, and fast becoming even more so, yet it fails either to prepare students for living in a liberal society or to provide them the tools they need for employment and personal responsibility. This book is the culmination of decades of reflection, argument, and deep examination of the problems we face. This is the right book, at the right time, while there still is time to rescue the next generation." —Michael C. Munger, Professor of Political Science, Economics and Public Policy and Director of the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program, Duke University

Author Biography

Richard K. Vedder is Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Economics at Ohio University. He has been Senior Economist at the U.S. Joint Economic Committee and Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Study of American Business, Washington University. He is the author of Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much. His articles have appeared in numerous scholarly journals, the Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, National Review, Washington Times, and Investor's Business Daily.