I’m trying to study for my Social Science course and I need some help to understand this question.

Patricia Gumport (2001), in her chapter on public higher education, talks about the “legitimating ideas” behind higher education. The fundamental question is: What purposes does higher education serve? Depending on the purpose, whose responsibility is it to provide higher education—that is, who should pay for it?

In this week’s Discussion, consider these questions of purpose and responsibility:

  • Should higher education primarily be seen as a public service, raising the level of education, knowledge, and culture in society? Or, should it be seen primarily as a “private good,” enabling individuals to get ahead in work and life?
  • Depending on the answer to this question, who should provide, and pay for, higher education—the government, businesses, the individual, or some other entity?
  • Does it make a difference what kind of institution we are talking about? Consider the types of institutions described in the “Overview of U.S. Higher Education” presentation. Do some types of institutions have different purposes, and therefore imply different responsibilities, than others?

Posting Instructions

By Day 3

Post your initial response to these questions. Include references or examples from this week’s Learning Resources that support your ideas.

Required Readings

Course Readings

Course Text: Altbach, P. G., Gumport, P. J., & Johnstone, D. B. (Eds.). (2001).
In defense of American higher education. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

  • Chapter 1, “The American Academic Model in Comparative Perspective” (Philip Altbach)
  • Chapter 4, “Built to Serve: The Enduring Legacy of Public Higher Education” (Patricia Gumport)

Choose ONE of the following:

Eckel, P. D., & King, J. E. (2006).
An overview of higher education in the United States: Diversity, access, and the role of the marketplace. Retrieved from

McPherson, M., & Schapiro, M. O. (2002).
Global issues in higher education: What American colleges should know. Paper presented at the 2002 Ford Policy Forum, Aspen, CO. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (2008).
Organization of U.S. education: Tertiary institutions. Retrieved from