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"Have land-grant universities lost their way? West Virginia University President Gordon Gee argues that the answer is yes. Land-grant universities, created by Congress in the 1800s, were meant to be “the people's universities — not necessarily to do basic research or discover the cure for cancer, but to make sure the people in their state and region were served very well and had access to American opportunity," Gee told Pro Education's Ben Wermund at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities conference in D.C. on Monday. "Over time, I think that has been lost.” Gee believes land-grant universities' crisis was created in part by state legislatures slashing support and Americans increasingly losing faith in higher education. “Universities have a clear and present danger and they don’t realize it,” Gee said. He believes a “fundamental restructuring” is needed in higher education, and it's one that must be led by the universities themselves, which Gee says are too homogenized and prone to chase a version of prestige as defined by a rankings-fueled culture that often benefits the wealthy. Turns out many land-grant presidents agree. Gee and Ohio State University professor Stephen Gavazzi are working on a book on the issue, and they presented early findings at Monday's conference. They have interviewed 27 land-grant university leaders as part of their research. What should land-grant universities be doing? “Our plea is one of purpose,” Gee said, arguing that school leaders should stop chasing rankings and try to solve immediate problems in local communities, such as the opioid crisis. “The land-grant universities need to be attacking that directly and creating reasons for people to come out of that crisis,” Gee said, adding that leaders should also find ways to make it easier for people to matriculate. “It’s about pushing people to have advantage of opportunity,” Gee said."

Posted November 14th, 2017