Lehigh University
Lehigh University
President Alice P. Gast


President Gast Discusses Leadership at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Conference
(The information below is provided courtesy of CASE.)


Presidents Discuss Strengths and Weaknesses of American Higher Education

Affordability, competition from overseas and new modes of delivering information are among the threats to traditional American higher education, said Alice Gast, president of Lehigh University, during the opening key session of the CASE Summit for Advancement Leaders.

During the July 18 panel session "Leadership in the New Decade," Gast joined Lawrence Bacow, president of Tufts University, and Richard McCormick, president of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing American colleges and universities.

"Information is much more broadly available," Gast said, referring to the volume of educational resources available online. "We need to think about the value-added [we offer] as universities."

Bacow noted that U.S. institutions have historically benefitted from the ability to raise tuition and private and public funds and counted on the returns on their investments. Today, he said, "the basic assumptions on which higher education has existed in the U.S. since World War II are all at play."

Panelists said opportunities for colleges and universities lie in executive and continuing education, the turnover of the professoriate as baby boomers retire and create opportunities to restructure, and emphasis on hands-on learning experiences outside of the classroom.

A major weakness of higher education is "inertia and the glaciality of change," McCormick said.

Bacow noted that "the enduring strength of American higher education is the diversity of institutions," including research and baccalaureate institutions and those serving non-traditional students.

Gast identified innovation as a strength while McCormick cited the "confidence of the American people in our institutions," noting that while the public may have concerns about affordability and cost-effectiveness, people still want to send their children to college.

CASE President John Lippincott moderated the discussion.