Skip to Content

Thought & Action Call for Papers, Fall 2015

What is the purpose of higher education?

The Thought & Action Review Panel invites submissions for "What is the Purpose of Higher Education?" a special-focus section of the Fall 2015 issue.

Consider your students, your classrooms, and your institutions of higher education, and ask yourself this: What is the point? Why are your students enrolled in your classes? Why do faculty and staff do the work that they do? What is the true mission of your institution?

The Greeks and Romans saw the liberal arts as the tools necessary to make a person free. But some students and many policymakers today more likely see public higher education as a means simply to make people employable. In 1858, when the Morrill Land Grant Act was signed into law, our leaders called for new public universities that would build up a great nationgreat in its resources of wealth and power, but greatest of all in the aggregate of its intelligence and virtue. Much more recently, Maine Gov. Paul LePage said, If you want a good education in Maine, go to a private school. If you cant afford it, tough luck.

Within the context of this special-focus section, consider the pay-for-performance funding plans that are spreading across the U.S. Our lawmakers are sending a clear message about the purpose of higher education, as they see it, with the metrics that they have chosen to reward: In Florida, state universities get more funds when their graduates earn higher salaries. Consider also the ongoing efforts in so many states to make our public institutions operate more like private businesses, to restrict the rights of employees to collectively bargain, to attack faculty and staffs right to speak freely, to rein in the essential tradition of shared governance, to transfer the costs of a public education to students and parents, and to rely more and more on adjunct or contingent academic labor.

As always, other submissions about issues in higher education, including the art of teaching, are very welcome and will be considered apart from the special-focus section. New scholars and voices are encouraged to submit, as are poets and visual artists. Please understand the panel prefers short to long, and hopes to cultivate a reader-friendly tone. Please also appreciate that specific guidelines around style must be followed, or submissions will not be accpeted for review. All submissions will be entered automatically into the annual competition for three $2,500 NEA Excellence in the Academy awards.

Submissions are due March 15, 2015.

For more guidelines, visit