Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk


A number of individuals and organizations have invented classes, scheduled discussions, held symposia or created some other kind of special event along with the viewing of "Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk." We encourage you to do the same.

Please don't keep your event a secret. Share it with the "Declining by Degrees" production team and we'll share it with the world. Contact

Here are a few of the important examples we've learned of:

Wabash College hosts two screenings and a post-screening discussion collapse

"We hosted two screenings of the show and a post-screening discussion. We were disappointed in the number of faculty who showed up, but a number of our students watched the video. The good news is that one of the faculty who did see it has requested that the Campus Teaching and Learning Committee set up a discussion of the show. We're working on that. One of the students is also using "Declining by Degrees" as the basis of a project in his communications class. These are all small events, but on a small campus, small events often have real consequences. We also placed the DVD on reserve at our library, and sent out an announcement indicating that it was available."
Charles F. Blaich, Ph.D.
Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts
Wabash College

"Declining by Degrees" used in graduate level class at Michigan State University collapse

"I teach a graduate level course titled "Foundations of Postsecondary Education" that examines contemporary issues in higher education by exploring the intersection of historical, philosophical and sociological forces that have shaped and continue to shape US higher education. One of the assignment in the course requires students to select a documentary (from a list approved by the instructor) relevant/ related to the course theme, to show it in class, to facilitate the discussion with classmates, and to finally write a critical review that integrates course readings and key themes from the documentary. One of the teams in my course selected "Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk," and facilitated what I thought was one of the most engaging discussions in class around themes that emerged from this documentary."
Reitumetse O. Mabokela, Ph.D.
Department of Educational Administration
Michigan State University

Shown at American Education Week event and in class at University of Wisconsin-Madison collapse

"I showed "Declining by Degrees" at an American Education Week event on campus, and about 20 students and faculty - as well as our First Lady Jessica Doyle - attended. Also, I'm using the book & video in my class this spring, Debates in Higher Education Policy."
Sara Goldrick-Rab, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology
University of Wisconsin-Madison University

Part of Honors class and panel discussion at Western Connecticut State University collapse

"First year students in our Honors Program viewed part of the film on the second week of class. We used the film to discuss some of the issues now facing higher education in the U.S. and some of their own expectations about what they hoped to gain by attending college. The Honors Program, along with colleagues from the Psychology and Social Sciences Departments, also organized a panel discussion of honors students about the film in late October. We showed the first hour of the film. Afterward, students from the Honors Program made comments and answered questions. The audience consisted of a mix of about 40-50 students, faculty and administrators. The discussion afterward yielded some very interesting stories of some of the experience of both faculty and students."
Steven Ward, Ph.D.
Honors Program Director
Western Connecticut State University

Used in semester-long book group and discussion at the University of Connecticut collapse

"The University of Connecticut has had two book reading and discussion groups that have met over a semester, involving over 25 faculty, staff and administrators. The dialogue has focused on relating the messages of the book to the goals of the university. We were fortunate to have "Declining by Degrees" co-editor Richard Hersh join us for one discussion and state legislator Denise Merrill for another. Merrill represents the town of Storrs, where U of CN's main campus is located. She is also co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Higher Education Access and Affordability organized by the National Conference of State Legislators. The book/discussion group has been a great experience for all involved and will end with a combined session of the two groups organizing suggestions for action at the university consistent with the messages from the book."
John C. Bennett, Jr., Ph.D.
Associate Department Head / Associate Professor Mechanical Engineering
University of Connecticut

Stanford University uses film, book, and website as the basis for a writing and rhetoric course collapse

"In the fall of 2005, I taught a sophomore level course at Stanford University entitled "The Demise of Higher Education: The Rhetoric of America's Intellectual Decline." The main purpose of this class was to teach analytical thinking and rhetorically-based writing, research, and argumentation skills, applying those activities to a theme of interest to undergraduate students. As the course title suggests, our theme was to examine some of the current problems that Higher Education is facing. We began the term by viewing and discussing the Declining by Degrees film. Soon after, students each had to select one problematic issue related to contemporary higher education to research for the rest of the term, culminating in a researched argument paper and an academic conference style oral presentation. Students investigated related causes and effects of their selected problems, examined alternative models, and argued for plausible solutions. While students worked on their research projects independently, in class, we continued our discussion using the Declining by Degrees book. We also used John Merrow's related podcasts (e.g. Frank DeFord's interview) to flesh out topics that appeared in the film and in the book.

Because students could see a meaningful relationship between themselves and the topics we were discussing, class discussions were extremely lively, the resulting research projects were engaging and perceptive, and, judging from their final reflective essays, students were left with lasting insight about these educational issues and their own roles in them. Overall, the various Declining by Degrees media products, especially if used in tandem, can provide both impetus and direction for students to critically examine these issues while questioning the underlying assumptions about their lives as students. From a teacher's perspective, I am grateful that we finally have readily accessible texts to begin a larger discussion about these very meaningful issues."
Erik Turkman
Program in Writing and Rhetoric
Stanford University

University of Maryland College Park Center for Teaching Excellence uses "Declining by Degrees" at workshop

Student affairs staff at Michigan State University watches film and engages in 2-hour discussion with NSSE's George Kuh

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