When the people with some of the greatest clout over the future of America’s universities and colleges convene in Austin, Texas, they’re not likely to attract very much attention.
They’re not athletics coaches, high-profile presidents, or marquee faculty who publish influential books. They’re not congressmen or legislators. They’re not rich donors or alumni.
They’re the representatives of philanthropic foundations, whose money — combined with the relative inertia of government and the higher-education establishment itself — has made them huge players in setting policy for the institutions that graduate the nation’s future workers and leaders.
“A number of major foundations have decided that social mobility, which they view as an important value, is closely connected with educational opportunity,” said Ben Wildavsky, director of higher-education studies at the State University of New York’s Rockefeller Institute of Government at the University of Albany. “So they’ve been funding a lot of people who they think are good thinkers to figure out new ways to make the system work more effectively that are departures from the conventional wisdom.” <Read more.>