Hope is on the horizon...


despite all these barriers to readiness and quality. The hope and optimism come from three directions:

  • first, from the recognized past successes of U.S. higher education in serving the college-going population and society
  • second, from recent great accomplishments in opening the doors of college to many more who wish to attend
  • third, from the new creativity the National Panel has witnessed as faculty members across the country reinvent their own institution's practices for a contemporary education.

Through imaginative work at colleges and universities of every kind, a movement is already growing that points the way toward a new and more powerful vision of college learning. In spite of extensive barriers and the widely divergent expectations of various stakeholders, innovators on many campuses are mapping out a New Academy with the potential to serve the needs of this new student generation and of society. These innovators' dedication to students, to more integrated forms of learning, and to the noble profession of college teaching are already producing effective educational models that, taken together, provide a glimpse of the future—of a universal college education of high quality for the twenty-first century.


The academic world, however, as the repository of accumulated knowledge, functions as a conservator, slow to change in fundamental ways.50 Thus, new ideas appear as pockets of innovation, taking root at the margins of institutions, and maintaining themselves by the patient effort of a few dedicated individuals. These innovations only slowly permeate the mainstream. Nevertheless, the National Panel has talked with leaders from dozens of campuses where promising approaches to undergraduate education can be found. Their stories throughout this report show the way of the future and offer real hope for change. And since U.S. collegiate education evolved over time to produce a rich collection of institutions, each with its own distinctive mission and practices, the stories are drawn from many types of colleges and universities. This variety is an important strength, particularly in light of higher education's new mission to serve so many and such a range of students. As the academy embarks on needed reforms, care must be taken to preserve this multiplicity of approaches from efforts that would unwisely impose uniform solutions.