UIUC philosophy professor talks about decrease in support of higher education

Abbey Whittington, Entertainment Editor

Christopher Higgins, a philosophy professor from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will be visiting Eastern for his lecture, “The Death Spiral of Contemporary Higher Education” at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Doudna Fine Arts Center’s Lecture Hall.

Higgins’s lecture will inform attendees of his argument on how there has been a decrease in the support of education.

He will also be talking about what people’s reasons for attending college are now as opposed to what their reasoning would have been years prior.

Higgins received his Ph.D. in philosophy and education from Columbia University and serves as the editor of Educational Theory , a bimonthly publication owned and produced by the University of Illinois that discusses the theoretical problems with the education profession.

Higgins has published many articles on education theory and policy including the monograph “The Good Life of Teaching: An Ethics of Professional Practice” and in 2013 he co-directed the first National Empowerment for Humanities Summer Institute to focus on the translation of “The Centrality of Translation to the Humanities.”

CC Wharram, English professor and director of Eastern’s Center for the Humanities, said a few decades ago it would have been rare for a university to market itself as a good investment but now it is fairly common to say a university degree is a good investment.

“While that is likely true, there’s an outcome from this kind of language and this kind of thinking that equates a university degree with a higher income in life,” Wharram said. “If a lot of folks make that equation, ‘you go to a university to make more money later,’ that is going to have an affect on whether or not public universities provide a public good and not simply a private good.”

Wharram said this lack of support for public higher education can be reflected in political representative’s actions, or lack of actions, and in research that includes public surveys.

Higgins will touch on how lack of support for higher education is not just a statewide issue, but a nationwide issue as well.

“The problem with the whole investment language and higher education isn’t that it’s untrue. It’s just that it’s true for the entire country-or the entire economy if we want to use economic language,” Wharram said. “That’s why higher education is so much less expensive and sometimes free in other countries. They see it as a good investment in the future because it is.”

The committee of the center for the humanities chose Higgins to speak last year, and he will be doing a question and answer session after his lecture.  The committee was unsure if they would be able to pay Higgins for giving the lecture; however, Higgins offered to do it for free.

“I think that understanding the long view of what’s happening with higher education in the U.S. will help us diagnose what’s happening now in Illinois with our current budget situation which is, to be frank, ripping at the heart of this community, since Coles County is so dependent on EIU in coarse economic terms,” Wharram said. “If we understand the big picture, it might help us figure out how to confront the difficulties Springfield is making for us.”


Abbey Whittington can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]