Home Accountability Remaking the American University: Market-Smart and Mission-Centered

Remaking the American University: Market-Smart and Mission-Centered


Bob Zemsky, co-author of Remaking the American University: Market-Smart and Mission-Centered led a session for Presidents and Trustees of colleges and universities at the 2007 Higher Learning Commission annual meeting in Chicago.  At the time, he was a member and participant on the Spellings Commission and he provided the audience with an update on the Commission’s findings from his perspective.  I was pleasantly surprised when he did not take the side of many in Higher Education who prefer that the government and corporations leave the accountability issue alone.

After purchasing the book, I realized that Zemsky and his co-authors, Gregory Wegner and William Massy, have been writing about the changes in American universities for over twenty years.   They catalog the birth of the modern era in Higher Education to coincide with the launching of two events by the federal government:  passage of the GI Bill which increased the participation of America’s middle class in higher education and the Vannevar Bush (Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development) report recommending that the federal government fund scientific research through colleges and universities.  Since those two noteworthy events, the authors maintain that a college degree has become perceived as “an economic necessity pursued by the many, rather than a privilege reserved for the few.”

Zemsky, Wegner and Massy provide the reader with discussions of the market for education, the “arms race” for new students, and the influence of the U.S. News ranking systems.  They discuss consequences of some of these actions with chapters on college athletics, tenure’s “publish or perish” culture, and technology through e-learning.  Since our focus at APUS is on e-learning, I would take issue with the authors’ comment that “e-learning has become principally a way of distributing correspondence courses on the Web under the label of distance learning.”  I agree that there are institutions where their “online classes” are really an electronic assignment sheet and little else.  However, best practices developed and promulgated by organizations like the Sloan Consortium, are continuing to enhance the level of activity, learning, and learning outcomes through the serious providers of online distance education.

In the final chapters, the authors state firmly that there’s “no answer for those who want to put the genie back in the lamp.”  They maintain that quality has to be the focus of every institution and that access to higher education has to be expanded, particularly among minorities.  Teaching should be “a central criterion in review for all hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions.”  Learning assessments should be implemented.  Institutions need to talk more with their constituencies:  students, faculty, politicians and neighbors.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the primary issues of the accountability debate, the historical actions that led to today’s status quo, and the authors’ opinion on what can and should be done to more actively engage institutions of higher education in participating in the national dialogues.



Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.


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