The main premise of the book is that American higher education has, to put it simply, lost touch with its roots. The authors argue that the current (and by current they mean the last 30-45 years) trends in higher education have led to a bloated, wasteful and ineffective system. The main points purpoted by the authors are:
1) Higher education is too expensive. They argue that the rise in cost is a result of lower public support, irrationally high salaries for tenured professors and hot-shot administrators, a perverse association between prestige and cost, and lavish student amenities that do little to foster academic excellence.
2) Students are not engaged in actual learning. The main culprit here, they argue, is a tenure system which rewards research prowess over good teaching.
3) Higher education has become increasingly vocationalized at the expense of teaching creativity and critical thinking.
Throughout the book the authors use data compiled from a miriad of reliable and respectable sources to shore up their arguments. And at the end of the book they present the reader with a “Top 10” list of schools which they think do a pretty good job of educating students for a very reasonable tuition cost.