For some years now the word among young people on the nation's campuses has been not to bother aspiring to a university professorship. In most disciplines, particularly the humanities, there simply were no jobs open, or too few to matter. Higher education had boomed in the 1950s and 1960s, and faculty members hired in those years rarely budged once they had tenure. But in the next decade many of those professors will be retiring; the nation's universities may face the same teacher shortages that confront public schools. Steps taken now can affect the quality of higher education for years to come.
Wisely looking ahead, the Ford Foundation has asked 39 of the nation's top colleges and universities to bid for $4.75 million in grants to help develop that teaching talent. Among the schools invited to bid are the University of California, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Oberlin.
"More undergraduates must choose faculty careers than have done so in recent years, and the quality of the graduate pool must rise," said Dr. Franklin A. Thomas, Ford Foundation president, in announcing the program. "At present, relatively few of our best students pursue the Ph.D. and become college teachers." By the year 2010, schools may need half a million new professors.