The academic atmosphere in the United States has changed a great deal since the middle of the 20th century. Prior to World War II, most universities were sanctuaries for the often wealthy and well-connected to banter around lofty ideas at great length. Since WWII and the implementation of the GI Bill, American universities have began to look more like a corporation than an institution of higher learning. Whether it be the need for professors to publish or the competition for the limited grants available, a universities strives to use it’s arbitrarily defined output to receive financing and have lost focus on it’s primary role, undergraduate education.
During WWII, American tycoons who were often suspect of the kind of lofty ideas being bandied about in academia started to see the government finance a good amount of research and development in order to produce goods and services that would enhance the war effort. For example, Henry Ford, a great critic of FDR soon changed his tune when Ford Motors received large incentives and tax breaks to build vehicles that could be used on the battlefield, products that could also be used in the consumer marker.
Similarly, government incentives during WWII and in the early days of the Cold War turned universities from academic institutions to research & development factories for the government and big business. Additionally, university professors had to adapt to the new business model and do their part to acquire funds for their institutions by producing and publishing work that can, in turn, financial benefit the university with more research money from corporate, government, and personal grant sources.
In the end, the student gets left out, particularly the undergraduate student. It’s almost as if the newest students are viewed as sources of revenue building, adding far more their 2 cents worth by paying the ever-rising tuition costs. It isn’t until they reach graduate school, where they can be put into slave labor as a drone in a corporate or government sponsored research project or, worse still, do the work of professor (teaching classes and grading papers) for a small fraction of what a professional researcher or professor gets paid, that students are ever taken seriously for their input. The professors often look at the academic concerns of their students as an after thought to their real job, drawing attention to their research through publication as a means to acquire funding or, sometimes, for a little ego stroking.