Generational Shockwaves and the Implications for Higher Education

Generational Shockwaves and the Implications for Higher Education

Edited by Donald E. Heller and Madeleine B. d’ Ambrosio

This volume, part of the TIAA-CREF Institute Series on Higher Education, is based on a national conference convened by the Institute in November 2007. The generational issues that were the focus of the conference raise both risks and opportunities with the potential to profoundly affect our cultural environment, both inside and outside academe.

Chapter 8: Baby Boomers

Carol A. Cartwright

Subjects: economics and finance, public sector economics, education, education policy, politics and public policy, education policy, social policy and sociology, ageing, education policy


Carol A. Cartwright Members of the Baby Boomer Generation touch higher education at many points. They serve as faculty, staff, and administrators of colleges and universities. They are alumni, corporate partners, legislators, and donors. They are parents of traditional-aged students and many are students themselves. As the Baby Boomers begin to retire, discussion is needed about the possible effects of their decisions on various aspects of higher education. Boomers are expected to influence our thinking, and our actions, in areas such as providing opportunities for mature learners, determining appropriate approaches to philanthropy, and providing for retiree health care. The Baby Boomer panel was moderated by President Emeritus Carol Cartwright from Kent State University who framed the discussion by briefly describing some key differences between the pre-Boomer Generation and the Boomers. Referencing the work of David Stillman of BridgeWorks, she noted that Boomers are “raging against aging” and will have different attitudes and behaviors toward staying engaged and transferring wealth. While Boomers are committed to causes and are generally described as optimistic and idealistic, they are generally not as loyal and committed to institutions (as opposed to causes) as prior generations and will likely need to be involved and cultivated in different ways for their philanthropic support. Their energy and interest in staying active could translate into a desire to continue working and less predictability about retirement patterns. It could also create a large group of educated and enthusiastic volunteers for higher education and other...

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