Starving the Beast: The Battle to Disrupt and Reform America’s Public Universities

Directed by Steve Mims

This documentary examines the on-going power struggle on college campuses across the nation as political and market-oriented forces push to disrupt and reform America’s public universities. The film documents a philosophical shift that seeks to reframe public higher education as a ‘value proposition’ to be borne by the beneficiary of a college degree rather than as a ‘public good’ for society. Financial winners and losers emerge in a struggle poised to profoundly change public higher education. The film focuses on dramas playing out at the University of Wisconsin, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, Louisiana State University, University of Texas and Texas A&M.


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  • ★★★½ review by Libby Banks on Letterboxd

    Documentary about how ideological clashes are causing public universities to fall apart (mainly, how running a university like a business is not necessarily the best strategy). Very well done, and very interesting. Also totally fed into my weird crush on James Carville, which is never a bad thing.

  • ★★★½ review by Rod Machen on Letterboxd

    An opinionated but fair look at an ongoing crisis in Higher Ed.

  • ★★★½ review by MaryAnn Johanson on Letterboxd

    Lays out with calm, terrifying clarity how US public universities are being turned into profit-making ventures at the expense of students and education.

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  • ★★★★ review by Kenneth Morefield on Letterboxd

    Please watch this film before the next election.

  • ★★★★ review by Joshua Sikora on Letterboxd

    SXSW 2016 — Told from an unabashedly liberal political point-of-view, the film does an impressive job of exposing key challenges in higher education and exploring some of the complications that are resulting from politicians on the left and right using public education as a pawn in their political games. While Washington fights over how to fund universities (if at all), students and professors are caught in the lurch. 'Starving the Beast' reveals how poorly conceived policies are being implemented — under the guise of cost-savings — to facilitate massive overreach from the federal government into the educational administration of public universities. Speaking from my own experience in academia, what the film gets right is that education cannot be approached as merely a product to be consumed by customers. Politicians argue for more “efficient” approaches, such as online education, with little regard to how effective those new approaches may be. In the end, it’s the students that are suffering the most. Despite its strong political bias, 'Starving the Beast' is well worth checking out for anyone who cares about the future of education in America.

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