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This article proposes a framework for analyzing the impact of social change on universities, using Midwestern states to flesh out the perspective. The framework draws together political, economic and, demographic changes by using the concept of bureaucratic organizations. More specifically, it uses the notions of the internal and the external environments of universities as organizations to examine the impact of societal change upon universities in general and, by extension, on sociologists’ knowledge. The internal environment is viewed as the administrative effort to rationalize the external and internal environments with programmatic changes. The central concerns here are financial control and privatization. To examine the external environment, the article includes demographic and economic data as well as the importance of for-profit higher education programs. Efforts to rationalize the university with the external environment have led to greatly increased use of contingent faculty and disturbing, even shocking, levels of student debt. The advantage of the framework lies in its ability to integrate diverse actors in higher education into the context of wider societal forces.



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