A career academic at the likes of Harvard and Macalester before retreating to the Montana wilderness (""with a sense of sadness for the state of education in America""), Alston Chase could easily be accused of a reactionary stance: according to him, everything was better way-back-when. But despite some overkill, Chase does manage to arouse concern over such issues as university-government incest; ""rather than perceiving itself as having an active role in shaping a future society,"" he writes, ""the college today sees itself as having a passive role, of copying society."" Nor will Chase admit a plea of financial necessity: the colleges started downward economically before the drop in enrollment, he charses, by proliferating courses on the ""periphery"" of the traditional liberal arts core. He's indignant, too, at student living conditions (particularly the lack of privacy and administration control); the abandonment of general education requirements (one student got through most college courses with a paper on Macaulay); overspecialization; and a general lowering of standards mirrored in such options as pass/fail grades. ""Options"" may be the key here; Chase simply thinks that students have too many of them (courtesy of the Sixties and the universities' readiness to abdicate control), and that the appointed ""advisors"" can't counterbalance this damaging, discipline-lacking situation. Some of the flaws in his position are obvious: though he claims to have interviewed people at ""dozens"" of colleges nationwide, Chase leans heavily on the Ivies and other ""elitist"" schools for support, for ""if conditions are disgraceful at Yale, they are disgraceful everywhere""--a dubious assumption. Then, too, he assumes that the only right way to go is backwards: if discipline is called for, why not look to the students for self-discipline rather than beg administrations to resume the ""in loco parentis"" role? The final third of the book looks askance at some aspects of student selection and adjustment--contending, for one thing, that grades and scores are almost all that counts. For that kind of information, readers should first look to Frank Leana's Getting Into College (below); on the total scene, this merits measured consideration.