1) a place to certify students for the job market, essentially sorting them out for potential employers. If you can jump through the hoop, then employers will assume you can jump through their hoops, too, and will accept you as worthy.
2) a place of higher learning where members of society are enlightened, refined, introduced to higher forms of knowledge, and made to be more engaged citizens who will, in turn, improve society.
Theory 1 depends on tough standards, reliable testing, and on the college degree having economic value (all of which, according to the article, are on the decline).
Theory 2 depends on a free exchange of ideas, students motivated to grow and improve, and professors committed to teaching and engaging with students (also on the decline, according to the article).
The article is a bit of downer in places, but it's also a call for action.