Skip repetitive navigational links
View: Next message | Previous More Hitsmessage
Next in topic | Previous More Hitsin topic
Next by same author | Previous More Hitsby same author
Previous page (September 2005) | Back to main LRNASST-L page
Join or leave LRNASST-L (or change settings)
Reply | Post a new message
Log in
Options:   Chronologically | Most recent first
Proportional font | Non-proportional font


Spellings/U.S. Commission con't


Dan Kern <[log in to unmask]>


Dan Kern <[log in to unmask]>


Wed, 21 Sep 2005 09:17:57 -0500





text/plain (151 lines)

Sept. 21

What Should the U.S. Commission Do?
On Monday, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced the creation of a national Commission on the Future of Higher Education. She said the panel would help develop a "comprehensive national strategy for postsecondary education," exploring such issues as access, affordability, and higher education's role in reversing America's declining competitiveness in the world economy.

Like most such commissions, this one is dominated by leaders and policy makers, with relatively little representation from rank and file professors and college staff members or from students who represent the front line consumers of higher education.

The panel is undoubtedly going to hear from some of those people during the series of public meetings it plans to hold beginning October 17, but Inside Higher Ed invited a wide range of people from across the higher education spectrum to offer some initial suggestions on issues the commission should explore, approaches it might take, and perspectives it ought to include.

We'd encourage you to add your own ideas to those below, by clicking on the comment button at the bottom of the article.

Abraham Lackman, president, New York State's Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities:

The problem I generally have with commissions is that they tend to focus on what's wrong with something without trying to say, Is it working? It is my belief, and I think is most folks' reckoning, that the higher education system in America is probably the best in the world. If you have something that's good, you build on its strengths. So the question for this commission should be "How do we make it stronger?," as opposed to "What's wrong with it?"

The second issue, and this is a perspective I bring from New York State, is that I have always seen federal involvement focus on the issue of access, whereas in the states, especially, governments are also looking at economic development. Colleges in the Northeast are increasingly looked at as tools to solve problems, particularly in the transition from manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy. Is it time for the federal government to look more at colleges and universities as an asset in terms of economic development? There's a real role for the federal government in terms of equipment and capital for our universities, which I'd argue are just as important to the national infrastructure and economy going forward as roads and bridges and the transportation system.

Vicky Lepore, coordinator for library research, Lake City Community College (Fla.):

If this board is going to make a unique impact, they need some representation of students to stay grounded, to plant more world values and synergetic vision into our educational system, and break out of old problem-solving patterns. I would hope that the board includes some representation from our most outspoken critics of our educational system, too.

I don't agree that the U.S. education system is "by far the leading system in the world." I think we lead in energy consumption, and entertainment, and adult illiteracy, but our values don't reflect much about being responsible world citizens, much less how to compete in that world economy. Will the board's purpose include translating our educational values and vision into producing students with a sense of responsibility and ethics for the world family?

Michael Offerman, president, Capella University:

It is difficult to know just what the Commission is going to deliberate since we have so little information at this point. But it seems obvious that the last thing any of us want to see is more regulation or unfunded mandates.

That said, it would be beneficial if the Commission could help to define a big picture policy agenda that fosters innovation and greater public understanding of the value of higher education for the individual and for society. It is especially important that consumers, employers and federal and state public policy makers understand the value of higher education. While it would be a mistake for the federal government to mandate specified outcomes for higher education institutions, it might be beneficial to outline a common platform for discussing educational outcomes in a way that the various constituencies can clearly understand and trust.

It might also be a beneficial if there was specific encouragement and support for innovation in higher education. The marketplace may drive competition and change in higher education, but the regulatory structures discourage institutional risk-taking and innovation. The structures complicate the creation and potential for success of new institutions with new missions or for new approaches within existing institutions. That is not to say that innovation does not occur, but more innovation and change is necessary to provide access to new audiences, including minorities and adults.

Innovation and change are also necessary to turn around the fact that our country is losing its competitive edge in the global economy. Yet there are tremendous pressures to simply continue the status quo and to judge changes and innovations by how much the changes look like and produce the same outcomes as existing programs and organizations. Perhaps it is time for a new version of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education with a focus on things such as minority access and degree completion, increased delivery of science and math programs and access for adults learners who need to increase their knowledge and job skills. Perhaps there needs to be some formally recognized "safe space" within which institutions can innovate in the form of new approaches, new delivery modes and new pedagogy without putting their standing within the higher education community at risk... Perhaps The Washington Monthly College Guide is on the right track by creating a ranking that considers societal impacts, asking "what colleges are doing for the country."

In the end, if we are going to have a Commission, it is my hope that that body avoid mandates and focus on stimulating new and innovative solutions for higher education to use in addressing major societal issues.

Luke Swarthout, associate, State PIRGs Higher Education Project:

We think there are a plethora of questions to be addressed in higher education and are excited about the opportunity this commission provides to dig into broad as well as detailed questions.

Broadly: What are the needs of our economy and our civil society and what role should higher education play in American society? What should be the goals for college attendance - should we be working to aggressively increase the percentage of our citizens who attend college? How will we educate those students both from a logistical and pedagogical point of view?

Then how will we finance higher education, thinking about ensuring access for the millions of students entering college? How will we keep college affordable and how should higher education be financed? What responsibilities do the federal and state governments have to provide an affordable education?

What place does student borrowing have in paying for college and how does loan debt affect access or affect the quality of a student's education? Within the realm of financing alone there are questions of how to encourage state investment in higher education and how to find efficiencies within the student loan programs.

I should say that we are excited to work with the commission and hope that the absence of any student or consumer voice is not indicative of their lack of interest in addressing higher education from the student and consumer perspective.

Jonathan Brown, president, Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities

I am not sure I agree with the initial purpose of the group but a lot of that depends on how they conceive of themselves. The Economist just published one of its surveys that argued forcefully that the weakness of European higher education was its tendency to have a centralized focus and conversely the strength of the American system was its decentralization.

That being said, I think it is appropriate to have a distinguished group of people think about the future (and this is a pretty distinguished group). I know several of them and respect their work. There are also a couple who I disagree with from their writings about higher education - but on the whole the group looks like a good one. Higher education's strength, IMHO, is in part reflected by what The Economist recently said - its diversity - so I think the balance of their process should be to help all of higher education think about alternative futures without being too prescriptive.

Many blue sky activities like this often come up with conclusions that ignore basic trends that are not well understood at the time (think Malthus and his complete lack of understanding of the effects of the steel plow) but to get higher education to begin to think about what comes next (in the words of H.G. Wells) is a good idea. David Warren, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities' president, argued about five years ago that several fundamental conceptions of higher education (a degree, a course, a student, and even a university) were undergoing fundamental redefinition. Challenging those of us in higher education to confront those changes and those stake holders to confront the same set of issues would be a good idea.

Kathryn Jones, executive director, Higher Education Alumni Council of Oklahoma:

I am always a little leery when an organization w/ heavy representation from the business community is formed to 'study' education. I can't recall a comparable committee composed primarily of educators to "study" business. The implication appears to be that since we haven't/can't/won't take care of problems, they'll do it for us.

My thoughts re: this task force are such:

  a.. What is Secretary Spellings' agenda? Did she wake up one morning and say, "Let's have a panel to study higher education?"

  b.. It was said that "the federal government has every right to examine academe more closely." Are there not controls already in place to review financial aid policies, contracts, etc.?

  c.. Does she plan to get into the rankings' game?

Big Sister may be here.

Ronald G. Ehrenberg, director, Cornell Higher Education Research Institute:

Perhaps the most important thing that I think the commission can do is to analyze how our current federal policies encourage states to reduce their support of their public higher education institutions and to raise tuition; doing so increases the level of Pell Grants that students in the state are eligible for and shifts the cost of public higher education in the state from taxpayers in the state to students and taxpayers in the nation as a whole.

As my friends Tom Kane and King Alexander have pointed out, federal policies should encourage states to spend more on their public higher education systems, not to spend less (In contrast, when states cut back their expenditures on Medicaid, they lose federal matching funds). Given the tremendous inequalities in enrollment and graduation rates between students from families in the lower tail of the family income distribution and students from other families, the commission also should consider what innovative federal policies would encourage higher education institutions to make extra efforts to enroll students from lower-income families and to provide the service these students need to succeed in higher education. An example of such a policy might be a program that provides grants to public and private higher education institutions for each Pell Grant recipient that they graduate.

Richard Ekman, president, Council for Independent Colleges:

If achieving better results from institutions of higher education is to be a major focus of the new commission, it will need to examine the practices of smaller private institutions. If the commission looks into the matter, it will likely be persuaded to advocate for all of American higher education many of the features that are commonly found in the smaller institutions. The amount of student engagement in learning, of cognitive growth, and postgraduate civic involvement are all greater, on average, for smaller private institutions than for other kinds of colleges and universities.

Small colleges also enroll and graduate low-income, minority, and first-generation students at higher rates than larger public institutions. And they utilize far less public money to produce these results than state-supported institutions do.

Yet most state and federal policies - and the flow of public funds - ignore these distinctions. We need public policies that reward institutional effectiveness and encourage more bang for the public buck.

- Doug Lederman

Shared sacrifice?
Along with health care, education costs have been increasing at twice the rate of inflation for nearly a decade. This is simply unsustainable and unworkable - to deny that is to deny the financial hardships faced by working-class students today. Hard decisions on priorities and attainable goals have to be made, and PDQ.

As a political independent, let me suggest a symbolic first step: college presidents making over $125,000/year contribute back to their institution at least 5% of their salaries.

Leadership starts at the top, leadership is symbolic. If leadership does not (or will not) lead in containing costs, why should anyone else? At that point, issues such as public service in lieu of tuition and increased taxpayer support are left on the side of the road, IMHO.

R.A. Shaw, College-town resident, at 6:25 am EDT on September 21, 2005

The same people who destroyed genuine public educational accountability in Texas and are destroying it now nationwide through NCLB have turned their sights to higher education. First Texas, then the nation. As a James Bond plot might say: "The World is Not Enough" for these folks. Public policy disaster follows these folks, and this will be no different.

Jimmy Kilpatrick, Editor, at 6:45 am EDT on September 21, 2005

Predatory For-Profit Institutions
I work for a regionally accredited for-profit four-year institution. My employer is in the same mold as the University of Phoenix, Strayer University, or American InterContinental University, but at 7,500 students is a bit smaller. These institutions exist because of the Title IV system. It is not a coincdence that their tuition rates resemble one another's closely, nor that they all approach the annual cap in available federal funding.

These institutions prey upon unsophisticated prospective students, making vague assurances about job placement and high salaries in the fields where they offer instruction, and not at all emphasizing the sixty thousand dollar price tag accompanying the completion of these often mediocre programs. Ours in particular shamelessly targets poor immigrant students, many of whom do not speak English well.

I believe the commission should focus on the value that students get from universities that charge tuition rates that are designed to be as high as possible under Title IV, and in particular should at the very least consider requiring participating institutions to make the total cost completely understood by students in advance of any application fee or other commitment.

Afraid To Be Named, Staff Member at For-Profit Institution, at 9:12 am EDT on September 21, 2005

Commission make-up points to the outcome expected
Looking at the comission make-up, I see a heady mixture of for-profit 'learning' people and others caught up in the business of education and the adminstering of education...and few practioners. I see even fewer people who might bring a 'progressive' or altenative view of what education is and should do. In a word (or two)I see adherents to the "banking statements" of education and few who see education as more than a corporatized commodity.

Is it fair to guess, then, that this commission will focus on business and commodification and not on the role of an educated population?

All education both socializes AND teaches individuals to think...antithetical goals in today's world. And yes, budgets need to be met. But, it is time to swing back toward critical thinking and away from education as commodity. The make-up of the commission points in the wrong direction.

Theron P. Snell, at 9:25 am EDT on September 21, 2005

No College Student Left Behind?
From the perspective of education, I have two instincts here. One the one hand, having taught at a state university, there really needs to be some standards set with respect to writing. So many people complain about the inability of 4-year and even grad school graduates to write well. Students came into my course, having already passed through freshman English, with no experience writing an MLA essay. On the other hand, I have two sons who attend well-respected but very different schools, one what might be called pre-professional and the other the traditional liberal arts. Each kind has its benefits, and I wouldn't want to see a cookie-cutter approach applied to either. Universities do tend to monitor their curriculum more carefully and more regularly, it seems to me, than do K-12. And clearly, innovation, which is critically important, comes from those colleges and universities that innovate on their own.

Name Withheld, at 10:04 am EDT on September 21, 2005

Got something to say?

Dan Kern
Reading Skills Improvement
East Central College AD21
1964 Prairie Dell Road
Union, MO 63084
Phone: 636-583-5195
Extension: 2426
Fax: 636-584-0513
Email: [log in to unmask]
"What you teach is second
to whom you teach. If it isn't,
please find a 'job' very far
away from students"
(Andy Maedit)

To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your web browser to

To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]

Advanced Options


Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password

Search Archives

Search Archives

Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011, Week 3
January 2011, Week 2
January 2011, Week 1
January 2011
December 2010, Week 5
December 2010, Week 4
December 2010, Week 3
December 2010, Week 2
December 2010, Week 1
November 2010, Week 5
November 2010, Week 4
November 2010, Week 3
November 2010, Week 2
November 2010, Week 1
October 2010, Week 5
October 2010, Week 4
October 2010, Week 3
October 2010, Week 2
October 2010, Week 1
September 2010, Week 5
September 2010, Week 4
September 2010, Week 3
September 2010, Week 2
September 2010, Week 1
August 2010, Week 5
August 2010, Week 4
August 2010, Week 3
August 2010, Week 2
August 2010, Week 1
July 2010, Week 5
July 2010, Week 4
July 2010, Week 3
July 2010, Week 2
July 2010, Week 1
June 2010, Week 5
June 2010, Week 4
June 2010, Week 3
June 2010, Week 2
June 2010, Week 1
May 2010, Week 4
May 2010, Week 3
May 2010, Week 2
May 2010, Week 1
April 2010, Week 5
April 2010, Week 4
April 2010, Week 3
April 2010, Week 2
April 2010, Week 1
March 2010, Week 5
March 2010, Week 4
March 2010, Week 3
March 2010, Week 2
March 2010, Week 1
February 2010, Week 4
February 2010, Week 3
February 2010, Week 2
February 2010, Week 1
January 2010, Week 5
January 2010, Week 4
January 2010, Week 3
January 2010, Week 2
January 2010, Week 1
December 2009, Week 5
December 2009, Week 4
December 2009, Week 3
December 2009, Week 2
December 2009, Week 1
November 2009, Week 5
November 2009, Week 4
November 2009, Week 3
November 2009, Week 2
November 2009, Week 1
October 2009, Week 5
October 2009, Week 4
October 2009, Week 3
October 2009, Week 2
October 2009, Week 1
September 2009, Week 5
September 2009, Week 4
September 2009, Week 3
September 2009, Week 2
September 2009, Week 1
August 2009, Week 5
August 2009, Week 4
August 2009, Week 3
August 2009, Week 2
August 2009, Week 1
July 2009, Week 5
July 2009, Week 4
July 2009, Week 3
July 2009, Week 2
July 2009, Week 1
June 2009, Week 5
June 2009, Week 4
June 2009, Week 3
June 2009, Week 2
June 2009, Week 1
May 2009, Week 5
May 2009, Week 4
May 2009, Week 3
May 2009, Week 2
May 2009, Week 1
April 2009, Week 5
April 2009, Week 4
April 2009, Week 3
April 2009, Week 2
April 2009, Week 1
March 2009, Week 5
March 2009, Week 4
March 2009, Week 3
March 2009, Week 2
March 2009, Week 1
February 2009, Week 4
February 2009, Week 3
February 2009, Week 2
February 2009, Week 1
January 2009, Week 5
January 2009, Week 4
January 2009, Week 3
January 2009, Week 2
January 2009, Week 1
December 2008, Week 5
December 2008, Week 4
December 2008, Week 3
December 2008, Week 2
December 2008, Week 1
November 2008, Week 5
November 2008, Week 4
November 2008, Week 3
November 2008, Week 2
November 2008, Week 1
October 2008, Week 5
October 2008, Week 4
October 2008, Week 3
October 2008, Week 2
October 2008, Week 1
September 2008, Week 5
September 2008, Week 4
September 2008, Week 3
September 2008, Week 2
September 2008, Week 1
August 2008, Week 5
August 2008, Week 4
August 2008, Week 3
August 2008, Week 2
August 2008, Week 1
July 2008, Week 5
July 2008, Week 4
July 2008, Week 3
July 2008, Week 2
July 2008, Week 1
June 2008, Week 5
June 2008, Week 4
June 2008, Week 3
June 2008, Week 2
June 2008, Week 1
May 2008, Week 5
May 2008, Week 4
May 2008, Week 3
May 2008, Week 2
May 2008, Week 1
April 2008, Week 5
April 2008, Week 4
April 2008, Week 3
April 2008, Week 2
April 2008, Week 1
March 2008, Week 5
March 2008, Week 4
March 2008, Week 3
March 2008, Week 2
March 2008, Week 1
February 2008, Week 5
February 2008, Week 4
February 2008, Week 3
February 2008, Week 2
February 2008, Week 1
January 2008, Week 5
January 2008, Week 4
January 2008, Week 3
January 2008, Week 2
January 2008, Week 1
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
April 1998
March 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997
November 1997
October 1997
September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997
December 1996
November 1996
October 1996
September 1996
August 1996
July 1996
June 1996
May 1996
April 1996
March 1996
February 1996
January 1996
December 1995
November 1995
October 1995
September 1995
August 1995
July 1995
June 1995
May 1995
April 1995
March 1995
February 1995
January 1995



CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager