From One Dupont Circle: Quarterly Update

Gregory Roberts
ACPA Executive Director

Greetings from One Dupont Circle!

I trust each of you had a productive summer in preparation for the new academic year. It is difficult to believe the heat of the summer of 2006 is concluding and the challenges of new beginnings and new opportunities await us.

With this issue of Developments, I want to focus my comments more on current events from the political scene of Washington, DC. Currently the results of a year’s work from the Commission on Higher Education, appointed by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is about to be released to the public. As of this writing I have had the opportunity to review the third draft of the report and would like to share a few highlights of the report.

“Our year long examination of the challenges facing higher education has brought us to the uneasy conclusion that the sectors past attainments have led our nation to unwarranted complacency about its future.”

This is one of the opening sentences from the draft report that is critical of the “complacency” of American higher education. As college student educators many of us already know the demographics of our traditional college age students are changing rapidly. The demands and needs of our older and working student population also continue to change. We can no longer conduct business as we have in years past. Technology alone will not permit this current kind of complacency. Cultural arrogance on behalf of a nation admired for educational attainment is at the threshold of mediocrity.

As college student educators, our time has come and we must be ready and willing to step up to the plate and bring our quality alternative and complimentary learning approaches to the table. The world is in need of globally educated citizens and we are capable of preparing global leaders to rise to the occasion. A holistic education is a key component and guess who brings a significant portion of that learning to be actualized … YOU — College Student Educators!

At this time the Commission presents six draft recommendations:*

  1. Every student in the nation should have the opportunity to pursue postsecondary education. We recommend, therefore, that the U.S. commit to an unprecedented effort to expand higher education access and success by improving student preparation and persistence, addressing non-academic barriers and providing significant increases in aid to low-income students.
  2. To address the escalating cost of a college education and the fiscal realities affecting government’s ability to finance higher education in the long run, we recommend that the entire student financial aid system be restructured and new incentives put in place to improve the measurement and management of costs and institutional productivity.
    1. Public providers of student financial aid should commit meeting the needs of students from low-income families.
    2. Policymakers and higher education leaders should develop, at the institutional level, new and innovative means to control costs, improve productivity, and increase the supply of higher education.
  3. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, higher education must change from a system primarily based on reputation to one based on performance. We urge the creation of a robust culture of accountability and transparency throughout higher education. Every one of our goals, from improving access and affordability to enhancing quality and innovation, will be more easily achieved if higher education embraces and implements serious accountability measures.
  4. With too few exceptions, higher education has yet to address the fundamental issues of how academic programs and institutions must be transformed to serve the changing needs of a knowledge economy. We recommend that America’s colleges and universities embrace a culture of continuous innovation and quality improvements by developing new [pedagogies, curricula, and technologies to improve learning, particularly in the area of science and mathematical literacy.
  5. America must ensure that our citizens have access to high quality and affordable educational, learning, and training opportunities throughout their lives. We recommend the development of a national strategy for lifelong learning that helps all citizens understand the importance of preparing for and participating in higher education throughout their lives.
  6. The United States must ensure the capacity of its universities to achieve global leadership in key strategic areas such as science, engineering, medicine, and other knowledge-intensive professions. We recommend increased federal investment in areas critical to our nation’s global competitiveness and a renewed commitment to attract the best and brightest minds from across the nation and around the world to lead the next wave of American innovation.

As you can see these initial draft recommendations have far reaching implications for higher education. Regardless of the outcome of the adoption of these recommendations, the political climate will continue to focus around the “three A’s” – Access, Affordability, and Accountability in American higher education. I look forward to the final report and our opportunity to discuss your view and reactions to these proposed changes in our profession.

The final report is expected to be released in September. At that time I would like to hold an “On-line Chat.” On Wednesday, September 28, 2006 from noon – 1:30 pm EST, I will be available to take your calls and discuss with you the potential opportunities this report presents for college student educators. Although the final report is yet to be released, I feel a discussion of the draft document and its implications for higher education pose many questions. There will be an e-lert the week prior to the “On-line Chat” to explain how to participate. A link to the final report, once it is released, will also be provided in a future e-lert.

Other activities of note is an important piece of legislation that is co-sponsored by Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Act of 2006 (S.3744). This legislation is designed to increase the number of college and university students studying overseas to one million per year (currently, fewer than 200,000 students per year participate). The bill seeks to increase the numbers of minority, low-income and community college students in study abroad programs, as well as increased the numbers of students studying in nontraditional countries.

I would hope that ACPA join in and strongly support this legislation. What better way to advance our students’ understanding of the global agenda but to experience it first-hand.

Let’s begin by advancing our own global understanding as educators and mentors of college students. As you know ACPA hosted a cultural study tour to Ghana, West Africa this past summer and will be co-hosting a cultural study tour with ACU-I, ACUHO-I, and NASPA to South Africa in May of 2007.This is a good beginning but let’s get our students around the globe. Our next efforts will be to develop a meaningful experience in a Latin American country in the very near future. Our program to Ghana, West Africa will be offered every other year, starting June 7-21, 2008.

Well, the capitol is quiet as Congress is on recess until after Labor Day and will return for a short session before the mid-term elections.

Until next time,

*Excerpts from the draft document of August 3, 2006 on the work of the Commission on Higher Education, from the Department of Education under the leadership of Mr. Charles Miller, chair and Secretary Spellings, US Department of Education.

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