Leaders of state universities nationwide were in Washington March 21 to ask for greater public support to continue providing quality education and more resources.
The Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities, a 24-member panel chaired by Penn State President Graham B. Spanier, issued its sixth and final report -- Learning, Discovery, and Engagement in a New Age and Different World. The report states that governments and colleges must collaborate to broaden access to higher education and better engage their surrounding communities.
The commission members, who are also college presidents, urge passage of a Higher Education Millennial Partnership Act to enable institutions to meet rising demands for student access, advanced technology and assistance to K-12 education. Commission members envision such an act as "the information age" equivalent of the legislation that founded public universities in the 19th century -- the Morrill Act of 1862.
"We have provided millions of people with the benefits of a first-rate education and been the intellectual force between economic development in many states and communities, in return for public financing and governance," Spanier said. "As the millennium dawns, though, we need to reshape this historic agreement so that it fits the times that are emerging, instead of the times that have passed."
The commission wants to reshape the historic covenant between public universities and the American people in such areas as access, for example. According to the report, severe racial, ethnic and economic disparities characterize enrollment and graduation rates in public higher education. One analysis reveals that by age 24, fully 48 percent of young men and women from high-income families have graduated from college, compared to only 7 percent of low-income adults. The panel says public universities should provide genuinely equal access to students of all ages and backgrounds, and make conscious efforts to focus the resources and expertise of the institutions on community, state, national and international problems. They are also committed to supporting excellence in undergraduate, graduate and professional curricula, and to making an open accounting of progress toward achieving the public good.
On the public's side, the commission asks for legislation that would:
n Ensure that public universities have the technological infrastructure needed for advanced information technology operations throughout the institutions to meet obligations to current students, create new partnerships with K-12 education and make the concept of lifelong learning a reality.
n Change federal tax policy to encourage more private-sector partnerships with universities for joint research and educational activities.
n Create tax incentives for parents and students to save for educational expenses by making the contributions to education savings accounts available for full- or part-time study throughout an individual's lifetime.
Public colleges and universities educate about two-thirds of the students attending four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. -- roughly 6 million students annually.
The Kellogg Commission also calls on state governments to:
n Renew their commitment to provide the bulk of the basic support for tuition and educational expenses for public higher education, even as institutions seek new sources of research funds.
n Understand that patronage and politics have no place in appointing governing boards or administrative leaders if public universities are to provide the intellectual and economic leadership states need.
For a copy of this and the other five Kellogg Reports, go to http://www.nasulgc.org/Kellog/STATEMENTS/Default.htm.
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