A Collegiate Contract with America

February 15, 2006

Public institutions of higher education should focus on building stronger relationships with state government officials in efforts to accomplish results on a wide range of educational areas, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities says in a new report.

“Existing approaches to supporting and delivering public higher education must be reviewed and revised to ensure that the people’s universities are equipped to meet the needs of a growing, diversifying, and information driven society,” according to the report. “Failing to ask tough questions and make necessary changes in public policy and campus practice will effectively break a deal that has made the United States a world leader.”

Its authors say that amid federal and state funding constraints and the growth of for-profit institutions, “some may question what will be lost if public universities’ contract is not renewed, if it is no longer truly ‘public.’ ”

“The answer is simple,” they say, “the places and populations that are harder to serve and the programs that add value to society but not institutions’ bottom lines will be left behind. The promise of opportunity for all and partnerships for the public good will be broken.”

The report makes three key recommendations:

  • States and their universities must team together to sustain and develop a long-term vision for higher education.
  • Campuses and systems must work collaboratively to renew and update basic commitments of access and public partnership.
  • State level governments must move toward more flexible regulatory systems that promote innovation and responsiveness.

“A renewed approach to access must include reaching those most at risk of being left behind, boosting quality and productivity through innovations in academic programs, and gauging student success in those programs,” according to the report. “Similarly, universities’ partnerships in support of communities, regions, and states must reach broader and deeper into the daily life of the campus.”

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