January 14, 2010
7 p.m. Evening Keynote Address by Martha Kanter, Under Secretary of Education
A System of the Whole: How to Refocus America's Educational System on K-16 Alignment
Martha Kanter, Under Secretary of Education, said the government would like to hear from higher education experts as the Obama administration defines what it means to have the best educated and most competitive workplace in the world.
The government will look for solutions to improve higher education at all grade levels, she said. For example, the Obama administration is interested in encouraging research in early learning with coordination of the Department of Health and Human Services “to get children ready to learn when they enter kindergarten.” This is part of the Obama administration's "craddle to career" philosophy, she said.
“We are all thinking of this as a connected seamless system,” she said. “We have a huge problem at the high school level, and if we go backwards, 20 percent of kids are not ready to enter kindergarten."
A part of the solution, she said, is working together to create a common set of educational standards.
"We have gotten 48 of 50 states to work on a common set of standards that everyone will agree upon and that are higher than what we have today," she said.
She added that standards and accountability will impact teachers. "There are ways to tie student learning outcomes to teacher performance, especially in K-12, which is why schools of education are going to be tremendously important."
Kanter said she said she appreciates input the higher education community can provide in these and other issues. She said she is encouraged by work being done to create a voluntary system of accreditation, and encourages the involvement of the higher education community to help define some of these parameters.
Kanter said she is concerned the immediate needs for work skills might overshadow the value of a strong liberal arts background. "The arts and the sciences work together to create a highly educated American public," she said. "I think we lose that sometimes when we think about the immediate needs of a country and getting people back to work as soon as possible."
Kanter concluded by saying that the government wants to move forward with direct lending programs for students , and that it takes about a month to convert a university to direct lending status.
1:15 p.m. Session 2 – In Sync: Linking State Higher Education Imperatives to the New Federal Agenda
Rod Chu, Chancellor Emeritus, Ohio Board of Regents, explained how over the past 25 years state funding per student in constant dollars has remained mostly flat. Meanwhile, he said, total state expenditures increased because enrollment rose. However, per student tuition doubled after adjusting for inflation.
Chu cited figures that U.S. spending on higher education is over $22,000, which is twice what the developing world spends. At the same time, he also noted that public four-year tuition and fees rose 50 percent faster than inflation from 1995 to 2005. Meanwhile, he said, the educational system hasn't fundamentally changed. Some of his suggestions:
- Change the emphasis from "access" to "completion." This means it may be all right for some students to take one course at a time as long as they complete their education.
- Focus more on competencies, with an understanding of what education is required for our graduates in a 21st Century economy as well as what is needed for a free and democratic society.
- Make education more of a continuous process so that "graduates can begin working and come back for additional education as they need it to keep on learning and keep their current jobs."
Daniel J. Hurley, Director of State Relations and Policy Analysis with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, painted a picture of the country's economic landscape and the fiscal pressures and threats challenging higher education.
He noted that the federal stimulus money directed towards higher educational institutions "has been a lifeblood, especially for public sector institutions."
But he said that 90 percent of state fiscal stabilization funds will be exhausted by June 30 of this year, and that means that "the fiscal year 2011 will make for the most fiscally interesting and austere (year)...perhaps in our history in terms of financing state public education and financial aid programs."
Dennis P. Jones, President of The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, said that President Obama's call to increase the number of college graduates (by 2020) "is not just about keeping up with Canada...It's about the future of a democratic society."
He said the goal adds up to handing out 11.7 million additional degrees by 2020. "That's a stretch goal but not so audacious that we can't get there from here, particularly when we talk about all degrees and meaningful certificates."
Jones also advocates changes in how state money is allocated, with states focusing on goals and accountability and institutions having latitude in how these goals are achieved.
Jane Wellman, Executive Director of the Delta Project on Postsecondary Costs, Productivity and Accountability, mentioned that higher education institutions need to look more closely into how they spend their money on administrative expenses.
"There has been a gradual increase in administrative spending. Institutions need to pay attention to what is going on there. Every one of those decisions that lead to incremental growth in administrative costs probably had a good reason behind it, but in the end of the day there is a pattern there behind it that doesn't make sense, and we need to make sure resources go towards student academic success."
Wellman also said that the first two years in students' higher education experiences merit extra attention. "If we are to increase student success...we need to pay attention to see what happens in those first two years. That's where we invest the least in their success, so we have got to do something about that."
Noon: Luncheon Keynote Speaker, Molly Corbett Broad. President of the American Council on Education
Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, said she sees the current educational landscape in the United States to be at a tipping point as global economic trends shift towards emerging powers such as China and India.
"For the first time in recent history we may produce the first generation of adults who have less education than the next-oldest generation of adults," she said. "We are approaching a tipping point."
Broad said that "new competitors and emerging super powers are on the horizon" and that quality education is critical in assuring the United State's labor and economic future.
The combined population of China and India, which both have large numbers of young people, is eight times the population of the United States, she said. Broad also cited statistics showing that today Europe and the United States dominate slightly more than 50 percent of the global economy but by 2050, more than 50 percent of the world's economic activity will come from Asia.
Both China and India are emphasizing greater college access for their young populations, Broad said. Young people from these countries, she said, "will clearly be the engines of their economies for many years go come."
"The U.S. won't be able to compete in the issue of quantity, but the quality of education is critical that it be the best in the world's and that we have a work force that is educated - with creativity and innovation being front and center," she said.
Broad shared statistics showing that the percentage of U.S. jobs requiring at least some post secondary education has grown from 28 percent in 1973 to a projected 63 percent in 2018.
"If we can't produce individuals with this level of ability...the out-sourcing of blue and pink and white jobs may grow from a trickle to a flood," she said.
She cited international rankings in which the United States now ranks tenth in terms of the percentage of adults with post-secondary credentials. Canada, which holds the top ranking, has managed to increase the percentage of adults (ages 25-34) who have post-secondary credentials from 39 percent to 56 percent.
Obama's goals, she noted, are meant to increase the percentage of adults with post-secondary credentials from 40 percent to 60 percent.
She noted a part of the challenge is in addressing educational equity issues to ensure that all student groups have access to college. She cited statistics that indicate Hispanics, which are the fastest growing population segment, are less likely to have completed post-secondary credentials. Only 17 percent of Hispanics between the ages of 25-29 have at least an associate's degree, according to the cited statistics.
The most recent development in response to some of these critical issues, she said, are national discussions about common "college-ready standards for high schools."
Meanwhile, the United States will continue to face "incredible competition from other countries" as it attempts to maintain its economic strength in a rapidly changing global economy in which countries like China and India are becoming more dominant.
"I hope it gives you a sense of the importance and sense of urgency and a realization that higher education is literally a lynchpin to our economic future," she said. "Because the administration recognizes this …higher education has enjoyed unprecedented federal support over past year, but we know this support is not unconditional. It comes with high expectations for performance and productivity.
9:45 a.m. Session 1 – The Reemergence of the Federal Government and What It Means for Educational Policy
The Obama Administration's stated goal to reclaim the title of the "most educated country in the world" by 2020 (according to international standards) is fueling discussions over the proper way to do that. This panel discussed how Obama's initiatives will impact higher education, including the federal role in advancing the nation's collective educational goals.
Bryan Cook, Director of Policy Analysis, American Council on Education, noted that the federal government's goal of becoming the "most educated country" glosses over some significant underlying factors. For example, changing demographics and immigration trends in the United States create greater challenges, especially when compared to countries that have smaller populations and less immigration. "I'm not stating either side on the immigration debate, but logic would dictate that without addressing immigration policies, attaining these (education) goals will be extremely difficult," he said.
Cook also noted that educational policies shouldn't be solely about reaching "numbers," but in addressing quality over quantity. "Different benchmarks show that this isn't fundamentally about reaching a certain number but about a national agenda that hasn't moved significantly," he said.
Ed Elmendorf, Vice President for Government Relations, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, also expressed concern about how funds are distributed in regards to student educational data and outcomes. "As an association we support the greater goal, and we don't support and will not support a number set by the federal government or a number set by the state," he said. "We would rather see there be a competition within the states for the funds that the states get."
He also said that stipulations and standards may put colleges and universities in a difficult position in attempting to attain college access goals, making his point with a rhetorical question: "Do you admit only those that you know will be successful because it makes the institution look good and meets the goals set by the state - if the state imposes them - or do you apply what resources you have to make successful those who do come?" he said.
Don Heller, Senior Scientist and Professor of Education, The Pennsylvania State University, provided retrospect on the nation's educational goals with a report card for the 2006 Spellings Commission, which called for a range of higher education improvements. These included expanding access, restructuring financial aid, and accountability and transparency, among others. Heller gave the government an overall grade of C+.
"If this were a graduate level course, you would have to retake the course," he said. "So I would argue that we haven't yet achieved the goals of the Spellings Commission and the institutions need to look at those goals and how to accomplish them," he said.
Zakiya Smith, Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of Education, said that the federal government is increasing financial aid options so that students aren't forced to "defer their dreams." These measures being developed include increasing Pell Grants options and an income-based repayment plan for students who pay back based on how much they make. Under this repayment system, most students would get loan forgiveness after paying back their loans over 25 years, with loan forgiveness at ten years for graduates who pursue non-profit fields.
"The role of the federal federal government is more pronounced because of the fiscal situation. We have got a situation in which we need more high-qualified workers, but people on the other hand have been laid off from jobs that may not be there in 20 years. We need to start thinking about how we retool and retrain our workforce to be prepared for jobs of the future."
8:30 a.m. Keynote address by Jamie Merisotis, President of the Lumina Foundation
Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation, noted that currently the percentage of people between the ages of 25-34 who have a college degree is around 40 percent, and that percentage is the same for people between the ages of 55-64.
"In other words, we haven't done any better with the current generation than with their parent's in the span of four decades," he said.
Merisotis said that higher education access is critical to an evolving economy. For generations, the U.S. economy created jobs that didn't require higher education but these jobs are rapidly disappearing and may never come back, he said.
"The current recession has put this in stark relief. Frankly, it has been brutal. Unemployment among high school dropouts is approaching 20 percent and for high school graduates it isn't much better," he said.
He sees the key to the economic recovery is in higher-quality education for higher-quality jobs. Some ideas to consider that he mentioned:
- State standards should align with college-ready standards to ensure students are prepared to succeed and graduate from college without remedial assistance.
- Increasing college access among minority, low-income populations.
- State and federal institutional policies and practices need to be in place so no student is denied access to higher education because it's too expensive.
Merisotis also called for better metrics.
"Higher education needs to use quality data," he said. "It's difficult to have a full understanding of how many students are succeeding or failing. There really is no large-scale systematic way of following the progress of students as they transfer to other institutions and transition into the work force."
Asked about the increasing role of "for profit" colleges and universities, Merisotis said they are here to stay and part of our educational future.
"Kaplan , Capella and a lot of others are doing interesting work that we need to pay attention to," he said. "Higher education is a segmented market and they serve one element of the market and are probably eating the market share in some cases, so we see them as important and the ongoing concerns about measuring and ensuring quality is essential to that."
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"I am a great believer in the mission of America's colleges and universities. I am a great believer that education is the greatest equalizer of society...it is what helps us to be fully human and to appreciate the full range of human experiences in our lives," said USC Provost Max Nikias.
Nikias noted that system of higher education is under immense pressure, and facing increasing cynicism and criticism of being too insular and inefficient.
"We have something to learn from this so we can envision a new relationship with our community, with our nation and with our world," he said.
Nikias said the CERPP conference's goal is to focus on "long-ranging action" with "challenging conversations and probing questions, and the willingness to consider new perspectives."
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