Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Historic Challenges Demand Trained Leadership: Higher Education Must Help the Nation Meet Multiple Challenges, but More Must Be Done to Develop Leaders Who Are Enlightened, Focused and Tough

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Historic Challenges Demand Trained Leadership: Higher Education Must Help the Nation Meet Multiple Challenges, but More Must Be Done to Develop Leaders Who Are Enlightened, Focused and Tough

Article excerpt

Our society faces immense challenges in coming years: economic and financial uncertainty, energy and environmental issues and historic demographic shifts. As educators, we help people overcome such challenges. After all, we're in the future business. We encourage students to build the world they want to live in and we give them the skills to do so.

We who work in postsecondary education need to apply that spirit to our students, ourselves and our institutions. We must work to enhance postsecondary education to be a more flexible, responsive system--one that serves today's students and meets the growing demands of our country and the world.

At Lumina Foundation for Education, where I serve as board chair, we've thought long and hard about these needs and we've set a specific goal to achieve them. Our "Big Goal" is this: By 2025, we want 60 percent of Americans to hold high-quality postsecondary degrees or credentials.

Today, about 40 percent of the population holds at least a two-year degree and that's been the case for nearly 50 years. There also are growing gaps between our nation and others in the number of graduates in the STEM fields--scientific and technical areas in which expertise is increasingly vital to economic success and national security. Clearly, improvement is needed and Lumina's Big Goal embraces that necessity.

The Big Goal is a major challenge that requires leadership and sustained effort from every sector of society. This combined effort must lead to sustainable progress toward three critical outcomes: better preparation of K-12 students, comprehensive efforts to ensure our students' success and a significant improvement in the coordination and productivity of postsecondary education so that many more students are educated.

The key to meeting this challenge is leadership. Unless knowledgeable and focused leaders with talented staff set the path and encourage others to follow, folks tend to stand still. These days, immobility isn't an option for postsecondary education. We must redouble our efforts to foster a new generation of leaders--at our institutions, in state and federal policy areas and on boards that govern institutions--individuals who understand the urgent need for change and are able to lead it. …

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