Magazine article University Business

Fixing the Higher Ed System Requires a Balanced Approach Education Leaders Must Weigh Benefits of Collaboration versus Uniformity

Magazine article University Business

Fixing the Higher Ed System Requires a Balanced Approach Education Leaders Must Weigh Benefits of Collaboration versus Uniformity

Article excerpt

Recently, I participated in a meeting of Oregon college presidents that explored ways to streamline educational offerings and create efficiencies based on one another's strengths. Though together we arrived at similar conclusions, the strength of America's higher education system is found in its diversity of approaches. To be truly effective, we must also be distinctive, offering a wide set of alternatives to our students.

Echoing President Obama's call to increase college graduation rates, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and the state legislature have set a goal that 40 percent of the state's adult citizens will hold four-year college degrees by 2025. This was the impetus for our meeting, the first such gathering in 35 years.

CALL FOR COLLABORATION

As leaders of Oregon's public and private nonprofit universities, we face significant challenges in meeting the governor's goal. These include dramatic reductions in government support for higher education, especially at our public universities. We struggle with continued inadequacies in our nation's public school systems. Higher education is under attack by cynical, uninformed public figures who, without real evidence, cast aspersions on the quality of post-secondary education in this country and question the benefit of a college degree.

All of us share a calling to give our students transformational experiences, benefit our communities with the power of ideas, and foster the problem-solving skills that lead to a more robust economy. We can help do this in part by coordinating programs and sharing resources.

INCLUSIVE APPROACH IS KEY

In Oregon, most discussions about higher education center on public institutions, but independent colleges have a significant role to play. One fifth of the state's students are enrolled at independent colleges, and a full quarter of Oregon students obtain their degrees from smaller schools like Linfield College. These smaller schools boast the best retention and graduation rates in the state, and our inclusion in the discussion Laid the groundwork for stronger working relationships.

EFFICIENCY IS JUST ONE GOAL

The meeting also demonstrated that in striving for efficiency, we may endanger several of American higher education's fundamental strengths: diversity, quality and academic freedom. …

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