Front and Center: Critical Choices for Higher Education

“Front and Center: Critical Choices for Higher Education” examines ways governance leaders can increase the number of Americans who finish college and other certificate programs, stressing that such a goal is necessary to ensure that the U.S. economy remains competitive.

Based on a December 2010 conference that convened individuals and organizations responsible for higher education, The Miller Center at the University of Virginia and AGB have compiled recommendations from current and former governors, university and college presidents, chancellors of several state university systems, and other national education leaders to create this report.

The report outlines several recommendations, including:

  • Promote—and reward—institutional changes that increase the number of persons who successfully complete higher-education degree and certificate programs.  Changes include devoting a greater percentage of operating budgets to instruction; reducing administrative overhead;  focusing research efforts at fewer institutions; increasing faculty teaching responsibilities; adopting tighter, more focused curricula with key learning objectives; and meeting the varying needs of different students, especially those who attend college part-time.  Online instruction is an important way to reduce costs and the time it takes to finish school.
  • Reconsider the federal role in higher education.   The federal government can play a strong leadership role in improving our education system by stressing the importance of increased rates of college completion; convening state leaders to discuss issues that require interstate cooperation; aligning its student financial aid and other funding programs with a student success and completion agenda; and clarifying its regulatory responsibilities for higher education.
  • Create an environment at the state level that will give institutions reasons to pursue the public agenda.  State-level governing and coordinating boards, working with governors and legislators, should assume two major responsibilities: setting clear, measurable, and institution-specific performance goals for colleges and universities; and creating funding mechanisms that link to those goals, such as emphasizing the completion of courses and programs of study, not just enrollment.
  • Provide leadership to help colleges and universities do the work that needs to be done. Leadership is needed at all levels of involvement.  Institutional governing boards need to establish completion agendas for their institutions, supporting the leadership of administrators and the efforts of faculty, and insist upon accountability for results. Governors and state legislatures must help define a college completions agenda and target resources toward it. The federal government can provide leadership by setting national goals and providing incentives for meeting them.

 

2011