Posts Tagged ‘economy’

The relentless push to increase “efficiency” in both higher education and government continues apace.  Unfortunately, as is often the case these days, the focus on efficiency is also leading to an abundance of misinformation and short-term thinking.  Many have probably already heard about various governors calling for redirecting funds away from “useless” fields like Anthropology or Gender Studies.   Representative Eric Cantor called this week for a halt to all government spending on “the social sciences.”  AAC&U’s President Carol Geary Schneider makes clear the dangers posed to our economy and our democracy by these “posturings” by politicians in a recent op-ed in Inside Higher Ed.

Readers of this blog will, of course, likely know that AAC&U has worked hard through our LEAP initiative for a long time to help higher education do a better job of educating students, parents, and others outside of our institutions about the continuing value of the learning outcomes developed through liberal education—and through well-designed majors in a variety of fields, including the humanities and social sciences. We obviously still have much work to do! The new innovation-driven, global, and knowledge-intensive economy clearly demands the cognitive powers and ethical responsibilities developed in and through study in the liberal arts and sciences. Read the rest of this entry »

In the United States, in statehouse after statehouse, funding for higher education continues to be cut.  Debates in Washington continue—and include proposals to cut funding for Pell Grants and for subsidies of student loans while students are in college. (To his credit, President Obama seemed to draw a line in the sand on this latest proposal, saying he wasn’t “going to take money from old people and screw students.”)

Reflecting on this dismal state of affairs in light of my recent study tour of EU universities, I can’t help but note that European higher education faces similar challenging circumstances.  And the irony is that, both in Europe and in the United States, despite the storm clouds, amazing progress is also being made to “modernize” higher education systems, clarify what different degrees mean in terms of levels of learning and essential learning outcomes, and improve curricula and teaching methods to ensure that students graduate with the ability to innovate and continue learning over the course of their lives.  (More on these positive efforts in future blog posts).

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While the job market for new college graduates continues to improve, many companies are specifically seeking out candidates who possess excellent communication and teamwork skills as well as critical thinking and analytical abilities. (See both the recent New York Times article and AAC&U’s own recent survey of employers.)

In the current climate and given these employers’ expressed needs for talent, how can new graduates demonstrate to a prospective employer what they know and can do as a result of their college experiences?  The traditional records of a student’s education are the academic transcript and his or her resumé, but both of these documents are limited in their ability to describe the effect of meaningful experiences such as project-based work, leadership in extracurricular activities, internships, and studies abroad.   In a 2007 national survey, AAC&U discovered that more than two-thirds of employers found the college transcript either “not useful” (33 percent) or “just somewhat useful” (34 percent).  In contrast, a majority of employers thought that e-portfolios would be “very” or “fairly useful” in evaluating college graduates’ potential for success.

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I just returned from the annual SHEEO meeting.  SHEEO is the organization representing “state higher education executive officers”—basically whoever in each state is the highest-ranking official overseeing public higher education—commissioners, chancellors, etc.  About 200 people—the executive officers, their staff members, association people like me, some education researchers—attended the meeting in Denver and heard presentations from such luminaries as Michael McPherson, Senator Gary Hart, and AAC&U’s own board member, Jane Wellman.

Given the sorry state of state budgets, one would expect this meeting to be a dreary affair indeed.  However, the mood was surprisingly upbeat.  No one is happy about the budget situation, of course.  And the consensus is that things will get worse once the stimulus money runs out.  But this group of people seemed very dedicated to rolling up their sleeves and getting on with the business of improving public education no matter what the budget picture might be. Read the rest of this entry »

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