Program focuses on higher ed

Rachel Abbey

The federal government recently launched a new program to examine issues related to higher education. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced the creation of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education during a speech at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte on Monday.

The commission will look at issues such as affordability of and access to higher education, as well as the needs of the workforce that students enter after graduation, said Jane Glickman, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Education.

“She wants the commission to gather data so we know what’s working and what needs improved,” Glickman said.

Studies like this have been done in the past by national education organizations, said Constance Hawke, director of Federal Relations and associate university counsel. However, the U.S. Department of Education has not sponsored such a commission in recent history.

The commission will engage members of the academic community, such as students, faculty members and policy makers, in a national dialogue about key higher education issues, according to a press release from the Department of Education.

Commission members include university presidents, CEOs, policy makers and researchers from across the nation, according to the press release.

The commission will not create more federal control of higher education, Glickman said. It will simply be used to take a look at issues.

According to the press release, Spellings said in the near future, more students will be prepared for college because of the high standards of the No Child Left Behind Act. The commission will ensure higher education is accessible to these students.

Despite that goal, it is only looking at university-level issues.

However, Gov. Bob Taft recently created the Ohio Partnership for Continued Learning, which addresses issues affecting K to 12 education, as well as higher education. Taft announced plans for this committee last January. Its members, which include school board representatives, university administrators and state Congress members, met for the first time last Wednesday, said Pat Myers, director of Government Relations.

The committee wants to help Ohio students make a seamless transition from K to 12 education to higher education, Myers said. It will look at possible barriers to college-bound students and decide how to handle them.

“The federal- and the state- elected officials understand the importance of higher education, and they’re focusing on that because they understand the effect higher education makes on the economy,” Myers said.

The stronger the higher education system is, the stronger the economy can be, she said.

The commission is one of many currently dealing with university-level education, said David Creamer, vice president for Administration.

“There’s a lot of interest about higher education in Ohio right now,” he said.

Creamer said other committees are examining issues such as legislative funding and budget.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].