Some of the most pressing issues facing higher education were discussed February 22 at Cal State Fullerton’s first President’s Symposium, “Appraising the Future, Understanding Costs: Envisioning the New Normal in Higher Education.”
Several of the nation’s leading voices on education and public policy addressed state and national goals for degree attainment, cost analyses of higher education, e-learning and challenges to current educational models, as well as the political landscape for higher education.
- Jeffrey J. Selingo, vice president and editorial director of the Chronicle of Higher Education;
- Robert Shireman, chief consultant of California Competes and former deputy undersecretary of education in President Barack Obama’s administration;
- William Tierney, USC’s director of the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis;
- Jane Wellman, executive director of the National Association of System Heads and founding director of the Delta Project on Postsecondary Costs, Productivity and Accountability;
- F. King Alexander, president of Cal State Long Beach;
- Keith O. Boyum, CSUF interim executive assistant to the president and professor emeritus of politics, administration and justice;
- Willie J. Hagan, CSUF interim president;
- Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State Los Angeles; and
- Stephen Stambough, CSUF associate professor of political science and chair of the Division of Politics, Administration and Justice.
Here are some of their observations.
“The majority of Americans now think that higher education is not affordable. There’s a growing percentage of Americans who think the amount being spent for higher education is not worth it. Only a minority, 40 percent, believe that the amount we’re spending is either excellent or good. If you peer into those numbers and look at what people think, you’ll also see a growing share of people who believe institutions can be doing more to control spending without compromising quality.”
- Jane Wellman, executive director of the National Association of System Heads and founding director of the Delta Project on Postsecondary Costs, Productivity and Accountability
“California is one of the 12 worst states in terms of its abandonment of higher education... If we’re going to be committed as a wealthy state to supporting our students, we need to rethink how we’re funding higher education and reward the institutions that are doing a good job and doing what the public wants them to do – keeping expenditures relatively low, keeping costs relatively low, keeping student indebtedness low – all of the things that matter to our taxpayers and that matter to our students and our parents.”
— F. King Alexander, president of Cal State Long Beach
“As we think about the future of higher education and where the disruption in a higher ed market could happen, I think we have to ask what are the less-tangible aspects that define the college experience that can’t be easily replaced by fragmented, simplified services on the Internet.
Let’s think about what the Internet and the Web did to newspapers, to music and to bookstores. It took this bundled approach and went after what I would call the low‑hanging fruit at first. So as you think about the college experience, what are the things that are most at risk in the traditional college experience today and what potentially are least at risk in the traditional college experience?
Higher ed is now competing in a market that is incredibly different than it was 20 or 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago. I think the Internet has really changed that. People now can get an education anywhere at anytime.
I’m not saying that higher ed needs to change drastically, but it at least needs to be open to these alternative ideas; it needs to focus on what it does well... and figure out how to shed the rest. It needs to be of more value to the people who use it.”
— Jeffrey J. Selingo, vice president and editorial director of the Chronicle of Higher Education
“Certainly one of the reasons that California is struggling to achieve that high level of education is that we have an expanding Latino population that has tended to have lower levels of education. When parents have lower levels of education, it’s less likely that the children are going to get that high level of education. So we must address that achievement gap in terms of [both college entry and successful degree completion] by under-represented populations in our colleges and universities.”
— Robert Shireman, chief consultant of California Competes and former deputy undersecretary of education in President Barack Obama’s administration
“I agree with President Obama. I agree that we need more students participating in the post-secondary sector. Let’s recognize that when we are speaking about more students participating in the post-secondary sector, it’s not the kids who are coming from Beverly Hills 90210. It’s the schools that I’m working in right now, where the participation rates are extremely low and the parents are working adults.
I want us to raise the public dialogue about the future of higher education and the importance of it in terms of reducing poverty. I really think that faculty will no longer be a proxy for learning. I think we will have things that are tied to outcomes. I think that we can absolutely argue about what ‘critical thinking’ means.
This whole argument about gainful employment is not going away. Are we providing the skills necessary for people to take positions in the economy?”
— William Tierney, USC’s director of the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis
“What does this mean for Cal State Fullerton?” Hagan asked at the conclusion of his symposium. “Based on what I’ve heard here, it is clear that we are going to be held more accountable. We’re going to be expected to do more with less. We’re going to have to deal with increased competition. For us, I think we have an idea of what the future will look like. We also know it will be a team effort, and our faculty will play a key role.”