Edited by David W. Breneman and Paul J. Yakoboski
Chapter 2: Macro-challenges of the National Imperative Facing Higher Education
William E. Kirwan From my perspective, there are three key challenges facing higher education – especially public higher education – in America today. First is the challenge of “Completion.” Under current conditions and trends, far too few of American high school students will ultimately become college graduates. This threatens not only America’s standing in the world, but the cultural and social fabric of our nation, personified in the “American Dream” that each generation will do better than the previous generation. Second is the challenge of “Cost.” With college costs growing at twice the rate of inflation by some estimates, too many college-ready, collegecapable students are being priced out of our institutions. It is imperative that action be taken – at the campus level, state level, and federal level – to overcome the obstacle of cost. Finally, we must address the challenge of “Competitiveness.” In the latter half of the twentieth century – often dubbed “The American Century” – the university community was at the heart of research and development in the United States, resulting in an era of learning and discovery that brought progress and prosperity to the academic sector, the American economy, and society as a whole. We must recapture that spirit and reestablish our institutions as engines of progress. THE COMPLETION CHALLENGE President Barack Obama has set an ambitions educational goal: By 2020, the United States will once again have the highest proportion of adults with a college degree in the world. Although there has been significant analysis – and skepticism – as to the feasibility...
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