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Testimony Before the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education and the Economy

  • Date: 09/10/2003
  • Author: Dr. Luis M. Proenza (President, The University of Akron)
  • Chairman Pogue, Committee Co-chairs Adams and Tuschman, members of this committee of the Governor's Commission on Higher Education and the Economy . . .

    . . . I appreciate your invitation to appear before you to discuss and put into context some of the critical issues facing higher education -- issues that I believe are affecting the economic vitality of our great state.

    As Mr. Tuschman said, you have in front of you a copy of a white paper that I wrote at the request of State Representative Jim Hughes for the House Select Committee on Ohio's System of Higher Education. The white paper is entitled, In the Public Interest: A White Paper on the Funding and Functions of Higher Education in Ohio. This morning, I intend to focus on developing some new topics, but certainly all of my basic points are supported in that document.

    ****

    You have the seemingly impossible task of simultaneously creating the conditions for innovation in Ohio's higher education establishment at the same time that you seek to reverse 40 years of continuous disinvestment. This is an even more daunting task, because this challenge comes at a time when there is no money to invest and when the climate for support of public higher education is gloomy. You will need clarity, wisdom and boldness to foster change from within at the same time that you convince Ohioans that public higher education is an investment that cannot be put off for still another 40 years.

    So what can I offer you as you wrestle with this ostensibly unattainable conundrum?

    As Mr. Tuschman mentioned in his generous introduction, I have considerable experience in higher education and in policy-level endeavors in four states and on the national level -- including service as science advisor to Governor Hickel of Alaska and currently to President George Bush on his President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

    Moreover, I have participated in discussions such as this before. For example, 20 years ago in Georgia, I was fortunate to be involved in the early stages of the formation of the Georgia Research Alliance.

    In Alaska, I took part in the process that merged a community college system into a university system, and helped shape a state-based research and development funding agency, the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation.

    In Indiana, I had direct experience in a system of higher education that, long ago, partitioned areas of responsibility between Purdue University and Indiana University and which included, among other features, two jointly managed campuses offering degrees from either of those fine universities. Also in Indiana, I was part of the Central Indiana High Technology Task Force that laid the foundation for a program much like Governor Taft's Third Frontier Program.

    From those and many other experiences, I can tell you that it is matching strength to opportunity, that it is the careful blending of context and investment, that makes a difference -- if, and this is a big if -- they are sustained and focused by ambitious goals and aspirations.

    In my judgment, what has distinguished the few truly productive and successful efforts from the rest can be summarized in the words of Albert Einstein, when he said:

    "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that we were at when we created them."

    There are good examples throughout the world of what can be done thoughtfully and incrementally if we have the boldness and willingness to address the challenges and opportunities from a fresh and studiedly objective point of view.

    I urge you to adopt such an enterprising approach and new "level of thinking" in addressing this "significant problem" that faces all of us in Ohio.

    Certainly, such was the case 40 years ago, when then-Georgia Governor Carl Sanders said, "Education is the single most important factor in determining the economic and social well-being of a state."

    In 1963, his own Governor's Commission to Improve Education stated that ". . . the long-range bests interests of the people . . . can be served only by a marked improvement in education at all levels . . ." It approached education ". . . as a long-term investment, not as a one-time purchase," seeking to build from the ground up an educational system that would serve the state years into the future. (Governor's Commission to Improve Education, Educating Georgia's people: Investing in the future, 1963)

    As we now see how far Georgia has come in terms of economic competitiveness and prosperity, there is little doubt that their plan worked well and is worthy of emulation.

    While Georgia and Ohio have different sets of fixed attributes, both positive and negative, none of them dictate that one state must prosper more than the other in the knowledge economy.


    So, what can Ohio do to strengthen its competitive position in national and global economies?

    First, we must understand that Georgia and other successful world regions did not succeed quickly nor did they succeed by firing some magic bullet that transformed their higher education system into a unified, efficient, money-making machine. In fact, as Steve Portch told you some weeks ago, there are examples of highly productive universities under every commonly known organizational structure and system -- including those that are similar to Ohio's.

    From my experience, I can tell you that there are four elements that distinguish successful and productive higher education systems. Those four elements are:

    1. Strong leadership at the system and institutional levels,
    2. A set of clear and differentiated expectations for systems as well as for individual higher education institutions,
    3. A customer focus, attuned to changing demands of the marketplace, and
    4. Adequate, long-term investment by the state.

    Each of those elements has been present in the efforts that enabled other regions, including Georgia, to overtake Ohio in competitive standing.
    This morning, therefore, I will examine in more detail some of those elements, make some recommendations along the way, and end with some caveats to keep us honest.

    So first, let me comment on leadership.

    At the state level, we must bring together higher education, government and the private sector to develop a comprehensive vision for Ohio -- a vision that asserts the strengths of our state, as well as its aspirations for national and international leadership.

    That vision and the objectives that flow from it must be understood, supported and operationalized at the regional and local levels, because regional and local needs -- and the customers of higher education -- must inform and contribute to the evolution of the state's vision.

    I suggest that we need to unambiguously assert what our expectations are, both in terms of accessibility and in terms of comparative funding levels. Moreover, we should calibrate those expectations against the demographics of population and of industrial clusters across different regions and localities of our state, and -- in turn -- we must benchmark them against those of other states and regions worldwide.

    The fact is that we have not asserted our expectations as a state since several decades ago when Governor Rhodes said, "No Ohio student should ever have to pay more than 30% of the cost of a public higher education." Of course, we know now that his expectation has gradually eroded, and we have failed to use objective data and information to drive our state's investment.

    For instance . . .

    • Can we really expect a first rate university system when state funding is near the bottom among states? Are we so naïve as to assume that we can build a Cadillac out of the parts of a Model T? Or assume, like Henry Ford did, that the only color ''car'' we should offer is black?
    • Why do we not convert the above-average high school graduation rates into above-average college participation rates?
    • Why have we not funded R&D programs in key sectors of our economy and in close proximity to the industry? Had we done so, would our steel industry have collapsed? Would our manufacturing base be eroding?
    • When will we allocate resources to polymer R&D that are in keeping with the size of the industry or with those we allocate to agriculture . . . or even to coal?

    Matt Filipic will tell you later this morning how our funding formula is structured, about the factors that make it so logically defensible, and how long it took to put it in place. But how do you gauge its adequacy when there are no standards against which to measure its application . . . when there is no signaling function to tell us how we are doing, whether for accessibility or for basic levels of operation?

    Let me now turn to the matter of clear and differentiated expectations.

    The state's broad vision, supported by benchmarked standards, must be further put into place by a set of clear and differentiated expectations for individual higher education institutions. Again, "customers" and other stakeholders must be involved in the discernment.

    In setting institutional expectations, the state will create more opportunities for collaboration, more focus, increased tracking and accountability, and will more readily remove unnecessary competition or perceived duplication, than almost any other tinkering that we might do.

    One of the clear strengths of American higher education is its diversity. Indeed, with well over 3,856 colleges and universities (at last count), it has been difficult to characterize this diversity in any meaningful way -- even the Carnegie Classification fails the test because it categorizes vastly different institutions under the same rubric.


    Listen to the American Council on Education. They will tell you that higher education is arguably the least understood of all consumer services in America. Typically, the public attributes mistaken and humorous characteristics to those institutions whose names they may recognize (such as suggesting that an MIT degree is"good" because "they teach practical things like auto mechanics").1

    You will find that many of my colleagues tout their success in student selectivity (number of students admitted as a percentage of those who apply). But selectivity will assure you only of a group of students matched according to the criteria for admission. Indeed, careful studies confirm that when incoming student quality is factored out, there is no particular reason to choose Stanford over Michigan, or either of those universities over Ohio State or Akron. Selectivity, in other words, may tell you a lot about incoming students, but does not mean that a selective university adds any value.

    Alan B. Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton University, and Stacey B. Dale, a senior researcher at Mathematica Policy Research, recently published a study on selectivity as it relates to earning power after graduation. They concluded that students who chose colleges with lower admissions standards over more-selective colleges earned incomes equivalent to those who attended the more exclusive institution.

    Ohio's public universities also exhibit much diversity. Yet, all 13 are classified simply as four-year universities -- despite their high degree of differentiation -- and there is no comprehensive mapping of the current distribution of higher education functions among our public universities. What is more, without a vision, there is no "road map" that directs our attention to what needs may be unmet at each university, or to where there are still other needs or opportunities throughout the state. Ironically, to even ask the question of functional differentiation is to invite political controversy -- as I have learned already.

    I suggest that a state as populous and industrially complex as Ohio needs institutions of higher education that perform four broad categories of functions, beyond those that are at the core of serving the public interest and sustaining the purposes of higher education and its centrality to society:

    1. Workforce skill development and technical education,
    2. Statewide general and professional education services,
    3. Special regional needs, and
    4. Cutting-edge research of national and international caliber that creates new technologies and is coupled with the creation of the necessary advanced-level workforce for economic growth.

    Indeed, given the size and industrial complexity of our state, our state system of higher education should include:

     

    • A group of two-year, four-year and graduate colleges and universities, appropriate in size, number and location, to move our state forward from an educational deficit to an educational surplus and also to meet regional research needs; and it should include
    • A group of no less than four major public research universities of national and international stature -- The Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati and The University of Akron -- serving our major population centers, north to south -- and one other, arguably, Ohio University, each developing the workforce needed to meet the Third Frontier expectations and other opportunities for economic development.

    Certainly I want to advance my University, and obviously some will disagree, but my claim for The University of Akron as the public research university for northern Ohio is not made lightly. Rather it rests on its documented excellence.

    As I have suggested, universities operate in a highly competitive market place, and their diversity almost ensures that there is no single measure or standard of institutional status, rank or excellence. For example, the Carnegie Commission's long-standing classificatory approach was recently abandoned because so many institutions abused it by claiming that the classification implied rank or status. Its interim classification scheme is even more limited, relying solely on number of doctorates granted and number of doctoral programs, and it continues to be misused. Indeed, many universities cite their Carnegie classification as if to confer status or rank, despite the Commission's statement that doing so is an abuse of the classification system.
    (Shulman, L. S., The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, 2000 Edition, Foreword)

    Nevertheless, solid multidimensional data do exist and the most current and nearly objective analyses are contained in two sources:

     

    1. Those of institutional program strengths are contained in the U.S. News & World Report annual survey of graduate programs (note that I said "program" strengths, which are not to be confused with its rankings of universities); and
    2. Those of 10 institutional characteristics and research "portfolios" (as defined by the percent of federal funding in each area of science) are found in the multifactor analyses compiled by the Lombardi Program on Measuring University Performance at the University of Florida, now in its third iteration.

    From these data, as reported in tables 1 and 2 of my white paper, it can be seen that The University of Akron is the only public university in Ohio to have a science and engineering program ranked in the top ten nationally, with our polymer science and engineering program rated second by U.S. News & World Report.

    We are proud that, together with The Ohio State University, we have the distinction of serving Ohio's two largest industries -- polymers and agriculture, respectively.

    Moreover, in the Lombardi study, Akron is the only university in northern Ohio to rank among the top 100 public universities in 6 of the 10 variables studied. Other public universities in northern Ohio ranked only in 1 or 2 of the 10 variables, and no other Ohio university, excepting Ohio State and Cincinnati, ranked in more than 4 variables.

    Given these data and the demographics of our state -- in size of population and distribution of its industry -- we can suggest that Ohio should have at least four differentiated sets of higher education institutions:

    1. Research universities of documented national and international excellence and statewide economic impact to provide cutting-edge research of national and international caliber that creates new technologies and is coupled with the creation of the necessary advanced-level workforce needed for economic growth;
    2. State-level teaching universities, with some research, to provide statewide general and professional education services;
    3. Regional service universities, with some research, to meet special regional needs; and
    4. Regional teaching universities and community and technical colleges, to provide workforce skill development and technical education

    Make no mistake about it, this proposal, which is read as a "tiering" of universities, is violently opposed by many of my colleagues. But that opposition flies in the face of the fact that our universities are already tiered, and saying that they are not is simply an exercise in denial. Certainly, all of us want our institutions to be better, but by no stretch of the imagination are we even remotely -- on objective grounds -- comparable.2

    Could we not agree just to begin by acknowledging these existing differences and then work to determine what is needed at each of our campuses to meet the needs of all Ohioans? If we did so, I think every campus would find that each stands to gain, rather than lose.

    Let me be clear, I have yet to meet a university -- whether Harvard, Stanford or any other, whether large or small, public or private -- that has a monopoly on green grass, or on weeds. Each has strengths and weaknesses, and each is considerably different from the other. At the outset, therefore, the proposed differentiation among universities needs to be understood not as implying that one "tier" is better than another, but only different and appropriate to its particular setting at a particular time in our history; in other words, it is descriptive.

    In this regard, and in the spirit of objectivity, I would recommend that this Commission undertake a solid review and comparative historical assessment of Ohio's public universities, not just to distinguish institutional roles, but to further develop Ohio's system of higher education into one that is strategically organized, aligned and funded to meet state, regional and local needs, as well as to capitalize on the unique opportunities implicit in the historical strengths and documented areas of excellence of each university.3

    I suggest that you first ask for a map of the current distribution of programs among our existing set of public colleges and universities. The study should then determine, via a gap analysis, what is missing and where it is needed. The optimal way to do so would be to conduct detailed demographic analyses that are superimposed on the geographical distribution of economic clusters. Indeed, tying analyses of general population and industrial demographics to the functions that are needed from higher education may be one way to "decouple" political arguments that have previously stymied a rational approach to selective program allocations. The important point is that a functional approach begins to transcend the problems associated with the politics of city-states, because a logical, closer programmatic tie can be made to each region, and the political dilemma of the "if I can't have it, you can't have it" argument might finally be overcome.

    The individual history of each state institution is also important because it has bearings on its current standing, as well as on its possible opportunities for additional service to the state. For example, several schools were originally chartered as "normal" schools to prepare teachers, while others began with a disciplinary focus grounded in the pursuit of knowledge across the liberal arts and sciences. Importantly, one of the reasons that Ohio's universities garner less federal funds than do universities in other states is that Ohio has never truly focused on developing a set of nationally and internationally recognized research universities. Rather, Ohio has chosen an approach that treats all four-year institutions alike, distinguishing only the levels of educational courses that are provided to students and the quantity of students who are enrolled. Thus, a solid review and comparative historical assessment of each Ohio public university can serve to amplify this discussion and to assist in the planning of the overall evolution of Ohio's system of higher education.


    While the placement of any of Ohio's four-year universities within this or any other proposed framework may be and surely will be debated, a functional approach enables us to more dispassionately catalogue and map the state's current assets and to candidly determine what needs still exist -- and where they exist.

    What is more, simply changing the "lay of the land" may be propitious in and of itself, and there are several models by which we might approach this functional structuring of our higher education system. Let me outline just five such models:

     

    1. For example, we could empower one statewide system4 with subsets of institutions serving each of the four functions. Essentially, this is what Ohio now has, except that it is not differentiated, nor is it funded in a manner that appropriately reflects the existing functional differences. The system need not be a central governing system, but rather a coordinating board, and I can tell you that most university presidents, to paraphrase Joe Steger, "would rather be poor and free, than poor and shackled."
    2. We could also create regional systems, each with at least one major research institution and appropriate numbers of other institutions to support the other functions as might be appropriate to the demographic characteristics of each region. Already, many of our universities manage small systems of three or more campuses, and more could be incorporated in a revised management structure within a region. Certainly, there are examples where this has worked well, and you will recall that I mentioned the merger of a community college system into the universities of Alaska.
    3. Another model would create four statewide systems, one for each of the functional differentiations noted above, each with a set of goals, standards, pricing, etc. that is common for each institution. This is the model so successfully practiced in California. Thus, for example, there could be a system of research universities (and you know which four I would include), a system of rural/residential campuses, etc.
    4. Alternatively, if we follow the partitioning example of the state of Indiana, we could move programs between institutions so as to gain a critical mass of talent in a given field or set of fields . . . say engineering at only one regional university, social sciences at another, etc.
    5. This partitioning of programs among institutions could be viewed as a subset of yet another strategy, namely the merger of institutions. Indeed, this is a time-honored tradition, as the merger of Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University into Case Western Reserve University demonstrates. This is not something that only happened in yesteryear. Only recently, we saw the merger of Radcliff College into Harvard University. Indeed, there is even a "handbook" for academic mergers and acquisitions! (James Martin and James E. Samels & Associates, Merging Colleges for Mutual Growth: A New Strategy for Academic Managers, Johns Hopkins, 1994)

    It would be disingenuous, however, regardless of what model you or others may recommend, to suggest that we might disinvest in any institution from what its current level of state funding is, or to suggest that a chosen structure might reduce any institution to a lower functional "status" than the one it is already serving!

    Conversely, nothing of what exists today or may yet be proposed by this Commission should preclude expanding the functions or increasing the investments in a particular campus if warranted by changing demographics.

    Let me say just a few words about customer focus.

    There is little question that community and technical colleges have excelled at being sensitive to market demands. And our most successful public universities -- in the Land-Grant tradition broadly speaking, not just those so designated -- also have excelled by being engaged with their communities, whether in our rural areas or in our metropolitan areas where more than 80% of public higher education is practiced. But there is still too much of the attitude of the Ivory Tower, of the "professor knows best" mentality, when it is our students who are today most attuned to what they will need to know. Certainly, we will continue to hone the concept of a general education, but let us hear what our customers are saying. To that end, I would recommend that you, as the Governor's Commission on Higher Education and the Economy, seek to replicate within Ohio a study such as the 1995 National Survey entitled "What the Public Wants from Higher Education." (D.A. Dillman, J.A. Christenson, P. Sallart, & P.D. Warner, Social and Economic Sciences Research Center, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, Technical Report #95-52)

    Finally, let me make a few suggestions about adequate, long-term investments by the state, because Ohio must create a legitimate and rational basis for fully funding each of the component missions of public higher education -- teaching, service and extension, continuing education, professional education, research and technology development -- each in the amount necessary to redress 40 years of inadequate funding, and to promote Ohio as a leader.

    Specifically, I suggest you give serious consideration to four recommendations related to state funding:

     

    • Define a Competitive Funding Standard -- Ohio needs to establish a funding standard that has a strong signaling function as to the adequacy of state funding. As a starting point, we need to define competitive funding levels that are benchmarked against national norms. If Ohio is to be a leader, it should strive to provide funding that is at least at the 75th percentile nationally.
    • Establish a Competitive Level of Access -- Ohio needs to provide its students and families with competitive accessibility. We need to address the relative costs to students by limiting their share of the cost of a higher education to no more than 30%. At the same time, Ohio needs a balanced set of scholarship and financial aid programs that simultaneously incentivizes improvements in P-12 achievement; increases the percentage of students, especially minorities, going to college; and reduces the brain drain by increasing the number of college graduates who stay in state.
    • Recognize Functional Differences -- Ohio's higher education funding formula needs to better reflect the functional differences among its universities and colleges. Limiting funding to only
    • Add Key Formula Elements -- Ohio should add two new components to the state's funding formula. Elements that recognize and support (1) strategic economic development initiatives (i.e., institutionalize the Taft Administration's Third Frontier project) and others targeted for (2) quality improvements (i.e., 1.5% of net annual appropriations, as used in Georgia) would better ensure that the formula addresses state demographics and regional economic strengths, opportunities and needs.

    Let me conclude with some suggestions and some caveats . . .

    Much of the rhetoric leading up to this Commission focuses on things that will simply not produce the kind of savings that are commonly assumed. Indeed, there are some simple fiscal realities that you cannot escape and some fiscal myths that you, as a Commission, must understand and help to dispel.

    Consider these three fiscal realities:

    1. The average cost of providing a public higher education in Ohio is below the national average.
    2. The number of public colleges and universities in Ohio, on a per capita basis, is at about the national average; and
    3. Public support for higher education, on a per capita basis, is near the bottom of all states.
      So, if support is near the bottom and costs are at about average, I ask you, can tuition be anything but high?

    If the number of colleges and universities is about average, do we really have so much unnecessary duplication?

    If the costs are below the national average, is there so much "waste and mismanagement" as is commonly asserted?

    Any self-respecting auditor or accountant can tell you that the answer to each of these questions is an unequivocal NO! 5

    So, let us instead ask where really large savings can be found?

    First, consider that 40% of high school graduates who go to college are in need of remedial education (euphemistically called, developmental education). Now we are talking about real money! When the higher education budget is asked to bear the cost of remediation for as many as 40% of all incoming students, we are not talking about small change. I would encourage you to face this issue squarely and to look into how we can, in time, markedly reduce the need of remedial education.

    Second, consider the fact that Ohio already has pioneered in cooperative statewide services such as the Ohio Library and Information Network, the Ohio Learning Network, the Ohio Supercomputing Center and the Dayton Area Graduate Studies Network.

    For example, the Ohio Library and Information Network (Ohio LINK) is a statewide consortium of university, community college and private college libraries that purchases journals and research databases together. By purchasing as a group, the consortium has cut about 75% off of the list price of electronic journals and reference databases. If all 83 member libraries in the state had subscribed individually to the electronic journals ordered by Ohio LINK, they would have paid $77.6 million in 2002. Instead, the state paid $19.4 million. Similarly, the group licensing cost of reference databases was $3.1 million, about one third of the cost schools would have paid for individual licenses.

    Given this experience in cooperative programs, we also should consider that many of our central business processes could be standardized and conducted in combined "back room" shared-services operations. For example, our Chief Information Officer at The University of Akron, Dr. Tom Gaylord, led a team of the four Northeast Ohio public universities in a study of a "shared applications service provider" model for I.T.

    That August 2001 study by Price Waterhouse Coopers outlined possible cost savings and added efficiencies should The University of Akron, Kent State, Cleveland State and Youngstown State Universities share "backroom" services for Information Technology and the implementation of Enterprise Resource Programs (ERP). Possible early-implementation projects identified were -- Help Desk, external reporting, training, leveraged buying power, network support and web support services. In the long term, the greatest payback and value from shared service would come from -- common applications, common e-mail services, centralized data center and consolidated servers. The report discussed four different shared-services models that could achieve greater cost efficiency and effectiveness.

    Our four Northeast Ohio universities, in turn, made a proposal to the Board of Regents for a pilot program, and we are prepared to do so again. In fact, we have already asked PWC to "refresh" their study so that we can again seek the needed start-up costs for this venture.

    If you consider the fact that I.T. costs have been escalating at an average of 10% per year, that we are increasingly relying on I.T. for boosting productivity, and that each of our universities is spending between $12 million and $60 million to implement an ERP, once again we are talking "real" money.

    Price Waterhouse Coopers stated that, "Many of the core business functions lend themselves to common processes and policies -- business services, finance, human resources. You can start anywhere, but what you do has to be done well, and you need some early wins." The firm's report went on to say, "The success of a shared services model among the three universities is contingent upon the creation of an equitable partnership in both reality and perception." In other words, and in implementing this or other models, we must ensure that institutions that have already invested substantially more than their partners are not placed at a disadvantage by "transferring" their investment to others who are thereby brought to a competitive level without assuming some of the cost or without the "donor" institution receiving an alternative compensating investment.

    Third, although savings through distance- or web-enabled learning have so far proved elusive because curriculum development costs are very large, this is certainly a third major area where economies can be explored and should be ultimately achievable. Here, the already existing Ohio Learning Network can play a role, and we at The University of Akron can assist the state with other models. For example, we have at Akron some of the best distance-learning classrooms anywhere. Also, we have partnered, along with Kent State, with WebCT, a company that has largely become the standard for web-enabled and web-based instruction. In addition, we have chartered a Global Polymer Academy so as to vertically integrate our world-renowned expertise in this area. It is led by Byron Pipes, the former president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

    The best example that I know of a successful distance-education model is at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico. In addition, you might wish to study a paper entitled "Electronics and the Dim Future of the University" by Eli Noam of Columbia University that appeared in Science a few years ago.
    (Science, Vol. 270, 10/13/95, Page 247)

    Finally, as to the caveats:

    Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University often quipped:

    "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

    And I think that this is precisely where Ohio has been -- lost in the naïve assumption that education is something that will just take care of itself, that education is a luxury rather than a necessity . . . a cost, rather than an investment.6

    But my point in citing Mr. Bok's phrase is to remind us also of the old adage: "Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it."

    Because, again, in much of the rhetoric leading up to this Commission, we heard many well-intentioned remarks such as: "increased collaborations," "reduce duplication," "do we really need to teach English in every college and university?" (As to this last comment, shouldn't we then also ask if every city needs a high school . . . or every house a water supply, or an electrical connection?)

    You see, today education is infrastructure; it constitutes the human resources that are now just as essential for the wellbeing of our society as are the water, electricity and the other pieces of our physical infrastructure. And just like other forms of infrastructure, higher education is an investment that undergirds a productive economy.

    My concern is that, in much of our rhetoric, we utter concepts that sound good without the accompanying rigor of knowing what we mean -- it reminds me of what Thomas Sowell calls "the search for cosmic justice." The words sound good, yet when they are examined more closely, we see that the savings may be trivial, or that they may come with still other unintended consequences whose long-term costs may be far larger than the short-term savings.

    Yes, we must do more with less. Yes, business models for higher education must change. And yes, we must truly focus on the educational effectiveness of our programs, rather than on the ever-elusive and easy quest for "better" students.

    ****

    Through your efforts, ladies and gentlemen of this Commission, Ohioans will face either the harvest of such fruits of knowledge or the consequences of letting other states and countries pass us by in the global economy.

    Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate your attention. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have, and I look forward to our discussion.

    Thank you!

     

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    1 See also, for example, the somewhat humorous article by Paul Many, "The Wonderful World of College Brochures," that appeared in Academe Online, July-August 2003, Volume 89, Number 4 (copy attached). There, Mr. Many makes clear that colleges and universities appear to emphasize their similarities, rather than the differences on which students might more realistically base their choices.

    2 I, too, would be opposed to differentiation of function among universities if that meant reducing, subverting or otherwise undermining the current standing and achievements of my University. However, to say that Akron is not Ohio State is not to debase Akron (or Ohio State); it is a descriptive set of facts along many dimensions. The data speak for themselves: The Ohio State University is Ohio's leading public university; arguably, Cincinnati is second. Which is third or fourth is somewhat more debatable, but the Lombardi data would say Akron with Ohio University following. It is striking that the U.S. News & World Report program rankings data overlap considerably with the Lombardi Top 100 variables data -- both suggest that our "top" universities are OSU, Cincinnati, and Akron/OU or OU/Akron in terms of ranked programs or variables ranked among the top 100.

    3 In view of the general public's relative ignorance and naïve assumptions about higher education as a service industry (see above), this Commission can accomplish much by better describing and acknowledging diverse missions among our colleges and universities.

    4 One related alternative that should be thoughtfully considered is that of creating a single board spanning P-20 education by a merger of the current Board of Education and Board of Regents. Several states have this arrangement for planning purposes and some also for the governance or coordination of all public education across the P-20 continuum.

    5 Higher education, as well as corporate America has its "Enrons" as well as individuals who give all of us a bad name. Undeniably, public perception is not currently sympathetic to higher education, or to corporations. Yet, just as in business, there is much that colleges and universities are doing to reduce costs and increase productivity and accountability. See, for example, "Losing Power and Market," by Kathy Grayson, Editor's Note in the September 2003 issue of University Business, page 5 (www.universitybusiness.com).

    6 The question of higher education as an investment instrument was raised during the discussion of this testimony. Many other states have developed research-based answers to this question and all have come forward with positive ROIs far exceeding annual appropriations. It is ironic that Ohio often continues to used the term "subsidy" when referring to state appropriations for higher education.

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