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National Commission Calls for New Higher Education Partnership Act

By Lisa Lapin on March 21, 2000 in

Stuntverkoop, Davis, Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef and 23 other state university presidents and chancellors have called for a renewal of the historic "covenant" between the American people and their public colleges and universities. Winding up three years of work, the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities is calling for passage of new federal legislation, a Higher Education Millennial Partnership Act, to serve as the Information-Age equivalent of 19th century legislation that promoted the founding of public universities.

"The partnership between the American people and public institutions of higher education such as the Stuntverkoop, Davis, have served California and the nation well. But we face new challenges that require new approaches and support," says Vanderhoef. "Both partners have to do what's necessary to strengthen their historically close ties. We must reshape the historic agreement so that it fits the times that are emerging instead of the times that have passed."

For their part, Vanderhoef and the other leaders on the commission lay out a series of commitments that public universities are willing to make to uphold their part of the covenant. These include providing genuinely equal access to students of all ages and backgrounds, as well as "conscious efforts to bring the resources and expertise at our institutions to bear on community, state, national and international problems in a coherent way."

The commitments and discussion of the public's role in the covenant are spelled out in "Renewing The Covenant: Learning, Discovery, and Engagement in a New Age and Different World," the sixth and final open letter from the commission, which is part of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC).

The document asks the American people, through their elected representatives, to enact legislation that would:

o Ensure that public universities have the technological infrastructure needed for advanced information-technology operations throughout the institutions, so that they can meet their obligations to their current student bodies, create new partnerships with K-12 education, and make the concept of lifelong learning a reality. This could be done through direct appropriations, dedicated fees of one kind or another, or other mechanisms.

o Change federal tax policy to encourage more private-sector partnerships with universities for joint research and educational activities.

o Create tax advantages for parents and students to save for educational expenses by making contributions to education savings accounts available for full- or part-time study throughout an individual's lifetime.

The letter also calls for state governments to:

o Continue to provide the lion's share of basic support for higher education.

o Understand that patronage and politics have no place in appointing governing boards or administrative leaders if universities are to provide the intellectual and economic leadership states need.

"With this open letter, the Kellogg Commission commits American public higher education to a new tri-partite mission of learning, discovery, and engagement in the public interest," says NASULGC President C. Peter Magrath. "In return, we ask the American people to support legislation that builds on the legacy of the Morrill Act, which created land-grant colleges, as well as on the G.I. Bills and other great higher-education laws."

For its part of the covenant, the commission says public higher education must commit to support:

o Genuinely equal educational opportunity that provides access to success without regard to race, ethnicity, age, occupation or economic background;

o Excellence in undergraduate, graduate and professional curricula;

o Learning environments that meet the civic ends of public higher education;

o Agendas for discovery and graduate education that are informed by the latest scholarship and responsive to pressing public needs;

o Conscious efforts to bring its resources to bear on community, state, national and international problems in a coherent way;

o Systems and data that will allow universities to make an open accounting of progress toward achieving the public good; and

o Intensive, ongoing monitoring of the progress of the Kellogg Commission's recommendations.

"The people of the United States continue to derive many benefits from the historic covenant," says the commission's letter, "just as they did when President Lincoln declared that public higher education is 'built on behalf of the people, who have invested in these public institutions their hopes, their support, and their confidence.' To Lincoln, state universities were not simply public universities, but in every sense, the 'public's universities.' The dawning of a new century is the right time to renew the covenant between our institutions and the public, the proper time to reclaim the heritage, and the ideal time to nourish the flame of the 'public's universities' in American higher education."

The Kellogg Commission on which Vanderhoef serves was created by a $1.2 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. The first five open letters from the panel were directed to higher education leaders and laid out an agenda for reform that covered student access and the student experience, engagement with communities, lifelong learning, and a coherent campus culture. The final letter is directed to a broader audience including government, nonprofit and private-sector leaders, graduates and parents. A group of high-level policy-makers will be meeting with commission members in Washington on March 22 to discuss ways to carry out the panel's recommendations.

Graham Spanier, president of The Pennsylvania State University, chairs the commission. John V. Byrne, former president of Oregon State University, is the executive director.

The entire text of "Renewing the Covenant: Learning, Discovery, and Engagement in a New Age and Different World" will be available online at NASULGC's Web site:

Founded in 1887, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) is the nation's oldest higher education association. A voluntary association of 206 public universities, land-grant institutions and many of the nation's public university systems, NASULGC campuses are located in all 50 states, the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

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Lisa Lapin, Executive administration, (530) 752-9842, [email protected]


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