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Universities Rest On Their Laurels As Other Countries Surpass US in Higher Education, Says Commission

By Richard McCormack, Editor & Publisher, Manufacturing & Technology News, August 17, 2023 Vol. 13, No. 15

"The future of our country’s colleges and universities is threatened by global competitive pressures, powerful technological developments, restraints on public finance, and serious structural limitations that cry out for reform," states a draft report from the Department of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

The US higher education system "needs to improve in dramatic ways" and begin to address issues associated with escalating costs, inefficiencies, declining federal and state support, and new programs aimed at educating more students in life-long learning pursuits.

"History is littered with examples of industries that, at their peril, failed to respond to — or even notice — changes in the world around them, from railroads to steel manufacturers," states the report. "Without serious self-examination and reform, institutions of higher education risk falling into the same trap, seeing their market share substantially reduced and their services increasingly characterized by obsolescence. Already, troubling signs are abundant. Where once the United States led the world in educational attainment, recent data from the OECD indicate that our nation is now ranked ninth among major industrialized countries in higher education attainment. Another half-dozen countries are close on our heels. And these global pressures come at a time when data from the US Department of Labor indicate that postsecondary education will be even more important for workers hoping to fill the fastest growing jobs in our new economy."

The business community must become "directly and fully engaged" with the government and higher education leaders in developing new educational services tailored to a competitive economy.

"It’s time to be frank," states the commission. "Among the vast and varied institutions that make up US higher education, we have found much to applaud, but also much that requires urgent reform….[W]e must not be blind to the less inspiring realities of postsecondary education in our country. We remained so far ahead of our competitors for so long that we began to take our postsecondary superiority for granted. The results of this inattention, little known to many of our fellow citizens, are sobering. We may still have more than our share of the world’s best universities. But a lot of other countries have followed our lead and they are now educating more of their citizens to more advanced levels than we are. Worse, they are passing us by at a time when education is more important to our collective prosperity than ever."

© 2006, Manufacturing & Technology News,


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