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JULY 2004

Higher Education: Time for Reflection & Action
By Dr. Geraldine Chapey

Education is the engine that drives the economy of New York State. Two higher education issues currently on the horizon are of great interest to all New Yorkers. They are the Statewide Master Plan for Higher Education, 2004--2012, and the Reauthorization of the federal Higher Education Act 2004.

Statewide Master Plan for Higher Education

In collaboration with the Higher Education Community and the Commissioner’s Advisory Council on Higher Education, the Board of Regents—every eight years—adopts a Statewide Plan for Higher Education, setting in place a vision with the goals, objectives, priorities and limitations for higher education. It is designed to meet the rising demands for highly skilled workers, informed citizens, problem solvers and decision makers in an increasingly competitive and changing global technological society.

The Master Plan document will serve as a unifying force to bring together all aspects of higher education in New York State. The Board of Regents is committed to retaining New York’s historic place as a world class leader for excellence in education, attracting and developing renowned international scholars in the sciences, medicine, law and the arts as well as preparing their own residents for success in the 21st century.

During the past two years, each of the four segments of Higher Education—The State University of New York, The City University of New York, Independent Colleges of New York and Proprietary Colleges of New York—have been energized by the challenge of developing a new Master Plan and have been vigorously engaged in a study of their current offerings and of emerging issues related to our State.

Discussions have centered around such questions as: “What services should higher institutions provide for the State’s residents, workplace, workforce and communities?”; “How should these services be delivered?”; “How should the education of professionals—doctors, engineers, dentists, attorneys, accountants, journalists and business executives—be changed?” “How does technology impact on student achievement in elementary, secondary, post secondary and professional education?”

Key issues currently under review are Distance Learning, off campus instruction, liberal arts, sciences, intellectual contributions to society, access for the disabled shortage areas (nurses, pharmacists, teachers, educational administrators), social and ethical values, research, life long learning facilities, faculty, library capacity, and institutional effectiveness. One area of concern for teachers and administrators, PreK-12, is that of narrowing the gap between teacher preparation in higher education institutions and actual practice in school districts.

During the summer each of the four segments of higher education will have registered their Master Plan. By the fall 2004 the Regents will issue a comprehensive tentative Statewide Plan for Higher Education, 2004--2012. Hearings on the Plan will be conducted at that time.

You are invited now to get involved in shaping the future of the education of all New Yorkers. You are encouraged, as groups or as individuals, to make your thoughts and concerns about higher education known by writing to: Byron Connell, Director of the Statewide Plan for Higher Education in New York State, State Education Department, 89 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York 12234. Every correspondence on this topic will be carefully read and noted.

Since education is the engine that drives the economy and the future of New York State, all taxpayers, professional educators and parents should have a voice in shaping higher education policies and practices for the next twelve years.

Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act—2004

“How can we afford college?” is a hot button topic among parents and young people. With escalating tuition costs and stagnant student aid many students are burdened by unmanageable loans. Students and parents are making hard choices.

Today, according to the College Board Report, the average private sector graduate leaves campus owing approximately $20,000—with the public school grads owing about $16,000. Grads of professional school frequently incur debt in excess of $35,000.

If college is the gateway to the American dream and a necessity for America to contribute its leadership among world powers, it is important for us to consider fiscally feasible solutions to the debt burden. Investing in higher education will strengthen the future of our country.

The Reauthorization of Higher Education Act is scheduled to be reviewed in the fall of 2004. Initiated in 1965 this act was designed to permit every academically qualified American to have financial access to college. In the 1970’s, for example, the Pell grants took care of a good part of the tuition at higher education institutions but that percentage has diminished. The value of the grants have declined significantly.

Supporters of reform in financial aid for higher education are urged—in groups or individually—to make known to their Congressman and United States Senators their support for changes—prior to the vote on the Reauthorization. Now is the time to act. All of us want every New Yorker to become all that he/she is capable of being as citizens of this great country—so we must provide reasonable access to higher education—now.#

Dr. Geraldine Chapey is a Regent of the University of the State of New York.



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