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Policy Perspectives
1998

"A Very Public Agenda"
September 1998
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Based on a roundtable convened by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in conjunction with the Knight Collaborative, this essay examines the changing relationship between the forces of markets and of public policy in shaping higher education. Policy was once considered a primary instrument for achieving public purposes through higher education. Yet, as the competition for public resources increases, the societal commitment that powered an earlier vision of broad access and choice has been subject to the same abridgment that produced welfare reform and made balancing budgets a top priority. What most often replaces public policy as a means of expressing public needs is simply the cumulative action of higher education markets. To be sure, these markets are heavily subsidized by public investment. Given this fact, the essay asks: How can public subsidy best ensure that the markets for postsecondary education yield the greatest possible fulfillment of the public good? Can the leverage that such public appropriations provide purchase educational attainment as well as institutional access? What public objectives require the explicit action of policy to achieve—and what objectives are best achieved through the workings of the market? How can public agencies devise and fund incentives that encourage institutions to be both market smart and mission centered? The essay makes several recommendations toward the fulfillment of a broadened conception of access—understood to mean not just matriculation but successful educational attainment.

 

"A Teachable Moment"
June 1998
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This essay concerns the important role of the nation's universities and colleges in educating a citizenry that can understand and apply basic principles of science and technology. While the quality of undergraduate teaching in the natural sciences, mathematics, engineering, and technology has improved markedly in many settings through the past decade, considerable work remains to make these subjects less foreboding to many non-majors who seek a more general knowledge. The essay makes several recommendations for improving the quality of undergraduate teaching and learning in the scientific disciplines. These include developing a research base that documents best practices in science teaching; restating the mission of departments to stress the importance of educating not just majors but those who seek primarily a general knowledge of scientific subjects; developing more effective linkages and partnerships among two-year and four-year institutions as well as with K-12 institutions; fostering a stronger culture of teaching within departments; and taking more explicit steps to convey to the public the intellectual excitement and the societal benefits of scientific inquiry.

 

"A Teachable Moment" - Exemplars: "Babson College"
June 1998
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Babson College’s traditional, lock-step undergraduate business curriculum was underpreparing graduates for a changing business environment; the college designed a coherent program that stresses interdisciplinary collaboration, better supports individual learning needs, and more explicitly links theory with field-based learning.

 

"A Teachable Moment" - Exemplars: "Eastern New Mexico University"
June 1998
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To extend the benefits of its strong baccalaureate program to an underserved population of women in an urban region, Mount St. Mary’s College created an associate’s-level Alternative Access program. This program incorporated multicultural perspectives into its curriculum, combining academic rigor with the support systems necessary for young women to persist and succeed.

 

"A Teachable Moment" - Exemplars: "Mount St. Mary’s College"
June 1998
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To extend the benefits of its strong baccalaureate program to an underserved population of women in an urban region, Mount St. Mary’s College created an associate’s-level Alternative Access program. This program incorporated multicultural perspectives into its curriculum, combining academic rigor with the support systems necessary for young women to persist and succeed.

 

"To Publish and Perish"
March 1998
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This Policy Perspectives is about the challenge of maintaining access to significant research and scholarship at a time when both the volume and price of information have increased nearly three-fold in the last decade alone. The underlying issue is the disjunction between the sociology and the economics of academic publication itself—the processes through which the research community disseminates knowledge and judges the quality of work produced by its members. The essay contrasts the expectation of an open exchange of information within the academy to the pricing and copyright practices of commercial publishers that control many of the major scholarly publishing venues. "To Publish and Perish" recommends several initiatives for decreasing the control that commercial publishers exert over academic publishing, including a strengthening of linkages among library consortia to help shape the market for published materials; helping faculty of institutions to understand what is at stake in signing away their intellectual property rights to publishers; investing in electronic forms of scholarly communication; and decoupling publication and faculty evaluation for the purposes of promotion and tenure. This essay was based on a special roundtable hosted by Johns Hopkins University and convened jointly by the Association of Research Libraries, the Association of American Universities, and the Pew Higher Education Roundtable.