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Policy Perspectives
2000

"Disputed Territories"
November 2000
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Today, too many of the nation's colleges and universities simply proclaim the importance of civic engagement. Too few do much more than publish lists documenting their students' volunteer activities as evidence of a broader institutional investment in the public well-being. This essay addresses the need for higher education institutions to make education for civic engagement a more active component of their agendas. A number of indices suggest a declining rate of civic participation within the American population; the essay considers steps that universities and colleges could take to foster a greater propensity toward civic engagement in their graduates. The core recommendations are that higher education institutions should: (1) convene broad-ranging discussions of the meaning and importance of civic engagement in a democratic society; (2) develop curricular programs that actively impart an understanding of principles central to an inclusive, diverse democracy; (3) demonstrate a willingness to magnify those voices expressing views that could otherwise fail to be heard; (4) model responsible citizenship through their own processes of academic governance as well as through their engagement with immediate neighbors.

 

"Disputed Territories" - Exemplars: "Strategic Community Partnerships"
November 2000
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Three colleges and a university, deeply rooted in their respective communities, recognize how closely their own futures are linked to the well-being of their surrounding regions. These four institutions—Franklin & Marshall College; Michigan State University; State University of New York, College at Geneseo; and Washington and Jefferson College—each engage in community partnerships to ensure the continued vitality of the community, the region, and the institution itself. The four institutions worked together in a Knight Collaborative Engagement on Strategic Community Partnerships to define principles of engagement and devise strategies appropriate to their particular circumstances.

 

"The Mission and the Medium"
July 2000
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The force of emerging markets, spurred and enhanced by interactive technology, is creating new contexts for learning and new competitors in pursuit of higher education's traditional students. This essay examines the impact of these changes on higher education institutions. Technology is helping to blur the distinction between traditional, degree-based higher education, as symbolized in the academic gown, and programs of more focused certification in specific skills, symbolized in the merit badge. The challenge to traditional two- and four-year institutions is to remain true to their missions and core values while at the same time being responsive to changes in the market for higher education, which are driven in part by technology. New strategies are required to ensure that students continue to learn the value of an education that integrates the parts into a broader whole—preparing graduates both to succeed individually and serve as responsible citizens. Among other things, the essay calls on faculty to seek out the new learning tools technology makes available and pursue those innovations that hold the promise of improved learning and increased efficiency. It argues that the faculty role as disseminator of knowledge should increasingly give way to that of mentor and guide, helping students to integrate information from multiple sources into a coherent frame of meaning.

 

"The Mission and the Medium" - Exemplars: "Planning and Fundraising: From Bureaucratic to Strategic Management"
July 2000
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As public funding bases dwindle and individual donors begin to identify themselves as investors as well as philanthropists, higher education institutions must increasingly seek out new ways to integrate academic planning, budget processes, and fundraising efforts. Seven institutions—Cleveland State University; Northern Arizona University; Pace University; Portland State University; Towson University; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and University of Nevada, Las Vegas—participated in a Knight Collaborative Engagement on building more deliberate links between academic planning, budgeting, and fundraising.

 

"The Data Made Me Do It"
March 2000
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This essay examines the ways in which higher education institutions use—or fail to use—data in making strategic decisions. It finds that while the culture of academia exhibits a strong appetite for data, higher education institutions too seldom make data the instruments of strategy in the fullest sense. The pervasive practice is to enlist data in narrow and parochial causes—to fight turf battles, impede change, or justify past and current actions at the unit or institutional level. Still lacking in most settings is the ability to draw data effectively into a process of responsible judgment and decision making within an institution—to make thoughtful use of data as a gauge of capacity and prospects. The essay features a strategy matrix to help academic leaders first identify and then sharpen an institution's understanding of the opportunities and challenges it faces. Finally, the essay calls upon the nation's higher education institutions to fund and maintain a mechanism for collecting paneled data on how well the system is serving the education needs of the nation as a whole. This database would not be for the purpose of comparing individual institutions; its focus would be on students and the Impact that their enrollment in higher education has on their learning and later experiences.

 

"The Data Made Me Do It" - Exemplars: "South Dakota Board of Regents Institutions"
March 2000
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Working with its six public universities, the South Dakota Board of Regents built a set of financial and academic initiatives at the system level to improve educational quality, serve the state more effectively, and increase public trust in the capacity of these institutions to utilize resources to best advantage. The article focuses on the system-wide recasting of general education requirements as a key step in this process.