Written by Ed Osborn
Willimantic, Conn: -- On Oct. 2, Eastern Connecticut State University joined more than 460 other public colleges and universities across America in signing the "Commitment to the Future," which calls for increasing the number of undergraduate baccalaureate degrees by 3.8 million between now and 2025. The goal of the "Commitment to the Future" campaign is to increase the percentage of American adults with college degrees to 60 percent of the nation's population.
The commitment, a project of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), pledges to enhance educational quality while containing per student educational costs. The initiative also calls for a renewed partnership among public colleges and universities, the states and the federal government to achieve its goals.
Specific objectives contained within the overall goal of increasing the number of college degrees awarded include reaching out to former students who have attended college but have not finished their degree; reducing the average time for students to complete their degree; working closely with P-12 systems and community colleges, especially in the STEM fields and other areas of critical need; controlling per-student educational expenditures while pursuing enhanced quality; upholding the principles of access and diversity; and supporting regional and national economic growth through research and innovation, commercialization of technologies and economic development.
"I am pleased to be a signatory to the 'Commitment to the Future,' with Eastern joining more than 460 other public colleges and universities in this campaign to increase the number of college graduates in our country," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "The United States is currently only 12th among the nations of the world in college degree attainment of young adults ages 25-34. We have slipped significantly over the past decade from our former number-one ranking. If the United States is to regain its economic position and leadership role in the world, we need to aggressively pursue strategies to increase our degree completion rates. That means that government, education and industry must work collaboratively on this important national initiative."
(Other Connecticut public colleges and universities signing on the Commitment to the Future include the University of Connecticut; Central Connecticut State University; Southern Connecticut State University; Western Connecticut State University; and the Board of Regents for Higher Education of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities.)
(Excerpt from the "A Committee to the Future" statement released by the APLU and the AASCU on Oct. 2)
"During the past 20 years, many states have maintained tight, regulatory institutional oversight while per-student investment in public higher education steadily declined until 2008 when the decline accelerated, in part, because of the recession.
During this same period, public colleges and universities contained per-student educational expenditures to about the rate of inflation. These circumstances forced public institutions to raise tuition to compensate for the significant loss of state dollars. The total educational expenditures per student have been stable for many years, but the mix of student tuition versus state appropriations has shifted dramatically and continues to deteriorate. This trend must be reversed for public colleges and universities to continue to meet their obligations as institutions of public purpose. In short, the full partnership between public colleges and universities, the states and the federal government needs to be reestablished with each partner fulfilling its responsibilities.
The states must provide sufficient appropriations to support students and the discovery of new knowledge while extending greater operational flexibility for public colleges and universities. The federal government must maintain its: commitment to student financial aid; support for research and innovation; and encouragement of states to continue their support for public colleges and universities. Public colleges and universities must be more innovative in the performance of their essential roles while containing educational expenditures.
Education, including research, is the only public investment that provides both a social and an economic return. Policymakers need tangible evidence that public higher education is transforming to meet economic and educational needs. Achieving these commitments will ensure greater economic security for America and the next generation of citizens."