A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n
U.S. Department of Education
Letter from US Secretary of EducationLetter from A Lee Fritschler
The Federal Effort and The Office of Postsecondary's Role
The Students Are ComingThe Changing of the Postsecondary Education Universe The Future is Now
The Agenda Project Process


A Turning Point for Postsecondary Education:

We must respond to the rapidly evolving needs of numerous and diverse stakeholders, question existing premises and arrangements, and eliminate unnecessary processes and administrative structures.

James J. Duderstadt, president emeritus, University of Michigan, in his recent book, A University for the 21st Century.

At the start of the 21st century scientists mapped the human genome; the economy set a record for sustained growth; unemployment dropped to its lowest level in 30 years; electronic commerce hit the $5.3 billion mark; the World Wide Web grew to 2.1 billion pages and counting. The population of the U.S., more than 275 million, continued to grow as it simultaneously became more diverse. The various advances have created opportunities and benefits for the vast majority of Americans.

Education is the keystone to continuing the success for both individuals and society at large. Increasingly, in the information age, postsecondary education is a necessity. Yet, the value of a postsecondary education goes beyond mere economics. As the problems and questions society faces become more complicated and complex, postsecondary education prepares citizens to be thoughtful participants in the decisions and debates; postsecondary education passes on the best of our heritage and helps every new American discover what it means to be a citizen in this country. It has always done this. If it is to continue to do so, it must adapt to the rapid pace of change facing all segments of society.

Competition is a hallmark of this changing landscape. Arthur Levine, President of the Teachers' College at Columbia University, made this clear in a recent speech. As he pointed out, "For the first time in U.S. history, the profit-making sector sees education as an investment opportunity. Increasingly viewed as poorly run, low in productivity, very high in cost, and yet [unable] to effectively make use of technology, the 250 billion dollar annual higher education industry is being seen by the now cash-rich, for-profit sector as the next health care industry-another business ripe for takeover, remaking, and of course, producing big fat profits."

In addition to competition, America's universities, two- and four-year colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and other postsecondary institutions face numerous other challenges in adjusting to the changing environment. Increased enrollment, assessment and outcome questions, financial and access issues, technological advances, and international developments are all changing the education landscape-rapidly. It is not an exaggeration to say that we are at a turning point; it is almost a clich?.

The postsecondary education community knows the urgency of the situation. The nation's governors know; over the next few years, the National Governors' Association intends to closely study the postsecondary education system to determine how best to prepare citizens for our knowledge-based economy. The Congress knows this. The U.S. Department of Education and its Office of Postsecondary Education know this too. They all know that if the education community doesn't respond to the challenges, the for-profit sector will. We need to figure out how to best use the strengths of both sectors, separately and in conjunction with each other.


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