Mary Sue Coleman, A Call for Saving Public Higher Education
Mary Sue Coleman, President of the Association of American Universities, delivered a compelling speech on September 27, 2016, at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit, University of California, Berkeley. In this speech, Coleman spoke quite vocally about the issue of higher education being a public good that is appearing to become increasingly inaccessible and lacking support. Within her speech, a noteworthy quote she stated was, "We are, I believe, at a tipping point. The question is which way public higher education will fall, and who will do the pushing," suggestive of the lack of support among state governments towards public education, which had declined by a whopping 30 percent. As a result of the decline in state funding for public education, Coleman explained how such coincided with the increased costs of education for students and families. Accordingly, this increase in tuition costs had led universites to make major cuts, to educational programs, as well as services, which may potentially weaken the quality of the education students receive as a result of the state investment declines for public educational universities that are now offering less programs and services to their students, yet charging students and families increased tuition rates.
Faced with skepticism, Coleman uses her speech to reiterate how public universities drive American research along with health benefits. Coleman concludes by emphasizing that we should seek new revenue streams in order to fund public universities, to foster partnerships between public research universities and the private sector, and by improving student access through policy reforms.
Within a 15-year span, starting in 2000, investment by American state governments in public higher education declined by 30 percent. Thirty percent. That is an ominous start to the 21st century. And a large step backward in a nation aiming for the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020.