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Academic crisis?

With regents contending we are failing higher education in Arizona and nationwide

 by Daniel Newhauser
 published on Tuesday, February 12, 2008

<b>MONEY, MONEY:</b> Regent Fred DuVal speaks to the ASU Foundation Board of Trustees about the Coalition for Higher Education Monday.
/issues/news/703586
Bettina Hansen / THE STATE PRESS
MONEY, MONEY: Regent Fred DuVal speaks to the ASU Foundation Board of Trustees about the Coalition for Higher Education Monday.
 

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A quiet crisis is threatening America's economic competitiveness, according to the Arizona Board of Regents.

The crisis, Regent Fred DuVal said, is the lack of funding and overall commitment allotted to higher education in the U.S.

"It's a quiet crisis because America hasn't taken notice," DuVal said to an ASU Board of Trustees audience during a speech at ASU's Fulton Center Monday morning.

But over the last few months, ABOR, the governing body for Arizona's public university system, has been on a mission to ensure that the crisis stays quiet no longer.

The regents founded the Coalition for Solutions Through Higher Education five months ago, a campaign designed to make Americans aware that a deficient higher education system results in an unhealthy economy, according to the campaign's Web site.

"An innovative economy demands a highly educated population and substantial investments in education," said DuVal.

He added that the board will be working in multiple states to inform Americans about the lack of investment in education.

Inspired by successful awareness campaigns such as Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" and the campaign to strengthen Arizona's driving under the influence laws, DuVal and his fellow regents present slideshows and speeches to business leaders and educators, hoping to rouse higher education advocacy among the American public, he said.

His Feb. 11 presentation was only one of several similar lectures being given by regents across Arizona and in other states.

DuVal said he hopes the presentations will result in more private and public funding for higher education particularly in Arizona, where he said legislative finding has dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last two decades.

Whereas other countries are allotting significant public resources to higher education, DuVal said America's contributions are either stagnant or falling.

"Innovation is the only way the United States can compete with high-skill, lower-wage economies such as China and India without reducing wages," DuVal said. "We cannot compete on size and cost."

ASU economics professor John McDowell said he agrees with the regent's argument.

"In today's rapidly changing world, there is a premium on high-skilled labor," McDowell said. "In order to stay competitive, you need high-skilled individuals."

But the U.S. is not producing enough college graduates with the right skills, said Alfredo de los Santos, a professor in the division of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at ASU.

"Twenty years ago, higher education in the U.S. was No. 1 in the world," de los Santos said. "Now, other countries are doing more and better than we are."

Currently, the U.S. ranks 21st in four-year high school completion and 15th in four-year college completion among industrialized nations, according to figures compiled on HigherEducationSolution.com, the campaign's Web site.

These lagging education indicators are slowing the economy, DuVal said.

"On every metric of economic growth, the U.S. is trailing," he said.

In order to prevent being surpassed as the world's dominant economy, America is in need of cultural and policy change, DuVal added.

"This is the challenge and the cause of this moment," he said, "so that we will not be the first generation in American history to hand less opportunity to the next generation."

Reach the reporter at daniel.newhauser@asu.edu.



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