Forum to look at future for U.S. higher ed

A report by the U.S. Department of Education critical of colleges is the key topic of interest.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:31 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Four education experts, including UM System President Elson Floyd, will discuss a controversial report that could alter the future of higher education at a public forum this afternoon.

The report, by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ Commission on the Future of Higher Education, contains recommendations that could be used to reform the Higher Education Act, which is set to expire in December. Commonly referred to as the Spellings’ report, the document advocates improving higher education’s accessibility, affordability, accountability and quality.

The forum will be held today from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at MU in Memorial Union’s Stotler Lounge and is open to the public. Barbara Townsend, an education leadership and policy professor in MU’s College of Education, said the report is very important to the higher-education community.

“It’s in many ways the No College Student Left Behind version of the No Child Left Behind report,” she said.

Townsend said, however, that the report is overly critical of the state of higher education in America. Some colleges and universities have already implemented some of its suggestions, such as taking steps to better measure what is student learning.

“It paints a pretty gloomy picture of higher education, and I don’t think that’s totally accurate,” Townsend said of the report.

Townsend said the four panelists will help raise awareness about the report, so that everyone can read and understand it without taking “every word of it as 100 percent accurate.”

At the forum, Floyd is scheduled to address how universities can be more accountable. The other panelists are Donald Douchette, vice chancellor of education and technology at Metropolitan Community College of Kansas City; Karla DeSpain, president of Columbia Public Schools Board of Education; and Gerald Brouder, president of Columbia College.

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