America's colleges and universities aren't producing enough graduates with the skills necessary to meet industry demands, warns a nonpartisan business group.
The Center for Economic Development, a public policy organization that seeks to promote economic growth and a favorable business climate, released its report “Boosting Postsecondary Education Performance” on Monday.
The organization warns that falling college completion rates and the rising cost of college are hampering the nation's ability to compete economically.
“Hardly a day goes by that there isn't something said about the increasing cost of postsecondary education,” said Charles Kolb, the president of the organization.
Rather than tackling higher education in general, the report focuses specifically on what it calls broad-access institutions.
Such institutions include two-year and four-year public colleges and universities, as well as for-profit schools. Those institutions have a key role to play, Kolb said, because a large percentage of Americans look to them for higher education.
“We're not trying to fix the whole sector,” Kolb said.
The report marks the beginning of the organization's national campaign to bring business leaders into the conversation about higher education reform.
The report identifies key steps it recommends business leaders take to promote greater efficiency and productivity in higher education, including supporting certain objectives through corporate policies.
The organization recommends businesses direct their tuition assistance programs toward colleges and universities they identify as being the most productive and effective, whether those institutions operate through traditional classroom programs or online.
The report also recommends business leaders convene annual statewide education summits. Such meetings would give business leaders a chance to meet with policymakers, higher education officials and other stakeholders to discuss their concerns and progress made toward meeting goals.
Marilyn Reznik, the executive director of educational leadership at the AT&T Foundation, said the issues raised in the report represent serious concerns for the corporate world. The report calls on industry leaders, education officials and policymakers to work together to ensure the nation stays economically competitive.
“I don't think there's a choice here,” she said.
The report echoes concerns raised by officials at both the state and federal levels.
Oklahoma higher education officials have made college completion a top priority. Glen Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma Higher Education System, has called for an additional 20,400 degrees and certificates awarded in Oklahoma over the next 12 years. That goal is a part of Complete College America, a nationwide initiative designed to boost college completion.
Oklahoma's involvement in Complete College America began in September, when Gov. Mary Fallin called for a 67 percent increase in college degrees and certificates earned in Oklahoma by 2023. Fallin cited a number of groups who were falling through the cracks, including first-generation college students, transfer students, Hispanic and black students and students from low-
At the federal level, President Barack Obama has called on states to make higher education a higher priority in their budgets. He has also challenged colleges and universities to work to keep costs down.
Hardly a day goes by that there isn't something said about the increasing cost of postsecondary education.”