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From Our President: Separating Fact from Fiction in Higher Education

 

 

Those who aspire to attend or send their children to college do so because higher education remains the most certain path to a more secure future for Americans and their families. In addition to preparation for a career, postsecondary education offers other long-term benefits and skills for living a fuller life. It is truly a life-changing experience.

Of course, something so highly prized is also open to increased scrutiny. The significance and efficiency of our enterprise are being examined in ways that are new to many of us. With the burden of the cost of college shifting more to students and their families, the value of a college education is increasingly being questioned not only by the public, but also policymakers. These discussions are occurring with greater frequency and are often escalated in the op-ed pages of major newspapers and numerous talk shows.

I believe we should welcome these conversations and participate in them vigorously—we have a wonderful story to tell.

We also have a responsibility to put facts on the table. Too often, conversations about American higher education involve persistent and pernicious myths—campuses are increasingly unsafe, student drinking can’t be curbed, faculty are underworked, increases in aid drive increases in tuition. As aggravating as these misrepresentations are, and as tempting as it is to simply ignore them, we owe it to the larger enterprise to engage in thoughtful, meaningful ways with facts and figures that make our case.

In this issue of The Presidency, we explore the top 10 myths about higher education, from athletics to student aid. This issue is intended as a resource to be used when you are speaking to alumni, parents, donors, and policymakers about the challenges confronting your institution.

These challenges were the topics of several plenary and concurrent sessions at our 94th Annual Meeting in March. Many thanks go to those of you who attended the meeting and shared promising practices and interesting perspectives. Each year, I am reminded about the value of our time together.

The meeting was also a wonderful opportunity to publicly thank our outgoing board chair, President Eduardo J. Padrón of Miami Dade College (FL), for his dedicated and diligent service to ACE over the last year, and to congratulate Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University (MA), on his election as ACE’s incoming board chair.

President Aoun and I look forward to welcoming you again to the 95th Annual Meeting here in Washington, D.C., March 2-5, 2013. In the meantime, we wish you the benefits of a pleasant and productive summer.

Molly Corbett Broad
President
American Council on Education