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The Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Higher Education

On April 27, 2016, Jonathan Fanton welcomed members of the American Academy to a meeting to discuss the final report of The Lincoln Project, a three-year initiative dedicated to sustaining and strengthening the nations’ public research universities.

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us. We are trying something new today, with encouragement from the Academy’s new Boston-Cambridge program committee. This is the first time we have organized a lunch meeting to discuss a recent project report with our local Fellows. We plan to make it a regular practice to discuss the work of the Academy, both while it is underway and once it has been completed.

We currently have two new commissions in progress: the Commission on Language Learning is reviewing the state of foreign language instruction in the United States, while Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education is examining how Americans are receiving their post-secondary education. Supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education is looking at a broad range of institutions—private colleges, community colleges, public higher education, for-profit institutions, and online education opportunities. We may explore this topic with local Fellows at the Academy in the fall.

Today, we focus on Recommitting to Lincoln’s Vision: An Educational Compact for the 21st Century, the final report of the American Academy’s Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education. This project has been led by co-chairs Bob Birgeneau, the former chancellor of University California, Berkeley, and Mary Sue Coleman, the former president of the University of Michigan and the incoming president of the Association of American Universities.

Drawing on a broad range of leaders in academia, business, philanthropy and nonprofits, the Lincoln Project has explored the many challenges faced by America’s great public research universities.

Since the project began three years ago, it has published five reports that collectively call attention to the challenges public research universities face and to their critical role in strengthening local communities, states, and the nation.

The first publication, Public Research Universities: Why They Matter, demonstrates the vital public good that public research universities represent in the nation. The second publication, Public Research Universities: Changes in State Funding, examines state financing of higher education, the challenges that state governments face, and the prospects for greater state support in the future. This project’s third report, Public Research Universities: Understanding the Financial Model, details the most common financial models that sustain public research universities and examines new ideas for diversifying and enhancing funding sources in the future. Public Research Universities: Serving the Public Good, offers examples of the many contributions that public research universities have made to economic growth, civic engagement, individual well-being, and American democracy.

Recommitting to Lincoln’s Vision, the final recommendations set forth by the Lincoln Project, presents tangible recommendations ways in which the public and private sectors can help to sustain and secure the future of America’s public research universities.

In a few minutes, Academy staff members John Tessitore, humanities and education program director, and Samantha Carney, education program policy officer, will give us a brief summary of the report and our outreach plans.

Then we will answer your questions, invite your comments on the report, and ask you for your help in following up on the recommendations.

Significant effort is invested in Academy commissions—for example, The Heart of the Matter, which discusses the importance of the humanities and social sciences; Restoring the Foundation, which urged more robust support for basic research; and now the Lincoln Project, with its plan for strengthening public research universities. The Academy’s work is not done once a report is released. We need to enlist our full membership of more than 5,000 members to help support ways in which this information can be used to support the common good.

As I said, this is a new format Academy meetings. It is part of our ongoing efforts to be more responsive to member interests, to reach out to members across the country and around the world, and to engage you with projects and studies so that you can help us broaden our reach.

This year, we have held meetings in 24 cities around the world, attended by 1,000 members. And there will be more activity next year as regional program committees have formed or are forming in a dozen cities. This includes a Boston-Cambridge Planning Committee that advises us on activities for local members.

The Academy wants to engage its members in its studies and publications, but also make it possible for you to find and connect with members who share your interests. Tomorrow we will launch a new online community called Member Connection. It allows you to log in through our secure website, search for members by name, topic, or city, and send messages. Through Member Connection, you can also organize discussion groups and, potentially, continue today’s conversation online. I hope that you will find this new resource helpful, and that you will let us know your impressions.

At this point, Dr. Fanton turned the program over to John Tessitore and Samantha Carney.

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