In its continued effort to identify common concerns and build consensus for innovative solutions in American public higher education, the Lincoln Project recently convened a series of regional meetings in Austin, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; New York City; and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
University leaders, representatives from the private sector, members of philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, and local and national policy-makers discussed topics ranging from challenges related to state appropriations; to balancing tuition, fees, and affordability; to the role of philanthropy and corporate giving in supporting public research universities. Drawing upon these conversations, the Lincoln Project is now gearing up to release a series of publications that will precede its final report and recommendations in early 2016.
President of the University of Texas at Austin William Powers hosted the project for a regional forum held in Austin on March 26, 2015. This meeting brought together leadership from several institutions, including UT Austin, UT Dallas, UT El Paso, UT Arlington, the University of New Mexico, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, as well as representatives from the public-private partnership Educate Texas and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Lincoln Project cochairs Robert Birgeneau and Mary Sue Coleman as well as members of the project committee heard about the challenges and successes of these institutions: online learning–and examples of effective and ineffective approaches–was a particular area of interest, in addition to the universities’ increasing involvement in the economic development of their communities.
On April 2 the project cochairs, Academy President Jonathan F. Fanton, representatives from public and private universities in Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida, and representatives from the Southern Education Foundation and the Center for Civil and Human Rights attended the project’s third regional forum hosted by Emory University President James Wagner. The discussion focused on the importance of public/private partnerships and Georgia’s unique higher-education landscape. For example, Georgia’s HOPE scholarship, a merit-based financial assistance program funded by revenue from the Georgia Lottery, has provided many students with full-tuition scholarships to any public institution in the state. The group also discussed successful programs like the University of Memphis’s tracking system for degree completion, which helps the university to identify and redirect students who are not on track with their majors.
The next regional forum was held on April 6 in New York City. Members of the project advisory group heard from university leadership at Stony Brook University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers, and the University at Buffalo. Among other topics, the group discussed the added value of research experiences for undergraduate students at public research universities, as well as the necessity of improving education at every level so that students can be successful in their postsecondary education. Representatives from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the National Research Council’s Board on Higher Education and the Workforce also participated as part of the project’s continuing efforts to partner with organizations concerned about the future of higher education.
On May 7, the Lincoln Project held a regional forum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hosted by Chancellor Carol Folt. Lincoln Project members, UNC leadership, and representatives from local government and businesses discussed successful partnerships between public research universities and business.
The Lincoln Project is now preparing to release Public Research Universities: Why They Matter, the first in a series of publications that will precede its final report and recommendations. Available in late May, Why They Matter explores some of the major attributes of public research universities, including their commitment to providing a wide range of students with a high-quality education; their contribution to the economic vitality of their states, regions, and the nation; and their commitment to improving their states, region, and the nation through research and teaching excellence.
Following this publication are a white paper that will provide an overview of the state appropriations process and where higher education falls within it (to be released in summer 2015), a white paper on the current financial model of public research universities (to be published in fall 2015), a brief demonstrating the public good of public research universities (available in late fall 2015), and the final report, which will offer concrete recommendations and strategies to sustain these institutions for the foreseeable future (to be released in winter 2016).
The Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education is considering the implications of declining state investment in public higher education; assessing the role of the federal government in funding our great public research universities; and developing recommendations for ensuring that public universities continue to serve the nation as engines of economic development and opportunity for Americans from all backgrounds. Ultimately, the project will encourage the development of new federal, corporate, and philanthropic sources of support to sustain public higher education in every state. For more information about the Lincoln Project, please see the Academy’s website.