These essays by former Governor James B. Hunt Jr. and business leader Thomas J. Tierney lay out in succinct fashion the requirements of both our nation and our states for new and higher levels of performance from America's colleges and universities. I cannot overemphasize the importance and urgency of meeting these high levels of performance.
The authors of these essays are not theorists writing from an ivory tower. Quite the contrary, both are national leaders and draw from their extensive experience in civic life, politics, and business. Both serve with me on the Board of Directors of the National Center for Public Policy and Education, and each of their essays brings fresh insights to the National Center's seminal series of report cards evaluating and comparing state performance in higher education. These report cards, called Measuring Up, were issued in 2000, 2002, and 2004; Measuring Up 2006 will go to press this fall.
The context for these report cards is the dramatically changed environment of higher education over the past two decades. Today, the knowledge-based, global economy and major demographic shifts demand substantially improved opportunities for education and training beyond high school. This demand must become a major goal of national and state public policy. To an unprecedented extent, more Americans must prepare for, enroll in, and successfully complete degree and certificate programs. As the baby boomers—the most highly educated Americans in history—retire, their replacements will come primarily from the expanding minority and low-income groups, populations that have traditionally been the least-educated groups in this country. If this nation and its states cannot improve the education of these groups, the share of the U.S. workforce that is college-educated will shrink, and much of our past advantage in the global marketplace will shrink with it. If we fail to mobilize our states and country—as well as our educational institutions—with a renewed urgency, our standard of living will decline and the historic American dream of opportunity will erode.
But there is also good news. America has successfully confronted similar needs in the past. It did so in creating the Land Grant colleges in the 19th century. Most pointedly, it did so in the 20th century with the G.I. Bill after World War II, first for the returning veterans and then for the baby boomers. In the 21st century, America must again ratchet up the educational level of its population. This time it will require concerted efforts by government, by schools and colleges, and—much more so than in the past—by the public and its leaders, based on widespread understanding of the realities of the competitive global economic environment.
These essays by two of America's most perceptive and influential leaders are valuable maps for charting our course through the critical economic and educational challenges and opportunities of this new century. I thank my colleagues for their work.
Former Governor of New Mexico
Dean, College of Business,
New Mexico State University