Higher Education’s “Accountability” Imperative: How the University System of Maryland Responded
Kirwan, William E.
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, v39 n2 p21-25 Mar-Apr 2007.
A crucial national dialogue is under way about higher education and its role in securing America’s future. Last fall, a blue-ribbon panel on higher education, established by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, issued a report expressing concerns that the United States could be losing its status as the world leader in postsecondary education. The panel offered far-reaching recommendations aimed at ensuring that higher education can meet its responsibilities for advancing their national security, global competitiveness, and the quality of life of their citizenry. The nation’s continued leadership in the knowledge economy can only be realized through a renewed sense of partnership between higher education and the body politic, which must include an infusion of public funds for colleges and universities. This will require a change in higher education’s approach to accountability. This article discusses the higher education’s “accountability” imperative and how the University System of Maryland (USM) responded to the challenge. USM launched an initiative effort almost two years ago, which they call their Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiative (E&E). Through this initiative, they are systematically looking at their academic and administrative processes to see how they can be re-engineered to hold down cost increases and sustain or even elevate quality. With a demonstrated commitment to cost containment, access for low-income students, and accountability for their operations and educational outcomes, they will be in a much better position to make the case that postsecondary education deserves greater support from taxpayers. So much is at stake. Higher education raises incomes and lowers poverty, creates opportunities and solves problems, reduces barriers and elevates civic engagement. Higher education changes the lives of the people who will change the world. The nation simply must find a way to ensure access for all qualified students to a high-quality higher education. Doing so is their best hope, one might say their only hope, for building a bright future for America. This is why higher education must increase the public’s confidence and financial support. And the way to do that is demonstrated willingness to embrace a new, higher standard of public accountability.