JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Governance - Just the Facts!

JACKSONVILLE -- February 1, 2002 -- With the recent publicity about improving governance of higher education in Alabama, a few very important questions are "begging to be answered."
  • Why are policy-makers spending so much time and energy looking only at university governance?
  • If governance is such a big problem, why not look at governance at all levels of public education?
If you ask the average citizen, you will find that people are very pleased with the quality of education at Alabama's universities. However, they are concerned about the fact that Alabama ranks 43rd in the nation in the number of citizens with college degrees. Most of these people are not as concerned about "how many institutions there are" as they are about "increasing the likelihood that a person can earn a college degree."

There is value in looking at governance at all levels of public education (K - Ph.D.). Alabama's universities have never been bashful about offering their programs for evaluation. For example, the universities helped pass higher education reform legislation in the mid-1990s. The result of this reform was Alabama's public universities set up a program viability measure that has resulted in cutting over 1000 programs from the university offerings. These programs were eliminated based on factual analysis and quantifiable measures.

While the Higher Education Partnership recognizes that individuals serving on these study commissions are outstanding leaders and proven public servants, could it be that the facts have gotten cloudy? One obvious fact is that "what looks good on paper" must be tempered with real world knowledge and analysis. It is easy for misinformation to surface and become confusing to the average person.

Dr. Ed Richardson, State Superintendent of Education and overseer of the K-12 programs, recently stated that Alabama has 26 teacher preparation programs and that was too many. As a member of the Board of Trustees of many of the public universities, we know that Dr. Richardson understands that all of these education programs are not public; only 15 are located at public universities. Many are offered by private universities.

Restructuring governance would have no bearing on these private programs. Furthermore, the State of Georgia, which has a Board of Regents, has 53 teacher preparation programs and 18 of those are located at public universities. The danger of the public not understanding these numbers is that the public may begin to support policy ideas that may not be in their best interest.

Alabama's citizens want more opportunities. Citizens want better jobs like those generated by public universities. Yes, Alabama has 15 public, four-year universities and the average number in the Southeast is 12.4. However, do not forget that Alabama has only 18 private universities and the average number in the Southeast is 29 per state. As a whole, Alabama is still behind in the number of available offerings. These are important facts.

Changing governance may not imply closing programs; however, if it does, Alabama must be sure to know who wins and who loses. The fear is that the winners will be hard to find. The losers could easily be the high school students seeking to receive a college education, yet finding the doors are not being opened wider, they are being closed.

Studying governance is fine. Just make sure the studies are inclusive and based on real-world analysis. The young people of Alabama need more opportunities not less!

After all, looking at a seven-year period during the 1990s, the Hoover Institute determined that a person with a college degree earned significantly more than a person limited to a high school diploma. This is the fact that Alabamians want to drive decision making. Students need more opportunities not less!

For additional information, please call Gordon Stone at 334-832-9911.


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