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Higher Education Issues

What are the issues facing higher education today? Different groups have different ideas about what the most important higher education issues are. Read on for some insight into education issues such as funding, access, distance learning...

Different Strokes for Different Folks

  • The Association of Governing Boards of Universities of Colleges (AGB), which represents governing boards, trustees, and regents and senior administrators, released their document, “Ten Public Policy Issues for Higher Education 2007-08.”
  • The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), an organization representing 400 public colleges and universities, released a list of the top ten higher education issues in January, 2008.
  • The National Education Association (NEA) keeps a running list (now numbering seven items) of higher education issues on their website.

How do these three lists align?






Price Of Tuition


New Technology in Class


Student Aid Policy

States’ Fiscal Forecasts

Organizing Faculty


Access And Success

College Preparation

Academic Freedom


Accountability & Student Learning




Consumer Information

Campus Security

Intellectual Property Rights


Nonprofit Governance


Distance Education


Tax Policy

2008 Campaign Themes

Funding For Higher Ed


Scientific Research

Affirmative Action



America’s Competitiveness

State Financial-Aid Programs



Educational Goals, PK-20

Economic Development


There are certainly more than ten items here. Interestingly, none of them addresses the higher education issue brought to the fore by a group of college and university presidents in July, 2008: the issue of underage drinking.

Making Sense of the Lists

This is too many items to try to grasp all at once. Let’s see if we can do some consolidation, taking account of items that seem synonymous or related, to come up with a list across the board:

  • Funding might cover Price of Tuition, Student Aid Policy, Affordability, States’ Fiscal Forecasts, State Financial-Aid Programs, Economic Development, and Funding for Higher Ed: AGB items 1, 2, and 7; AASCU items 1, 2, 9, and 10, and NEA item 7.
  • Accountability takes care of both Accountability and Student Learning and Accountability: AGB 4 and AASCU 4.
  • Access can cover Access and Success, College Preparation, Immigration Issues, and Affirmative Action: AGB 3 and AASCU 3, 6, and 8
  • 2008 Presidential Campaign Issues (AASCU 7) have included  scientific research, America’s competitiveness, Education goals for preschooler’s through 20 year olds, New Technology, and Intellectual Property: AGB 8, 9 and 10; AASCU  7; and NEA 1 and 5.
  • Faculty Issues can cover Organizing Faculty, Academic Freedom, and Tenure, NEA 2, 3,  and 4.

Summary of Higher Education Issues

So here is our combined list of ten higher education issues:

  • Funding - There are concerns about the rising cost of tuition, the availability of funding for higher education, financial aid’s availability, as well as financial aid policies, and state funding, given fiscal forecasts.
  • Accountability - Just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) represents people’s concerns with K-12 Education accountability, so there is concern with accountability as a higher education issue.
  • Access - Who has the opportunity to be educated in US colleges and universities brings up questions about college preparation in the K-12 school system, the admission process,  and the ability of those who are admitted to complete their degree programs.
  • 2008 Presidential Campaign Issues - Presidential campaigns always bring the focus to certain issues and the McCain/Obama campaign is no different. Candidates have focused on America’s competitiveness, in general and related to our accomplishments in scientific research, our protection of intellectual property, our fostering of technology, and the goals we set for education.
  • Faculty Issues - The never ending debates about tenure are, as expected, still going on. Other important topics are the extent/limits of academic freedom and faculty unions.
  • Consumer Information - The way that colleges and universities communicate with their customers is as important as it is in any enterprise.
  • Nonprofit Governance - The approaches to running a college/university, both general principles of nonprofit governance and elements specific to the college/university mission, are important higher education issues.
  • Campus Security - Violence on college campuses has increased concerns about campus security.
  • Distance Learning - The rising cost of a college education and the developments in technology are just two of the factors that have brought distance learning into focus as a higher education issue.
  • Underage Drinking - Trends in student behavior, including but not limited to binge drinking-have led 130 college and university professors to ask for a nationwide debate on the drinking age.


The Times-Delphic -

Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges -

American Association of State Colleges and Universities -

National Education Association -

The Chronicle of Higher Education -

Amethyst Initiative - and

John -

Barack -

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