Investing in Student Success: The Equity and Excellence Imperative
The economic troubles of California's state higher
education system have sent tremors across the country.
California's Master Plan was once considered a blueprint
for educational equity. Now, the California system is
a test case for the economic challenges facing colleges
and universities nationwide. According to 2009 projections,
the California State University system alone will need
to cut enrollment by 40,000 in 2010-11 (Reed 2009),
even as tuition grows by over 30 percent (Hebel 2010).
The implications for access and success are alarming,
to say the least--and the conditions that caused them
are far from limited to California.
Faculty and administrators across the country are
acutely aware of how budget reductions have affected
their lives: furloughs, obliterated travel funds, reduced
course offerings, cuts in departmental spending and
even in departments themselves (Chronicle of Higher
Education 2009). From an employee's perspective,
these changes are upsetting and consequential. But for
America's college students--who are themselves facing
reduced budgets and increased tuition, trends that narrow
their paths to economic stability and to democratic
participation--they are even more problematic. With
the looming possibility that higher education will be
less able to serve its students, pleas to "do more
with less" take on particular urgency.
The authors in this issue of Diversity & Democracy offer concrete suggestions for how higher education can improve access and success and strengthen learning outcomes despite mounting economic barriers. With a focus on underserved students, the authors challenge colleges and universities to rally their resources and strengthen their resolve to give students the support they need in these challenging times. Some offer suggestions specifically aimed at stretching thin budgets; others share program, policy, or pedagogical models that apply more generally to the challenge of bolstering student success. In all cases, they press higher education to solidify its commitment to equity despite economic constraints.
As Michelle Asha Cooper argues, resources directed
toward that commitment should be seen not as expenditures,
but as investments: in education, in equity, in "our
nation's best future." In this moment of economic
constraint, higher education must combine its various
resources to collectively ensure a secure future for
itself, its students, and the nation at large. Like
the ground in California, the economy is bound to be
occasionally unstable. But with foresight and commitment,
we can build a foundation strong enough to sustain access
and success, even in shaky economic times.
--Kathryn Peltier Campbell, editor
Chronicle of Higher Education. 2009. Michigan State
U. may cut at least 9 academic departments. Chronicle
of Higher Education, October 31. chronicle.com/blog
Hebel, S. 2010. State cuts are pushing public colleges
into peril. Chronicle of Higher Education,
March 14. chronicle.com/article/In-Many-States-Public-High/64620/.
Reed, C. B. 2009. California values prisoners over
students. San Francisco Chronicle, July 27.