The Lumina Foundation Wants 60 Percent of Americans to Be Well Educated - While There’s a Recession Going On

Barry Lenson

The Lumina Foundation Wants 60 Percent of Americans to Be Well Educated - While There’s a Recession Going On

The Lumina Foundation for Education is an independent foundation with a lofty goal: to help people achieve their potential by expanding access to, and success in, education beyond high school. And Lumina has set the bar very high with a “Big Goal” that it describes this way:

The Big Goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.

That sounds terrific. But how can such a towering goal be achieved?

Lumina attempts to answer that question in a new report called “Navigating the New Normal.” Presented on November 15 at Lumina’s National Productivity Conference in Indianapolis, this report is no work of starry-eyed optimism. In fact, it describes formidable obstacles that must be overcome before the Big Goal can be reached. To quote from the report:

  • “Economists may be signaling the recession is over, but higher education will feel the pain for years to come. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, states will face more than $60 billion in budget shortfalls in 2011 and another $50 billion in 2012. Federal stimulus programs that filled the gap for colleges and universities are winding down, forcing most states to confront steep drops in available tax revenues.”
  • “During past economic slumps, higher education has met budget challenges through spending cuts and tuition increases. But the most recent recession was an economic earthquake like none since the Great Depression, with devastation so broad and so deep that growth in state revenues could take the better part of the decade to recover.”
  • “Refusing to budge from the existing cost structure of American higher education will doom the attainment agenda to failure. A business-as-usual financing model will effectively guarantee our country further declines in attainment. Colleges and universities simply cannot go through their usual cost-cutting exercises; to ensure the nation’s critical economic and social goals are met, leaders of higher education institutions instead must think strategically about how the shape of higher education must change.”

Can the Big Goal Be Achieved?

In “Navigating the New Normal,” Lumina points out that small improvements in educational practices can help achieve its goal. Small annual increases in enrollment at state schools, for example, would really add up over the next 15 years.

But curiously, “Navigating the New Normal” hardly mentions online education at all. And a review of the other reports that Lumina makes available on its website seems to show that distance learning is not yet completely on Lumina’s radar.

Doesn’t distance learning play a critical part in helping America become a much more educated country? Isn’t iCollege a strategy that can help 60% of all Americans be well educated? Of course it is – and on that point, we feel sure that the Lumina Foundation would agree with us wholeheartedly.

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