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Report finds U.S. Higher Education in need of change.

To help keep America competitive and provide students with more affordable access to college, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced on Sept. 26 her plans to strengthen the U.S. higher education system, based on the recommendations in the final report of her Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

"We know higher education is the key to our children's future and the American dream, yet it is becoming more unaffordable and less attainable," said Secretary Spellings. "To remain competitive in the 21st-century global economy, we must act now ... and work together to find the right solutions."

Secretary Spellings created the 19-member commission in September 2005 to examine America's postsecondary education system and develop recommendations that would make it more accessible, affordable and accountable. Following a yearlong examination, which involved a series of public meetings held across the country, the commission's report revealed:

* While about 34 percent of white adults have obtained bachelor's degrees by ages 25-29, the same is true for just 17 percent of black adults and 11 percent of Hispanic adults in the same age cohort.

* From 1995 to 2005, average tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities rose 51 percent after adjusting for inflation; for private institutions, the increase was 36 percent.

* The percentage of college graduates deemed proficient in prose literacy (the ability to understand narrative texts such as newspaper articles) declined from 40 to 31 percent between 1992 and 2003.

* The U.S. position among major industrialized countries has fallen to 12th place with regard to higher education attainment.

In response, Secretary Spellings' plan calls for increasing rigor in high schools to better prepare students for college; increasing need-based financial aid; and providing matching funds to colleges, universities and states that collect and publicly report student learning outcomes. (For strategies on accomplishing these plans, see actions listed in excerpted speech below.)

Additionally, this spring, the secretary will convene a summit with representatives from the higher education and business communities as well as groups of students, parents and policymakers to address these issues and build partnerships that would help more Americans achieve a college education.

For a full copy of the report, A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education, visit http://www.ed.gov.
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Publication:The Achiever
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Words:378
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