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UMFK Signs on to National Commitment to the Future

September 27, 2012

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The University of Maine at Fort has signed onto A Commitment to the Future, a pledge by more than 400 public colleges and universities from across the United States to increase the number of undergraduate baccalaureate degrees awarded by 3.8 million between now and the year 2025.

A Commitment to the Future is co-sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. A public announcement will be made on Tuesday, October 2.

Signatories affirm their commitment to accessible, affordable and quality public higher education for all students. The colleges and universities also are committed to increasing the number of undergraduate baccalaureate degrees by 3.8 million between now and 2025, while striving to provide those students with a quality education.

Additionally, the institutions commit to contain student educational costs as they pursue enhanced quality, and call for a renewed partnership among public colleges and universities, the states, and the federal government to achieve these goals.

Signatories to A Commitment to the Future commit to the following:

  • To strive for the “best in the world” degree status for America. Public colleges and universities will do their part to achieve 60 percent degree attainment by awarding an additional 3.8 million baccalaureate degrees by 2025. They will publicly track progress toward this goal.
  • To make a concerted effort to reach out to former students who have attended institutions, but who have not earned a baccalaureate degree from any institution.
  • To assure that educational quality is enhanced, not compromised, in the effort to increase degree attainment.
  • To uphold the principles of student access, success, and diversity in this pursuit.
  • To reduce the average time to degree for students.
  • To constrain per-student educational expenditures while pursuing enhanced quality.
  • To work closely with PreK-12 systems and community colleges, especially in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
  • To support economic growth in regions, states, and across the country, including research and innovation, commercialization of technologies, and economic development.

These commitments will be achieved with a strong, renewed partnership among the states, the federal government and public colleges and universities, but there is significant work to be done.

During the past 20 years, many states have maintained tight, regulatory institutional oversight while per student investment in public higher education steadily declined until 2008 when the decline accelerated, in part, because of the recession. During this same period, public colleges and universities contained per student educational expenditures to about the rate of inflation.

These circumstances forced public institutions to raise tuition to compensate for the significant loss of state dollars. The total educational expenditures per student have been stable for many years, but the mix of student tuition verses state appropriations has shifted dramatically and continues to deteriorate. This trend must be reversed for public colleges and universities to continue to meet their obligations as institutions of public purpose.

In short, the full partnership between public colleges and universities, the states and the federal government needs to be reestablished with each partner fulfilling its responsibilities.

The states must provide sufficient appropriations to support students and the discovery of new knowledge while extending greater operational flexibility for public colleges and universities.

The federal government must maintain its commitment to student financial aid; support for research and innovation; and encouragement of states to continue their support for public colleges and universities.

Public colleges and universities must be more innovative in the performance of their essential roles while containing educational expenditures.

Education, including research, is the only public investment that provides both a social and an economic return. Policymakers need tangible evidence that public higher education is transforming to meet economic and educational needs. Achieving these commitments will ensure greater economic security for America and the next generation of citizens.