Announcing “Project Degree Completion: Building Our Future,” the universities also affirmed their commitment to accessible, affordable and quality public education for all students.
“Indiana State is pleased to join with other higher education institutions across the country in calling for a renewed partnership among public colleges and universities, the states and the federal government as we work to achieve these goals,” said Dan Bradley, university president.
Public colleges and universities must also be more innovative and do more to hold down costs, Bradley said. He noted that Indiana State has pledged to limit increases in student fees to increases in the cost of living.
Indiana State offers an online adult career education program that enables persons who have completed substantial credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree, but have not graduated from a four-year school, to develop a customized plan of study to complete a degree, Bradley noted.
He also cited the Sycamore Graduation Guarantee that assures incoming freshmen who sign up for the guarantee and meet certain obligations that they will graduate in four years or the university will cover the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for any remaining required courses.
In “Project Degree Completion,” members of the Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) commit to the following:
•To strive for the “best in the world” degree status for America and do their parts to achieve 60 percent degree attainment.
•To make a concerted effort to reach out to former students who have attended college but who have not earned a baccalaureate degree.
•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.
•To help more students complete degrees on time.
•To constrain per-student educational expenditures while pursuing enhanced quality.
•To work closely with P-12 systems and community colleges, especially in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and other areas of critical need.
•To support economic growth at the regional, state and national level, including research and innovation, commercialization of technologies, and economic development. For many institutions, this will include increasing graduates in areas of critical need including STEM fields.In a joint statement, the two higher education associations said the commitments outlined in Project Degree Completion can be achieved, but it will require significant work.
“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,” the statement said. “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.”
While total educational expenditures per student have been stable for many years, the mix of student tuition versus state appropriations has shifted dramatically and continues to deteriorate, the statement said.
The associations called on the states to 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 was also asked to maintain its commitment to student financial aid and support for research and innovation.
Education, including research, is the only public investment that provides both a social and an economic return, the AASCU/ALPU statement said.
“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,” the statement concluded.”