Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Excellence WITH Money?!?

(Image Credit: The Carnegie Corporation of New York, 12/16/08)

OMG, kids! It's just Day Two of the Excellence Without Money campaign launched by Roxie's World and blog pal Historiann, and we already have a major victory to report! (To read up on our joint effort to save public higher ed from the forces of evil and economic contraction, go here, here, and here.) What happened? The Carnegie Corporation of New York spent buckets and buckets of money to place two-page ads in Wa Po and the New York Times this morning calling upon the incoming Obama administration to intervene in the crisis of underfunding that is imperiling the nation's public higher educational system. Moose nearly spat her coffee across the breakfast nook as she looked at the letter, signed by more than 40 leaders in higher education (including William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the Queer the Turtle U system).

(Wanna know if your prez or chancellor signed the letter? To see a pdf of the ad, go here.)

The letter calls on the Obama administration to commit 5 percent of the economic stimulus package "-- in the range of $40 to $45 billion -- toward higher education" in order to "provide the stimulus that will propel the nation forward in resolving its current economic crisis" and to "lay the groundwork for competitiveness and the well-being of American families into the future." The proposal calls for the creation of block grants to states that would be administered by governors and focused on construction and renovation projects to help campuses upgrade their infrastructures and meet the rising costs of building high-tech facilities. The emphasis on construction is clearly aimed at heightening the appeal of the proposal, because such projects would generate jobs and other forms of economic activity in the communities surrounding the campuses. That's all well and good, but here's the quote that brought a tear to Moose's under-caffeinated eyes this morning:
The present economic crisis requires an investment in human capital, and graduates of public universities historically have provided most of the workforce to meet the nation's needs. After all, their innovative researchers have often invented the technologies that have fueled economic progress and enhanced America's economic competitiveness and ability to deliver high-quality health care. At the same time, public universities must remain accessible to all families, thereby providing opportunity and hope to families from all social and economic strata.
Shorter version: No money? No excellence, people! No money? No access!

Does the Carnegie letter lay the groundwork for the bailout of higher ed Moose was fantasizing about the other day? We'll leave it to the experts to make that determination, but the good news here is that higher ed is making a bold move to lobby on its own behalf during a moment of national economic crisis that could have catastrophic repercussions for institutions whose budgets were strained years before the bottom started falling out of everything. Some may quibble with a grant-making foundation spending a sizable amount of money on what are basically advertisements, but we think the urgency of the situation and the rare political opportunity afforded by a new president committed to making big changes justify the grandness of the gesture. Being published as they were on the very day that Obama's pick for education secretary was announced, the ads help to assure that higher ed will be on the radar screen as opinion-makers consider both the economic crisis and the incoming administration. (For brief reports on the ads, see Wa Po and The Chronicle of Higher Ed.)

Roxie's World gives the Carnegie Corporation a hopeful PAWS UP for seeing smoke and yelling "FIRE" rather than convening a meeting to decide whether to call it a "FIRE" or "a non-threatening heat-related event that will in no way impede normal operations on campus." It's gettin' awfully hot in here, kids. I say let's call it a FIRE and bring in the big trucks with a whole bunch of water! Peace out.


  1. Anonymous10:19 PM EST

    No Quibbles with the Carnegie here -- on the contrary. I'm thrilled that *somebody* (in addition to Roxie) is making the case for State Us, which, if my own institution is any measure, are basically on life-support while desperately looking around for something else to cut. I almost drove off the NJTP this morning, listening to Paul Krugman talk about fundable, "shovel-ready" projects with nary an allusion to the other morning news item -- the drastic cut proposed by the NY state government to hospitals and education -- the only state services with any kind of income. I was yelling "Fund Education" to the radio, deeply regretting my lack of access to the internet, since they were only taking on-line comments. Bravo to the Carnegie! Long Live Roxie's World! Investing in cash-strapped State Universities that *still* draw a wide range of students from the US and abroad would be a Very Wise thing for the new administration to do. Can I bear to hope for such a thing? Anybody got Paul Krugman's home address (he lives in the Garden State, apparently. . . .)? Count me in for whatever action you can imagine. . .

  2. Paging William Safire -- Can somebody please tell me when the phrase "shovel-ready" entered the lexicon? Suddenly it's everywhere, as if we've been saying it for years, but I swear I never heard it before two weeks ago. Weird, yes?

    Anyway, DEB, we thank you for the extravagant praise and will assuredly keep you in the loop of our revolutionary action planning. Meantime, I note that the prez of Bruce Springsteen State U is one of the signatories on the Carnegie letter. One wonders if he is "shovel-ready" -- meaning, about to get whacked in the head by some shovel-wielding member of the board or the legislature??? Interesting times there in the Garden State, as always. ;-)

  3. Anonymous5:30 PM EST

    I'm stunned. The presidents of both my alma maters (sorry, I suppose that's "almae matres") -- Rutgers and UVA -- *and* the president of my current institution signed it. Almost makes me feel bad about the terrible things I've said about them over the years . . .

    I guess we'll see!

  4. r u kidding? The President of my University hasn't even got round to signing my contract :-(

  5. Oh, dear, KB -- but the paychecks are coming, right? All paws crossed on that score!

    Steve, did you miss the memo about being kind to Big State U Prez'dents? It's not an easy life, you know. Imagine if you had to go to all those football games!

  6. lol yeah, those little paychecks keep on a-coming (so far). When they stop, so do I.


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