President discusses ‘The Next Five Years’ in higher education

April 19, 2011 | News, UToday
By Meghan Cunningham

President Lloyd Jacobs delivered his annual address last week in Doermann Theater.

President Lloyd Jacobs delivered his annual address last week in Doermann Theater.

A revolution is occurring in higher education today, leading to an uncertain future, but one that will include increases in technology, adaptation of some corporate strategies, and a focus on equipping students with critical-thinking skills and increased work experience.

University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs outlined the dramatic and revolutionary changes he sees for the future of the higher education enterprise in his Fifth Annual Address to the Community: “The Relevant University: The Next Five Years” last Thursday in Doermann Theater.

“Education has been the primary vehicle for the American dream. That dream of unlimited upward mobility, the dream that anyone in this great country can achieve anything by diligence and perseverance, has always acknowledged education as a necessary pillar. That belief is being challenged,” Jacobs said. “Education is at a turning point. The American dream itself is losing credence to some degree. We at The University of Toledo, aspiring as we do to be leaders with a global impact, must face and understand this crisis of confidence in education.”

During his address, the president quoted sobering statistics, including a recent survey in which 17 percent of respondents thought a college education is no longer a good investment.

Jacobs also noted a damning report in the book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa that evaluated college students using the College Learning Assessment and found that after two years 45 percent of students showed no gains in learning and that 36 percent showed little change after four years.

“So at exactly the moment of great fiscal stress, the fundamental value of a college or university education is being questioned. Can we blame legislators and governors for being confused or for being less than enthusiastic about further funding of higher education?”

That’s why it is necessary, Jacobs said, for the 21st century university to commit to producing a work force that meets societal needs.

While not everything about the modern corporation is good or should be embraced, some strategies from the corporate model — performance appraisal, pay for performance and merit-based initiatives — can help, Jacobs said.

A combination of increased technology and the acceptance that knowledge is no longer place-bound, so education will no longer be place-bound, also will impact the future higher education establishment, he said.

Perhaps most important, Jacobs said, is the responsibility for colleges and universities to equip students with problem-solving, critical-thinking, communication and other skills that equip them for success throughout their careers. Internships, service learning, travel and work experience also must be fully embraced.

“The higher education enterprise will be dramatically changed in five years, but will survive because leaders like the people here in this room, the faculty of The University of Toledo, will develop and embrace a more sustainable model,” Jacobs said.

The president also reflected on the past five years since the merger of UT and The Medical University of Ohio. He noted successes in upgrading campus buildings, being a leader in holding tuition costs low, nine consecutive semesters of enrollment growth, and the new relationship with ProMedica Health System that is being recognized as an innovative game changer.

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