On Thursday evening, November 17, 2011, the National Forum joined the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan for the second in a three part series examining public education. Tonight’s focus was on higher education, and gave special consideration to the challenges and opportunities faced by institutions of public higher education in the state of Michigan.
Dr. John Burkhardt, director of the National Forum, moderated the panel and framed questions from attendees, which numbered roughly 75 in the Alumni Center and roughly 200 online. The distinguished panelists were first given the opportunity to respond to some questions that referred to each person’s specific area of expertise, such as economics, public policy, or the relationship between public and private institutions in the state of Michigan. After about 20 minutes of responses from the panelists, Dr. Burkhardt began taking questions from those in the room.
Attendees asked numerous questions related to the economics of higher education, including the perceived rising costs of higher education (Dr. Das noted that during the 2010-2011 academic year UM students from families with less than $60,000 in annual income had no loans in their financial aid packages; they received grants-in-aid to cover their need); the growing divide between the wealthiest and poorest in our society; and the role of higher education in strengthening the Michigan economy. Dr. Burkhardt also included numerous questions from online participants, including whether or not faculty tenure has outlived its utility; the impact of Michigan’s Prop 2 on admissions; and public policy challenges faced by legislators responsible for funding higher education.
While it would be unfair to expect a 90 minute panel to solve all of the challenges facing higher education, those present seemed to agree that the panelists offered wide-ranging and diverse points of view across an impressive range of issues. In addition, the Alumni Association and Dr. Burkhardt provided an excellent integration of attendee questions and concerns, which made for an engaging panel presentation.
The three-part RPE seminar series concludes on December 8, 2011, with a panel focusing on Educating for the Public Good.