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NGA desires static thinking

March 31, 2011

 The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) released a report this week entitled, “Degrees for What Jobs?”.   The report discusses and defines how governors and policy makers view the role of higher learning facilities in what they call the “new economy.” Higher education institutions, which consists of research universities, four-year colleges (including liberal arts colleges like Monmouth), and community colleges cannot aid in driving economic growth in their respective states without being tailored to meet the needs of the marketplace.

Director of the NGA Center, John Thomasian said, “States are looking at ways to move beyond the focus of simply getting more students to earn degrees.  Tailoring degrees to the needs of industry and staying attuned to market changes not only serves a state’s economy, but also leads to greater marketability for students seeking employment after graduation.  When states and higher education institutions coordinate, everyone wins.”

So, does this mean that colleges begin molding their approach to teaching away from an emphasis on a broad liberal arts education in favor of a focus on thinking more about skills for specific jobs — like a trade school?  Apparently, yes, that is one interpretation.  It is suggesting that colleges use “rigorous labor-market data” in order to set goals and get more input from local businesses on skills that will better serve students’ needs, which, it seems, is to make massive sums of money for their local economies — in a global market.

The statement also said that some states are exhibiting that their governments, through leadership, policy decisions and funding strategies “can help higher education institutions recognize and embrace the critical role they play in preparing a state’s workforce for 21st century jobs that will enable the state to prosper.” This may cause one to ask whether leadership, policy decisions and appropriating funds successfully are traits emphasized for all majors, or just those seeking employment in very specific political and/or management positions.

The report added that state policy makers in Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington have already begun to assume strategies to align postsecondary education with the state’s economic goals.  These “pioneering states”  are taking the following approaches, according to the report: set clear expectations for higher education’s role in economic development, emphasize rigorous use of labor market data and other sources to define goals and priorities, encourage employers’ input in higher education, require public higher education institutions to collect a publicly report impact, and emphasize performance as an essential factor in funding. 

BY RYAN BRONAUGH
Contributing Writer

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