Barbara Gitenstein, College of NJ

In this knowledge-economy, with intense international competition, our educational foundation cannot be limited to elementary and secondary education. Rather, we must recognize that for an individual, our country, and civilization to thrive, high quality baccalaureate education must be available for a wide range of our citizens.

In the short term, I would urge Obama to take seriously the proposal presented by the higher education community (the American Council on Education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the Carnegie Corporation — a letter which was signed by the New Jersey Association of Colleges and Universities as well as Rutgers) for including federal support for higher education facilities as part of the immediate economic stimulus package. Such support would not only allow the institutions to encourage local economic growth, but would also allow this economic growth to be effected without significant increases to the cost of education for our students and their families.

In the long term I would urge the Obama administration to consider ways for the federal government to enhance its partnerships with the states and the higher education community in order to improve access, affordability, and speed-to-degree for our students. One of the most successful vehicles for movement into the middle class and for the continued economic health of the middle class has been the ability to attain baccalaureate education. Recently, as costs have risen, that promise has been threatened.

There are any number of ways that the federal government can support and encourage more students to attend competitive undergraduate institutions, study disciplines that are necessary for the country’s economic growth, and move expeditiously through their academic programs in order to join the work force more quickly. While the general goals will be similar across various sectors of higher education, the means and specific benchmarks for attaining these goals must be distinctive for different types of institutions.

Any successful partnership between the federal government, the states, and higher education must celebrate and support institutions that range from open admissions to highly selective. Otherwise the program will not serve the diverse populations who seek to earn degrees. This will require a complex and intricate program, but as Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

R. Barbara Gitenstein is the president of the College of New Jersey in Ewing.

Patricia Donohue,

Mercer County College

First, I would tell Barack Obama to maintain integrity in all that he does, and to insist that his appointees do the same.

Second, I would recommend that he focus on learning, and the potential of our people. They are the greatest resource in ensuring our economic, civic, and cultural success. One way to do this is to create initiatives and stimulate opportunities to expand learning for adults. Community colleges are an excellent vehicle to accomplish this in our communities.

Patricia Donohue is the president of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor.

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