The Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education
June 22, 2006
Yesterday, Secretary Spellings's commission on the future of higher education met to review the draft of its final report that had leaked a few days earlier. No accounts of the meeting have yet reached us but Gadfly is sure that agitated commissioners sought to excise some of the stinging truths and bold recommendations contained in this outstanding document submitted by chairman Charles Miller. (It's now clear that Spellings erred when she named so many "stakeholders" to this group. Stakeholders can almost never acknowledge that anything is wrong with the current system, and they abhor criticism.) Sadly, the final report, due in September, is unlikely to be quite as memorable or quotable. Thus, it makes sense to treat this superb, readable, hard-hitting yet constructive draft report as if it were the commission's last word. Read it and you will discover a clear statement of the big problems that beset U.S. postsecondary education today: constrained access, spiraling tuition, too much remediation, weak outcomes, limp accountability, and meager information. You will find blunt "nation at risk" prose explaining why, if the country doesn't address these problems (and transcend its smug and complacent defensiveness about the present higher ed system), its future is in jeopardy. And you will find six and a half pages of sensible recommendations spelling out what needs doing by whom. Bravo for Miller for telling the truth about the higher ed emperor's tattered raiments and designing a much-needed new wardrobe for him. One hopes other commissioners won't opt to keep the rags they've got. You can find it here. You can find coverage of it here. And you can learn more about the commission itself here.