BANGOR The University of Maine System and its seven member Universities have formally endorsed the policy recommendations submitted to the White House by the nations leading higher education advocacy organizations. UMS Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal and the Systems seven presidents sent a letter to President Bush voicing their support for the recommendations, which highlight major areas of focus for presidential initiatives that would strengthen higher education and prepare U.S. citizens to succeed in the new century.
"The quality, accessibility, and affordability of Americas public universities and colleges are essential to the economic future of our nation and to the health and security of its citizens," said Westphal. "Recognizing the financial challenges that face institutions of higher education and students across the country, we felt it was extremely important to voice our support for the policy recommendations."
The policy proposals were drafted through a collaborative effort of six higher education advocacy organizations: the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC); American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU); Association of American Universities (AAU); American Council on Education (ACE); National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU); and the National Association of State Universities of Land-grant Colleges (NASULGC).
The groups recommended the following six areas of focus for presidential initiatives.
1. Investing in individuals through expansion of need-based student aid, improved student financial assistance policies, and tax credits to assist families and poor students;
2. Preparing the next generation of college students through programs that raise high school achievement levels and incentive programs that reward financially deserving students;
3. Ensuring economic prosperity by building a qualified, 21st Century workforce and ensuring that federal grants for job training are available for four-year as well as two-year programs;
4. Inspiring scientific and technological innovation through added financial support for research;
5. Sustaining global leadership by bolstering and maintaining America as the destination for international education by balancing national security concerns with a policy of welcoming international students to our nation; and
6. Maintaining the public trust by ensuring the integrity of publicly supported programs and maintaining quality assurance measures.
The groups cited a list of challenges currently facing higher education that call for greater federal support. These challenges include the decrease in state funding for higher education throughout the nation, the increased financial strain being placed on students who want to attend college, the emergence of the "new economy" and a greater demand for a highly-skilled workforce, the need for higher education to play a more aggressive role in advancing scientific and technological innovation in the U.S., and the barriers facing international students in the post-9/11 climate, among other issues.
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System is the states largest educational institution, with more than 34,000 students enrolled. It features seven universities some with multiple campuses located across the state, as well as 11 University College outreach centers and more than 100 interactive distance education sites. For more information, log onto www.maine.edu.