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Greater Cohesion at the Core of Higher Education’s Future Success

In an article published in Inside Higher Ed, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher discussed her system-based approach to reforming higher education. In essence, she believes the current model of university governance—where individual institutions exist in an insular environment and pursue self-maximization—are outdated. Today’s higher education reality, she believes, calls for colleges and universities to come together and make serving students their prime objective.

The author of the article, Sara Golfrock-Rab, reflects on the truth behind that statement, discussing the hyper-competitive nature that characterizes institutions that exist underneath the same system umbrella, “each striving to be the best and allowing those falling behind to simply die away.” She points out how flagship universities have a tendency to “hog” resources to improve their own reputation rather than working in concert with sister institutions to ensure students across their state have access to top-tier higher education.

Golfrock-Rab suggests the creation of a new system where prestige, respect and resources are not allocated base don traditional metrics like test scores, research dollars and percentage of tenured faculty. Instead, she says, institutions that welcome more students, provide meaningful and relevant learning opportunities and work to improve their home state should be on the receiving end of these bonuses.

Going on to discuss the value of instructors being in the quality of their teaching rather than the number of articles they publish, Goldfrock-Rab and Zimpher are pushing less for “higher” education, and more for “post-secondary” education that focuses on student outcomes and benefit to society.