In times of great crisis, America has depended on higher education to help bring stability to the nation. The Morrill Act of 1862, which established land grant colleges, was enacted during the Civil War. Decades later, Congress passed the G.I. Bill to assist World War II servicemen.
A panel of US college presidents told attendees at this week’s 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference that universities can play a similar role amid the coronavirus crisis. But colleges must adapt, and state and federal dollars are necessary to reach all those in need of support.
“In every moment of great strife and challenge in our nation…America leaned back into educating its citizens and used higher education as a force for good and a force for change,” said Daniel G. Lugo, president of Queens University of Charlotte (NC). “It is important that we not cede ground on what is right about us because, if we do that, we’ll never ever, ever get state governments or the federal government to think of us as a place to make more equitable investments.”
“…We do need to improve, we do need to be more self-conscious and aware,” Lugo added during the discussion, which was moderated by education journalist and author Jeff Selingo. “But too often we cede ground on how good we actually are.”
The work of colleges and universities has never been more urgent, education leader Michael Sorrell told attendees Thursday at the 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference.
In these unprecedented times, higher education institutions have a duty to both students and democratic society, said Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College (TX). History will judge the ways in which US colleges respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s continued shameful treatment of Black people, and the actions of the current presidential administration, Sorrell said at the conference’s closing session.
He urged attendees to look at what their institution could do differently in this time crisis, which has hit minorities particularly hard.
“I am an advocate of higher education, but I’m also critical of it,” said Sorrell. “I don’t think we’ve done enough, and I don’t think we are who we need to be. If we are honest, we produced the people who produced this moment. We need to fix it.”
Want to make life better for students (and your institution) amid the pandemic?
Speakers featured during a panel discussion on politics, government, and higher education at this week’s 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference offered two suggestions.
Pick up the phone.
“These are very tough times we are living in,” Paul Mounds, chief of staff for the governor of Connecticut, told attendees. “…This is not the time to be shy about your financial situation. This is not the time to be shy about the situations facing your students…Government needs to hear directly from you.”
Funding formulas, testing policies, and recruitment and retention strategies are just some of the areas that must be addressed by schools, colleges, and communities seeking equity and access for all students, celebrated antiracist scholar Ibram X. Kendi told attendees Tuesday at the 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference.
Racism is embedded throughout American society, he said. Dismantling such systemic injustice will require persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.
“You can’t declare one day: I am antiracist,” said Kendi, bestselling author of How to be an Antiracist and other books examining race in America. “But you can say, I’m striving to be. You can say, I’m going to go on that journey.”
If US higher education is to survive, it must refocus its efforts and prioritize students, NACAC CEO Angel B. Pérez said Tuesday in remarks at the 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference.
Like many sectors of the US economy, the admission profession has felt the effects of the coronavirus crisis on its institutional budgets, Pérez noted. But those concerns are secondary when compared to the larger crisis looming for higher ed, he said.
“While we all understandably worry about our schools and our institutions, we have to remember that without students, nothing else in the educational endeavor matters,” Pérez said in his first keynote address as the association’s chief executive officer. “…As we move away from enforcing a code of ethics, NACAC will act publicly and with determination when policy or practice threatens to cause harm to or perpetuate inequities among students.”
This special episode features Jabari Sellars, the closing keynote speaker at NACAC’s national conference. He received a warm and enthusiastic standing ovation for his presentation called “Fight for What Doesn’t Fit: Celebrating Students’ Identities, Interests, and Unique Qualities.”
NACAC and its Inclusion, Access, and Success Committee (IAS) recently recognized the winners of its 2019 Video Essay Contest.
The contest, held annually in the city that hosts the association’s national conference, was sponsored this year by ZeeMee—an online platform that helps students apply to colleges and decide where to go. Snippets of the winning videos were shared last week during the opening session of NACAC’s 75th National Conference in Louisville.
Jayne Caflin Fonash, an independent college counselor based in Potomac Falls, Virginia, assumed the NACAC presidency last week at the association’s 75th National Conference in Louisville.
In her first speech as NACAC’s top elected leader, Fonash addressed the role the association would play in continuing to protect student rights and interests in the college admission process. Earlier in the day, NACAC’s Assembly voted to remove three provisions from the association’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP) that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) believes inhibit, to some extent, competition among colleges for students. The three provisions address offering exclusive incentives for Early Decision, recruiting first-year undergraduates who have committed elsewhere, and recruiting transfer students.
Operation Varsity Blues uncovered a complex bribing and cheating scandal within the world of selective college admission.
Although no admission professionals were implicated in the wrongdoing, the scandal’s visibility prompted many discussions among those in the field—conversations that continued last week at NACAC’s 75th National Conference in Louisville.