A Seat at the Table

"As part of its pitch for expanding apprenticeship opportunities, a White House-convened task force last week released a report that took several shots at colleges and universities," Inside Higher Ed reports. "... The strongly worded criticism was notable in part because the 20-member task force included two higher education representatives: Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, and Mark B. Rosenberg, president of Florida International University and a board member for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities."

"In a written statement, Bumphus said he was given little time to review the report and that he focused on its recommendations. Rosenberg said in an interview that he pushed back on the task force's higher ed bashing, but that he wanted to make sure that universities were represented on the panel.

'I'm uncomfortable with the report's characterizations of student debt … I stated that. I'm on the record,' said Rosenberg. But he added that 'I didn't think we should be shut out of the game.'

For the most part, the federal panel echoed the Trump administration's oft-cited argument that vocational education is underemphasized relative to college degree programs. That's not surprising, given that the group was led by several members of Trump's cabinet -- it was chaired by the U.S. secretaries of education, labor and commerce and included Ivanka Trump.

But the task force's language about higher education went farther than Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, did in a letter that accompanied the report. DeVos wrote that a 'traditional college education and a modern-day apprenticeship are no longer mutually exclusive education options.'

The report, however, said higher education 'is a narrow path that is not working for enough young people, in part because it is becoming increasingly unaffordable and no longer guarantees a middle-class income.'

Apprenticeships are important, said Karen Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit group focused on student completion at community colleges. Stout said she supports the task force's work, but she questioned why the report criticized other forms of postsecondary job training.

'The work that we're doing with traditional credentials is also important,' said Stout, a former community college president. 'I don't think the rhetoric should look past the fact that traditional higher education is still highly valued by employers.'"

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Publication Date: 5/17/2018

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