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President Jones and Area Colleagues Discuss Higher Education Challenges

From left to right, Brother F. Edward Coughlin, Siena College; Kristine Duffy, SUNY Adirondack; John Ebersole, Excelsior College; Robert J. Jones, University at Albany; Drew Matonak, Hudson Valley Community College; and Carolyn Stefanco, The College of Saint Rose. (Photo by Paul Buckowski / Times Union)

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 8, 2016) -- President Robert J. Jones joined area higher education leaders in a panel discussion outlining the current state of education in the Capital District and the challenges faced by students and employers in the region’s current economic climate.

Sponsored by the Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce, the panel featured Jones with Br. Edward Coughlin of Siena College, John Ebersole of Excelsior College, Drew Matonak of Hudson Valley Community College, Kristine D. Duffy of SUNY Adirondack, and Carolyn Stefanco of the College of Saint Rose.

President Jones addressed what he believes to be the overriding issues in higher education: the enrollment declines experienced by all fellow institutions and the urgent need to decrease the achievement gap in socioeconomic groups.

"We must close the achievement gap," said Jones. "Unless we do a better job of educating people from lower-income and underrepresented populations, making sure they have the habits to be successful once they arrive at the university, we won't solve the enrollment problem."

He added that attracting students from underrepresented populations required more investment and involvement in early childhood and K-12 education, a task the University is undertaking in its Albany Promise cradle-to-career partnership.

In looking at what makes UAlbany’s challenges unique, he remarked that a third of UAlbany students were the first in their families to attend college. UAlbany classes also are growing more diverse, with 47 percent students of color making up the current freshman class and 40 percent students of color enrolled overall.

In terms of workforce issues as they relate to higher education, Jones linked the University's academic expansion to its vision for enhanced regional economic development. He cited the new College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity as examples of programs that will produce graduates who will fill existing heavy demands, and attract new companies to the region.

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