UAlbany: Bigger, Better, Different
(November 22, 2005)
President Kermit L. Hall called for a greater investment in public higher education in his testimony Oct. 17 at a public hearing before the New York State Senate and Assembly committees on higher education.
"Public higher education has become the linchpin around the world that holds together the goals for an equal opportunity society married to a high-tech, information-drive economy," Hall said.
In order to fulfill its role in providing access and excellence in a global economy, Hall said the University "must increase its student enrollment, notably at the undergraduate level. We must get Bigger." Second, "given our role as a research university, we must do so with Better prepared students." Third, "to attract these students, we need to provide a unique educational experience, tailored to their needs and reflective of the society they will enter – we must be Different in the several meanings of that word."
Hall recently visited Fudan University in Shanghai, China. There he heard the First Secretary of the Communist Party and the Minister of Education say: "Our future depends on science and higher education." They received a spontaneous standing ovation.
He noted a panel convened in the United States by the National Academies reported that "more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China compared to 70,000 in the United States. India graduated 350,000. The panel also highlighted that chemical companies shut 70 facilities in the United States last year and marked another 40 for closure. Meanwhile, of the 120 large chemical plants under construction globally, one is in the United States – 50 are in China."
Hall said that by 2012 in China there will be 200 new four-year universities and 20 new research universities, effectively doubling the current university enrollment and quintupling existing university research capacity.
The United States once had a similar commitment to higher education. "Following World War II, our nation made a compact: Universities would provide a broad spectrum of Americans with access to quality higher education. Government, in partnership with universities and families, would provide funding for the effort," Hall said. "Access and excellence became allies and we created the most remarkable higher education system in the world."
But now the compact is fraying. The National Academies panel presented Congress with the 20 most urgently needed changes in federal support for research and higher education – if the nation is to avoid sinking into second-class status in this century.
Hall noted that he has found the University at Albany to be "a vibrant institution. One marked by a doubling of sponsored research expenditures in the last four years and a university that, despite the absence of a medical or engineering school, is among the top-ranked public research universities in the country.
"UAlbany boasts 10 graduate programs among the top 25 in the nation, a world-class research library, and the most advanced nanotechnology research complex of any university in the world. It is a university that is embedded in its community through a host of programs benefiting the region, and our institution brings significant cultural benefits to the Capital Region."
Hall called for "renewed dedication to the mission of the public university." He
said, "We must strengthen our partnership and renew our compact, because
our competition believes what they say about science and higher education, and
they are proving it every day."