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2004 Lumina grant to APSU has national implications

Funded by the Lumina Foundation in December 2004, a grant of $403,500 to Austin Peay State University has resulted in invaluable educational and economic information from every county in the United States.

Working with two colleagues at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), the grant was written by Dr. Houston Davis, former APSU associate vice president for academic affairs who now is associate vice chancellor for academic affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents, Nashville.
Funded by the Lumina Foundation in December 2004, a grant of $403,500 to Austin Peay State University has resulted in invaluable educational and economic information from every county in the United States.

Working with two colleagues at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), the grant was written by Dr. Houston Davis, former APSU associate vice president for academic affairs who now is associate vice chancellor for academic affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents, Nashville.

The initial grant funded the nationwide Educational Needs Index (ENI) project, a county-by-county study of educational, economic and population pressures that affect educational policy.

According to an article in Lumina's February newsletter, Davis and team members Dr. Brian Noland, THEC associate executive director, and Patrick Kelly, NCHEMS senior associate, have created a way of evaluating a region's education while looking at influences such as economic and population pressures.

The ENI gives education and economic policy-makers a way to compare their county's educational attainment, unemployment and population growth rates to similar counties. Davis says that, by getting down to the county-level data, the ENI raises red flags in counties facing education and workforce challenges and highlights those experiencing success.

The article in the Lumina newsletter calls the ENI “a conversation starter between and among states, involving education, business and government officials.”

The first phase of the project involved getting basic information from every county in every state in the nation and producing a report for each of those states.

In the second phase, the ENI team would examine more closely a few of the rural areas identified as critical or most critical. Northeast Tennessee/Southeast Kentucky is included in the six rural areas.

The third phase would involve looking into the challenges facing some of the urban areas defined as critical or most critical, with Memphis being among the group.

“The real substance of the ENI project is in these rural/urban phases,” Davis says in the article. “This is getting down to the real challenges and revealing that you just cannot have a ‘one-size-fits-all' policy for every county in a state.”

Davis has revealed to APSU President Sherry Hoppe that the team is talking with Lumina about expanding the base project upon its completion in December 2006. If that occurs, it could mean additional grant funding for APSU.

For more information on the ENI, go to the Web site: www.educationalneedsindex.com. Additional contact may be made by telephoning Dr. Houston Davis at (615) 366-3975 or Ed Davis, APSU director of grants and sponsored programs, at (931) 221-7841. — Dennie B. Burke