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Council: America's future as world leader at risk; APSU ahead of the game

As long as we can remember, the United States of America has been recognized as the worlds leader, the No. 1 superpower.

But that reputation is at great risk, according to the American Council on Education (ACE), which recently launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of higher educations critical role in the future of our country.

The sudden outcry from ACE echoes what Austin Peay State University faculty and administrators have been highlighting with hard data for years.
As long as we can remember, the United States of America has been recognized as the world's leader, the No. 1 superpower.

But that reputation is at great risk, according to the American Council on Education (ACE), which recently launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of higher education's critical role in the future of our country.

The sudden outcry from ACE echoes what Austin Peay State University faculty and administrators have been highlighting with hard data for years.

In December 2004, APSU received a $403,500 grant from the Lumina Foundation to fund a national county-by-county evaluation of education while looking at the tremendous effects of economic and population pressures on education.

Dr. Houston Davis, former APSU associate vice president for academic affairs who now is with the Tennessee Board of Regents, and two colleagues from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems have completed the nationwide Educational Needs Index (ENI).

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.

A recent Lumina newsletter calls the ENI “a conversation starter between and among states, involving education, business and government officials”precisely what ACE is seeking to accomplish with its multi-year campaign.

The ENI, according to Davis, proves you “cannot just have a ‘one-size-fits-all' policy for every county in a state.” The number of hits on the Web site www.educationalneedsindex.com is a strong indicator that citizens are realizing American education is at a crossroads. They have witnessed that, when a country's educational system tanks, the country's social and economic systems also tank. There is a directand, some would say, frighteningcorrelation.

Both the ACE campaign and the ENI data are wake-up calls for Americans. A key component of being a superpower is the citizenry being No. 1 in educational attainment.

In its efforts to put teeth into enhancing educational superiority, America is falling rapidly behind other countries, such as Japan. And the same is true for the state of Tennessee.

“Unfortunately, Tennessee lags behind many other states regarding support for higher education, and the inability to compete in the global marketplace will be increasingly evident in Tennessee, because higher education is not a funding priority,” said Dr. Bruce Speck, APSU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“Talking a great deal about how important education is will not promote stronger higher education. Until we have the will to fund higher education, much of our talk is mere rhetoric.” — Dennie B. Burke