New Secretary of Education Should Have Expertise in Higher Ed.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Presidents tend to pick experts in primary and/or secondary ed. for their Secretary of Education. However, the ever-rising cost of tuition combined with the current economic downturn is rapidly escalating into a crisis in college accessibility and affordability. Furthermore, as Steven Teles of the Reality-Based Community blog points out:
…[M]uch of what the Department of Education actually does concerns higher education. The federal government’s programs in higher education are incredibly complex, overlapping, contradictory, badly run, and politically embedded. Fixing them will require a Secretary with an intimate knowledge of their workings.
So far, the federal government has seemed more concerned with shoring up access to loans than reducing students’ need for them. Obama’s Secretary of Education should be someone willing to use his or her position as a bully pulpit to stop colleges from raising tuition and to press Congress to find better ways to fund education than simply giving students more loans that they can’t really afford.
Teles also notes, and I agree, that an incoming Secretary of Education should have experience encouraging more undergraduate degrees in math, science and engineering as well as working to close the achievement gap between African-Americans and whites. He suggests Freeman Hrabowski, current president of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County for Obama’s short-list:
Hrabowski has been president of the university for fifteen years, in which he dramatically increased the quality and reputation of the school–and turned down offers to be the president of much more prestigious institutions. He’s been especially successful in producing African-American students who go on to receive advanced degrees in the sciences, and he has published two books on the subject (separating out the issues by gender). He is a really effective communicator, and he has a great story to tell–he’s a black man from Alabama who marched for civil rights as a small child, and got a PhD at the age of 24. His life embodies the slogan of educational reformers, which is that education is the civil rights issue of our time.
Hrabowski’s name has been mentioned elsewhere as well. I don’t know much about him at the moment, but apparently, he is the only person so far in the Sec. of Education rumor mill to have a background in higher ed. so I will keep an eye on him.