Higher Education: An Agenda for Excellence into the 21st Century
April 2, 1998
Report of the Public Agenda Advisory Council
As the 21st century nears, Connecticut higher education needs to get smart.
Being smart means putting students first, achieving excellence using rigorous standards
of performance, making efficiency the driving force in resource management.
Being smart in an age of rapid technological change and economic globalization requires
a transformation in the way Connecticut higher education conducts its business and serves
it customers ¾ the students, employers and taxpayers of this
great state. We, the Public Agenda Advisory Council to the Board of Governors for Higher
Education, believe the time for that transformation is now.
Our purpose, as entrusted to us last December by the Board of Governors, is to help
define an agenda for shaping a higher education system responsive to the needs of the 21st
century. Over the past 90 days, we have engaged in a serious deliberation of key issues,
aided by formal presentations from leading academic experts, system chancellors and
college presidents. On the basis of this work, we offer this Agenda for Excellence
to assist the Board of Governors in leading Connecticut higher education into the 21st
Our Vision for Connecticut Higher Education
We believe the best way to predict the future is to create it, guided by a clear vision
and broadly-endorsed strategic plan. Our vision of Connecticut higher education in the
coming years requires the system to challenge historical paradigms. Our vision
Excellence (our top priority): The entire higher education system (see Appendix
for system description) is committed to a level of excellence that is manifestly apparent
to its customers. Clear competency standards and measurable benchmarks of excellence are
employed through the system for use in comparing performance to peer institutions and in
evaluating success in meeting consumer needs.
Responsiveness and flexibility: Our colleges and universities quickly adapt and
develop programs and services to meet rapidly changing customer demands and expectations
and have the resources to do so. The regulatory processes of the Board of Governors and
the Department of Higher Education protect consumer interests while allowing for necessary
Balanced educational experience: No matter their field of concentration or type
of degree, Connecticut college graduates possess the blend of technical, vocational and
critical thinking skills needed for productive lives and careers, and demanded by
Reducing disparities: The State of Connecticut recognizes that economic
disparities often impede the educational attainment of its people, promotes greater access
to quality higher education as a matter of policy, and actively supports higher education
as an indispensible element of Connecticuts economic development.
Investment: Connecticuts people value the resources committed to higher
education as a desirable investment, not merely a necessary cost. At the same time, higher
education builds public esteem by achieving and documenting an attractive "return on
investment" that satisfies investors concerns and consumer needs.
Efficiency: Given constrained public resources, our systems and institutions
maximize efficiency, avoid waste and implement customer value management across all parts
of the academic enterprise, from administrative functions to program offerings.
Collaboration and cooperation: Effective strategic alliances exist within the
higher education community, and between higher education and elementary/secondary
education, business, policy leaders, elected officials and alumni which work to promote
efficiency, sustain excellence and meet rapidly changing consumer demands.
A Landscape of Rapid Change and Opportunity
In our discussions, we spent much time considering the sheer force and rapid pace of
change sweeping across Connecticuts system of higher education today. Recent
breakthroughs in information technology, coupled with a growing demand for people skilled
at problem-solving, decision-making and working in teams are bringing about a paradigm
shift in the ways we communicate, teach and learn. These changes have far-reaching
implications for the structure and methodologies of higher education. The current
landscape of rapid change presents a unique opportunity for higher education to transform
itself to better meet the needs and expectations of its customers.
Given Connecticuts relatively strong economy and stable outlook for college
enrollment, our public and independent colleges have a rare moment of time to reconsider
what they do, the services they offer and how best to offer them. Our underlying concern
is to insure that academic services and programs appropriately match the educational needs
of our citizens, communities and economy. To do so requires "smart" incentives
Connecticut is known as one of the nations wealthiest states due to the high
average income of its residents. Unfortunately, average income masks the poverty and
deprivation which plagues our cities in contrast to the affluence and luxury of more
privileged parts of the state. Connecticut needs a system of higher education which serves
well all of its citizenry. At one and the same time, Connecticut higher education must
stretch up for excellence and reach out to those whose access is limited by poor academic
preparation and constrained financial resources.
Compounding this challenge is the common perception that Connecticut higher education
does not uniformly meet our highest expectations. Connecticut's "system of
systems" has grown up over time without a general plan and without a clear sense of
purpose shared by citizens, politicians and business leaders. Thus, while institutions
individually have sought to make their educational services more effective and efficient,
the perception continues that, taken as a whole, neither the quality nor the operations of
Connecticut's higher education system meet the state's needs.
For example, businesses and employers have unmet needs for well-educated employees who
can bring to the workplace a rich mixture of technical competence, critical thinking
skills and the enthusiasm and capacity for lifelong learning. More specifically,
throughout Connecticut there is an increasingly severe shortage of computer specialists
and other highly trained technicians. Too often we have had to rely on individuals
educated outside our borders to provide a substantial number of the educated citizens that
have driven our economy and achieved our comfortable lifestyles.
Connecticut's challenge is to meet these needs for educated workers with a limited
number of home-grown high school graduates and through the ongoing education of adults
both those currently in the workforce and those who choose to enter the workforce
later in life. Adult learners make special service demands on institutions of higher
education. And, increasingly, these adults will be a major component of higher education's
Now is the time for transforming higher education to better prepare Connecticuts
people to meet the challenges of the coming century. These changes can be effected in a
variety of ways and at a variety of levels within individual institutions and
systems, and across the system as a whole in other words, from the bottom-up as
well as from the top-down.
The Mission of Connecticut Higher Education
In the course of our deliberations, we focused on three areas of the Boards
- To educate students to participate effectively in the social, economic and political
communities in which they live;
- To prepare and/or retrain Connecticut residents and others to gain and keep meaningful
jobs, adding to the states workforce; and
- To keep higher education accessible and affordable for Connecticut citizens.
Agenda for Excellence
The driving force for change must be the attainment of demonstrated excellence in all
aspects of Connecticut higher education. In practical terms this translates into an
efficient system of higher education that is competency-based, focused on achieving
established standards and outcomes, and responsive to consumers. A practical commitment to
excellence can lead to improved performance and quality across the system within
administrative functions, and by faculty and students. As a matter of policy, we recommend
that any state investment in higher education must be tied to performance outcomes.
I. System Structure and Integrity
State resources for higher education are likely to remain constant and allocated based
on political pressures and on public perceptions of performance, quality and efficiency.
Competition among higher education providers traditional and non-traditional
will likely expand dramatically as consumer markets and delivery systems change.
Institutions of higher education will need to move far more quickly and effectively to
meet changing consumer needs. They will need to vigorously promote their records of
performance to win a larger share of precious public resources. In light of these
circumstances, the system and its institutions must differentiate their respective areas
We, therefore, recommend that:
- The Board of Governors should assist each of the public systems to develop a distinctive
mission and consolidate duplicative operations to achieve greater efficiency and cost
- The Board of Governors, working with system leaders, should seriously consider
consolidating selected campuses and programs of the University of Connecticut (excluding
its Health Center, Law School, School of Social Work, and Avery Point and CITI/Stamford
campuses) with the Connecticut State University and/or Community-Technical College
systems, allowing UConn to focus on its strengths as a premier research institution while
eliminating costly duplication across the system.
- The legislature should maintain funds to help Connecticut students attend in-state
independent colleges and universities. Additional financial support for these institutions
should be provided only as dictated by strategic state needs. Vigorous intellectual,
results-oriented competition between the publics and independents should be encouraged.
- Connecticut institutions of higher education should establish formal liaisons among
themselves and with all peer institutions across New England, promoting coordination and
collaboration to assure students the best possible education options. Such cooperation
should include shared access to courses and facilities, but not for the purpose of
discouraging appropriate competition.
II. Economic Development
Compared to other states, higher education in Connecticut is not used particularly well
as a strategic resource to promote economic growth. Further, while generally supportive,
employers express significant dissatisfaction with higher educations ability to meet
broad workforce development concerns.
There is growing need for institutions of higher education to establish more
collaborative relationships with the business community around issues of common concern.
Likewise, there is an urgent need for the State of Connecticut to support economic
development by promoting worker education and by fostering new knowledge and research
opportunities. Higher education should be part of a key state investment strategy to grow
and retain business, and to recruit and keep talented people within our borders.
At the same time, higher education has a larger role extending beyond the specific
concerns of the workplace. In an era of globalization and increasing cultural diversity,
higher education must address issues of citizenship, civility and responsibility in the
To address these concerns, we propose that:
- Individual institutions as well as systems of higher education must establish effective,
high-level advisory boards representing employer concerns for better linkages with
industry and citizens. Existing efforts should be strengthened.
- State funds must support targeted customized training programs tied to specific economic
development priorities, and collaborative efforts between higher education institutions
and local training organizations.
- The State of Connecticut must strategically upgrade the facilities and technological
resources of Connecticut State University, the Community-Technical Colleges and Charter
Oak State College, and also consider shared utilization options.
- The State of Connecticut must invest strategically in research and learning at the
University of Connecticut, Connecticut State University and the Community-Technical
Colleges to promote common economic development goals.
- The Board of Governors should employ Centers of Excellence (see #22 on page 7) to
identify those areas of distinction on campus for strategic investment.
III. Learning and Technology
Information technology already is revolutionizing higher education changing
learning, instruction, performance measurement, administration, organizational structure,
costs, etc. One anticipated result will be a burgeoning demand for distance learning
opportunities. Demand could increase exponentially, creating significant opportunities to
attract students from throughout the nation and around the world to Connecticut higher
educations offerings. Given the impact of technology, any expenditure of capital
funds affecting the physical capacity of the system should consider the implications
presented by distance learning.
To address the challenges presented by technology, we urge that:
- The State of Connecticut establish a coordinated, cost-effective approach to distance
learning that cuts across all institutions of higher education in Connecticut.
- The Board of Governors convene a regional summit to discuss creating a multi-state
Virtual University, allowing students to learn whenever and wherever they wish, modeled on
the countrys best practices. At a minimum, the State of Connecticut should launch
its own virtual program. In addition, the Board of Governors should explore creating a
virtual library in Connecticut similar to those in Georgia and Florida.
- Charter Oak State College be allowed to grant graduate-level degrees and training
certificates in light of its growing role as broker for collaborative distance learning.
IV. Access and Opportunity: The Education Continuum
Connecticuts higher education institutions, especially its Community-Technical
Colleges, are beset by the growing remediation needs of both recent high school graduates
and older students returning to school. Higher education must become more involved with
elementary/secondary education to elevate student preparedness and to assist with
enrichment activities for high achievers. At the same time, the State of Connecticut must
develop immediate and long-term strategies to keep higher education accessible in light of
public concerns about affordability.
To further these goals, we suggest that:
- Higher education and elementary/secondary education forge closer alliances to reduce the
need for college-level remediation and to improve student achievement. Formal linkages
must be created across the education spectrum, from primary grades to graduate school.
- The State Departments of Education and Higher Education undertake a comprehensive study
of remediation in Connecticut to determine its true costs and propose alternative ways of
assuring student readiness for college.
- Higher education assist in developing effective annual career and transition guidance to
all students beginning no later than middle school, consistent with the recommendations of
the "Connecticut Learns" school-to-career initiative, and continuing into
- Public higher education institutions implement admissions and transfer strategies that
are competency-based and seamless in permitting students to take courses for which they
qualify at any campus.
- The Board of Governors urges the legislature to sufficiently support financial aid
programs to ensure access and affordability for all qualified residents, and lessen
reliance on student loans.
- Public higher education should link tuition and fee charges to key economic indicators
and institutional performance.
V. Education Assessment and System Performance
- Each public system, with oversight by the Board of Governors, should identify
competencies and quality standards applicable to its mission to assess institutional
- Each public system, with oversight by the Board of Governors, should implement a
competency-based system of instruction, requiring each student to demonstrate mastery of
appropriate knowledge and skills (whether in the liberal arts, science or technology), to
assess student performance.
- Each public system, with oversight by the Board of Governors, should create additional
alternative contractual arrangements for its faculty using periodic, competency-based
performance measures. Teaching Centers should be established where faculty and
administrators can upgrade their skills, consistent with competency-based standards.
Meaningful incentives should be developed to encourage faculty and staff to participate in
professional development opportunities.
- The Board of Governors should employ Centers of Excellence to identify areas of
distinction on campus for strategic investment. Such Centers would exhibit demonstrable
quality comparable with the best in similar institutions around the country and, where
appropriate, address workforce needs. These Centers must be promoted and rewarded for
their performance and innovation.
VI. Board Leadership and Alliances
The State of Connecticut must develop and embrace a system of higher education whose
excellence and performance compare favorably with any across the nation. The Board of
Governors must reassert its leadership in achieving this status. In addition, the key
interests represented on this Advisory Council the business community, institutions
of higher education and state government must fully support and aggressively
promote the ideas contained in this agenda.
It is equally essential for the higher education community to pursue strategic
alliances with powerful advocates on its behalf. Alliances with the larger constituencies
of business, government and localities are vital to building support for the entire higher
Accordingly, we call upon the Board of Governors to:
- Encourage support for Connecticuts higher education system as an investment in the
future. Alumni, who have reaped the benefits of an education, should support the
institutions from which they hold degrees as in other states where substantial giving and
endowment programs lessen dependence on public dollars. Businesses, which benefit from a
well-educated workforce, should participate in major endowment programs for scholarship
and major teaching emphases.
- Build public/private partnerships with other state and regional agencies and businesses
to assist in creating Centers of Excellence, reviewing competency guidelines and building
political support for the system.
- Broaden involvement by leadership from higher education, the business community, state
government, labor, students themselves and other key interests to carry forward this
agenda, assess the performance of higher education in meeting state needs and gain the
financial support for a higher education system that truly meets the needs of
Connecticuts employers for a world-class workforce.
Finally, the Board of Governors should reconvene this Public Agenda Advisory Council
within two years to review progress in implementing this Agenda for Excellence and
recommend adjustments as warranted by changing circumstances.
We believe this agenda is eminently feasible and necessary for Connecticut higher
education to enter the 21st century "smart" with a strong
student focus, proven record of excellence and an efficient employment of resources.
We expect action.
The Connecticut Higher Education System
Connecticut higher education is comprised of a "system of systems" consisting
- the University of Connecticut, a research university with 5 regional campuses and a
Health Center which provide an array of undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
- the Connecticut State University, a system of four geographically dispersed
comprehensive universities, which offer bachelor degree programs, selected graduate
degrees and career advancement.
- the Community-Technical Colleges, a system of 12 comprehensive, geographically dispersed
colleges, which offer certificate and associate degrees and training programs, tailored to
employer and community needs.
- Charter Oak State College, an alternate avenue for adults seeking an associate or a
bachelor degree through courses at local institutions or via distance learning, testing,
portfolio review and independent study.
Complementing these four public systems is a diverse group of 26 nationally and
regionally recognized two- and four-year independent colleges and universities.
The Board of Governors for Higher Education provides policy oversight and coordination
for this system. The Department of Higher Education performs the Boards
In 1997-98, the combined operating budgets of Connecticuts public and independent
higher education institutions totaled $3 billion, including $445 million in state funds
(fringe benefit and capital project expenditures are excluded). Connecticuts public
and independent institutions of higher education in 1997-98 enroll some 154,000 students
and grant 28,800 degrees. The states independent colleges enroll 38 percent of
Connecticut resident undergraduates and grant about half of the degrees awarded each year.
Public Agenda Advisory Council
|Harry H. Penner, Chair
President & CEO
|Bruce H. Leslie
Community-Technical Colleges of Connecticut
|Philip E. Austin
University of Connecticut
|Michael P. Meotti
Connecticut Policy and Economic Council
|Anthony J. Cernera
Sacred Heart University
|Lewis A. Miller
|William J. Cibes
Connecticut State University
|William J. Morgan
KPMG Peat Marwick, LLP
|Kenneth O. Decko
Connecticut Business & Industry Association
Standing Advisory Committee to the
Board of Governors for Higher Education
|Brian J. Flaherty
Deputy Minority Leader
House of Representatives
|Theodore S. Sergi
Commissioner of Education
|Thomas P. Gaffey
Alice V. Meyer
Board of Governors for Higher Education
|Merle W. Harris
Charter Oak State College
|Andrew G. De Rocco
Commissioner of Higher Education
|Michael W. Kozlowski
(Kathleen S. Guay, designee)
Office of Policy and Management