Reinventing the American University
The Promise of Innovation in Higher Education
About This Event

The need for innovation in American higher education has never been more urgent. With President Barack Obama's call for a significant increase in postsecondary degrees, colleges and universities are under greater pressure than ever to increase their student enrollment and graduation rates. These institutions must find new ways to serve Listen to Audio

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historically underserved populations and improve educational outcomes, even under today's intense financial constraints. While top U.S. universities are often at the forefront of innovation in research and development, they typically educate students much as they did fifty years ago. In spite of a steady increase in the enrollment of nontraditional students, a steep decline in tenured faculty positions, and revolutionary developments in technology that have touched nearly every other part of society, universities have not spent much time rethinking the traditional model of teaching and learning. Policy barriers such as restrictive university accreditation requirements have stymied change, while current legislative efforts have focused more on funding than on reforming the way that schools operate.

Nonetheless, a few institutions of higher learning have begun experimenting with innovations such as online teaching, redefining the role of professors, rethinking the connection between academic programs and labor market readiness, and creating entirely new colleges. Still, there has been little research on efforts to innovate or increase productivity within higher education, the environments in which reformers and entrepreneurs operate, or the hazards that may accompany the implementation of new ideas. To explore these themes, Ben Wildavsky, senior fellow in research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation; Kevin Carey, policy director at Education Sector; and AEI research fellow Andrew P. Kelly have commissioned eight pieces of new research that examine the potential for innovation, how to reshape aspects of the traditional postsecondary system, and the pitfalls that may accompany these reform efforts. At this AEI education conference, the authors of this new research presented their findings and discussed what we might learn from emerging entrepreneurial providers and innovative practices. Respondents from across the policy and practitioner communities discussed the implications of this research for reform in higher education.

Media Contact Information
Hampton Foushee
American Enterprise Institute
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-862-5806


Event Summary

WASHINGTON, JUNE 3, 2010--Researchers, entrepreneurs, and education officials gathered Thursday to discuss the state of innovation in American higher education and how to encourage it on a large scale. Presenters discussed their research on a wide range of topics, including increased productivity within institutions, the growth of online education and community colleges, and the barriers to innovation and experimentation in higher education. Presenters and panelists debated not only the reasons there is so little innovation in higher education, but also what the appropriate definition of innovation is. Suzanne Walsh of Benchstrength consultants said, "I'm not sure that the definition of innovation is just about something new. [T]he definition of innovation should also think about adding value." Participants said that stimulating innovation is important but proposed various means for doing so, such as governmental involvement, for-profit institutions, course redesign, or simply choosing to work only with willing partners. Ben Wildavsky, senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, concluded that "[c]hange is needed. Change is complicated. Change is difficult. Change is inevitable."

  • "We have tremendous capability to build the work force of the future by improving opportunity for the work force that we already have. . . . We have to become as intent on closing the achievement gap for adults as we have become for our students in public schools."
    --Charlene Nunley

  • "My concern is not that innovation doesn't happen in higher education. [I]t happens every day and I think it's because of the freedom of faculty to do their own innovation. My concern is that these innovations happen in these isolated little areas and we don't build on it; it's not a research project. What we need to do is create a platform or system in which all of this innovation is being tried, examined, evaluated, and refined."
    --Candace Thille

  • "Productivity should be something we do all the time, every day. It should be anything but an innovation. But, of course, in our present circumstances, serious work on productivity would be innovative."
    --William Massy
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Speaker biographies

Dominic Brewer is associate dean for research and faculty affairs and the Clifford H. and Betty C. Allen Professor in Urban Leadership at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California (USC). He holds courtesy appointments in the USC Department of Economics and in the School of Policy Planning and Development. He is also a codirector of Policy Analysis for California Education, a policy research collaboration of USC, the University of California-Berkeley and Stanford. Mr. Brewer is a labor economist specializing in the economics of education and education policy. Before joining USC in 2005, he was a vice president at RAND Corporation. Mr. Brewer has overseen major projects focusing on educational productivity and teacher issues in both K-12 and higher education. He is the author of In Pursuit of Prestige (Transaction Press, 2001). Mr. Brewer is a coeditor of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis for 2010-2012.

Kevin Carey is Education Sector's policy director. He manages the organization's policy team and oversees policy development in K-12 and higher education. Mr. Carey has published articles in magazines including Washington Monthly, The New Republic, The American Prospect, Democracy, and Newsweek Online, as well as op-eds in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Daily News and on InsideHigherEd. He writes a monthly column for the Chronicle of Higher Education and serves as guest editor of Washington Monthly's annual college issue. His writing was anthologized in Best American Legal Writing 2009. Mr. Carey's research at Education Sector includes higher-education reform, improving college graduation rates, college rankings, community colleges, and the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Previously, Mr. Carey was the director of policy research for the Education Trust and a policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. From 1999 to 2001, Mr. Carey served as Indiana's assistant state budget director for education, where he advised the governor on finance and policy issues in K-12 and higher education. He also served as a senior analyst for the Indiana Senate Finance Committee, writing legislation and advising the Senate Democratic caucus.

Ronald Ehrenberg is the Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics and a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University, as well as the director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute. He served as Cornell's vice president for academic programs, planning, and budgeting from July 1995 to June 1998 and was an elected member of Cornell's Board of Trustees from July 2006 to June 2010. He currently is a member of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY). Mr. Ehrenberg's most recent coauthored book is Educating Scholars: Doctoral Education in the Humanities (Princeton University Press, 2010). He has served as chair of several American Association of University Professors committees and of the National Research Council's Board on Higher Education. He is a member of the National Academy of Education and a fellow of the Society of Labor Economists, the American Educational Research Association, and the TIAA-CREF Institute.

Guilbert Hentschke is the Cooper Chair in Education at the University of Southern California's (USC) Rossier School of Education, where he served as dean from 1988 to 2000. At USC he is faculty adviser of the M.B.A.-Ed.D. program and serves as senior adviser to the National Resource Center for Charter School Finance and Governance. His recent publications (solely and jointly produced) include New Players, Different Game: Understanding the Rise of For-Profit Colleges and Universities (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007); For-Profit Colleges and Universities: Their Markets, Regulation, Performance, and Place in Higher Education (Stylus Publishing, 2010); “The Business of Education: Social Purposes, Market Forces and the Changing Organisation of Schools” (in Handbook of Educational Leadership and Management, Pearson Education, 2003); and “Characteristics of Growth in the Education Industry: Illustrations from U.S. Education Businesses” (in New Arenas of Education Politics, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Mr. Hentschke's current board directorships include WestEd Regional Education Laboratory, Education Industry Foundation, California Credit Union, Excellent Education Development, Giraffe Charter Schools, and Mercury Online Academies.

Andrew P. Kelly is a research fellow in education policy studies at AEI and a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of California-Berkeley. His research focuses on higher education policy, congressional policymaking, and political behavior. As a graduate student, Mr. Kelly was a National Science Foundation interdisciplinary training fellow and graduate student instructor. Previously, he was a research assistant at AEI, where his work focused on the preparation of school leaders, collective bargaining in public schools, and the politics of education. His research has appeared in Teachers College Record, Educational Policy, Policy Studies Journal, Education Next, Education Week, Forbes, and various edited volumes, and he is a coauthor of the 2009 AEI report “Diplomas and Dropouts: Which Schools Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don't).”

William Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland (USM), is a nationally respected authority on critical issues shaping higher education. Under his leadership, the eleven-university public higher-education system has been lauded as a model of effectiveness and efficiency. USM also is becoming increasingly recognized for its aggressive efforts to close the student achievement gap, produce more graduates in the STEM fields, and promote environmental sustainability. Mr. Kirwan chairs the National Research Council Board of Higher Education and Workforce and the College Board's Advocacy and Policy Center Advisory Committee. He cochairs the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics and is a member of the Business-Higher Education Forum. He also chairs the Maryland Governor's P-20 STEM Task Force and is a member of the Governor's International Advisory Board and the Maryland Economic Development Commission. Mr. Kirwan was honored with the 2010 TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence and the 2009 Carnegie Corporation Leadership Award. He is the former president of the Ohio State University and the University of Maryland-College Park.

Jon Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for the Times Higher Education magazine (U.K.) and has written about higher education for CrossTalk, the journal of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education; Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning; Washington Monthly; U.S. News & World Report; The Boston Globe Magazine; and other publications. The former editor of Boston Magazine, he also is an author, freelance writer, and investigative journalist. Mr. Marcus holds a master's degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and a bachelor's degree from Bates College, attended Oxford University, and teaches journalism at Boston College and Boston University.

William Massy is self-employed as a consultant to higher education and an emeritus professor and former vice president of Stanford University. He has been active as a professor, consultant, and university administrator for more than forty years. Mr. Massy earned tenure as a professor in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he also served as director of the doctoral program and associate dean. He then moved to Stanford's central administration as vice provost and dean of research, acting provost, and vice president for business and finance, during which time he developed and pioneered financial planning and management tools that have become standard in the field. For example, his book with David Hopkins, Planning Models for Colleges and Universities, received the Operations Research Society of America's Frederick W. Lanchester Prize for 1981, and in 1995 he received the Society for College and University Planning's annual career award for outstanding contributions to college and university planning.

Richard Miller was appointed president, professor, and first employee of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in 1999. He served as dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Iowa from 1992 to 1999 and spent the previous seventeen years on the engineering faculties at the University of Southern California and the University of California-Santa Barbara. Mr. Miller's research interests are in applied mechanics, and he is the author or coauthor of approximately one hundred reviewed journal articles and other technical publications. The recipient of five teaching awards at two universities, he is a past chair of the Engineering Advisory Committee at the National Science Foundation, past chair of the Association of Independent Technological Universities, and a member of the Visiting Committee at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. He has also been a consultant to the World Bank on the establishment of new academic institutions, among other activities.

Charlene R. Nunley is professor and program director of University of Maryland University College's Doctor of Management in Community College Policy and Administration. She accepted this position after retiring from Montgomery College in Maryland, where she served as president for eight years. Ms. Nunley has been a staunch advocate for preserving the open-access mission of community colleges. She cochaired a statewide task force that examined capacity challenges facing Maryland's public colleges and universities. Her efforts and views on education have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, Community College Times, Community College Journal, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the fall of 2005, Ms. Nunley was named as the only community college representative to the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, formed by then-U.S. secretary of education Margaret Spellings. She was one of nineteen education, business, and government leaders appointed to the commission.

Paul Osterman is the Nanyang Technological University Professor of Human Resources and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His books include The Truth about Middle Managers: Who They Are, How They Work, Why They Matter (Harvard Business School Press, 2008); Gathering Power: The Future of Progressive Politics in America (Beacon Press, 2003); Securing Prosperity: How the American Labor Market Has Changed and What to Do about It (Princeton University Press, 1999); Employment Futures: Reorganization, Dislocation, and Public Policy (Oxford University Press, 1988) and Getting Started: The Youth Labor Market (MIT Press, 1978). He is also the coauthor of Working in America: A Blueprint for the New Labor Market (MIT Press, 2002); The Mutual Gains Enterprise: Forging a Winning Partnership among Labor, Management, and Government (Harvard Business Press, 1994); and Change at Work (Oxford University Press, 1997), and the editor of two books, Internal Labor Markets (MIT Press, 1984) and Broken Ladders: Managerial Careers in the New Economy (Oxford University Press, 1996). In addition, he has written numerous academic journal articles and policy issue papers on topics such as the organization of work within firms, labor-market policy, and economic development. Mr. Osterman has been a senior administrator of job training programs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and consulted widely to firms, government agencies, and foundations.

Andrew Rosen is chairman and chief executive officer of Kaplan, Inc., one of the world's leading providers of educational services. Mr. Rosen joined Kaplan in 1992, initially serving in various test-prep management roles, and became chief operating officer in 1997. He was named president of Kaplan in 2002 and assumed leadership for Kaplan's higher-education operations in 2004. In November 2008, he was named chairman and CEO. As CEO of the company's largest business, Kaplan Higher Education (KHE), Mr. Rosen redefined the higher-education landscape, bringing online and campus-based learning opportunities to working adults. Under his leadership, KHE has grown to become Kaplan's largest component and today provides postsecondary education to more than one hundred thousand students. Throughout his career, he has embraced an outcomes-based approach to education, focusing on student achievement and success. Mr. Rosen joined the Washington Post Company in 1986 as a staff attorney for the Washington Post and moved to Newsweek as assistant counsel in 1988.

Jack Schuster, senior research fellow and professor emeritus of education and public policy at Claremont Graduate University, is the author or coauthor of six books on various aspects of higher education and the American faculty, among them American Professors (Oxford University Press, 1986) with Howard R. Bowen (which received the Ness Award) and, with Martin J. Finkelstein, The New Academic Generation (Johns Hopkins University, 1998) and The American Faculty (Johns Hopkins University, 2006). He is currently writing with Mr. Finkelstein a book on the present condition of and outlook for the faculty, funded by TIAA-CREF, to be published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Mr. Schuster has been a visiting professor or guest scholar at the Universities of Michigan, Oxford, Melbourne, and Haifa, as well as at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution. He was the 2007 recipient of the Association for the Study of Higher Education's Distinguished Career Award and the 2008 American Educational Research Association's Exemplary Research Award (Division J, Postsecondary Education).

Peter Stokes is the executive vice president and chief research officer for Eduventures. In the twelve years that he has been with Eduventures, his work has focused on helping colleges and universities serve adult learners, grow online enrollments, educate future teachers, and demonstrate meaningful outcomes. In 2005, he was recognized as one of “higher education's new generation of thinkers” by The Chronicle of Higher Education. He provided testimony to then-U.S. secretary of education Margaret Spellings's Commission on the Future of Higher Education and later served as an adviser to the commission in the development of its final report, A Test of Leadership. Mr. Stokes was a member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation Tenth Anniversary Commission, which sought to support the strengthening of higher-education accreditation. He also worked on Governor Deval Patrick's Commonwealth Readiness Commission to support the development of a ten-year strategy for education in Massachusetts. Previously, he was manager of the industry research group at Daratech, Inc.

Candace Thille is the director of the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University, a position she has held since the program's inception in 2002. She is also the codirector of OLnet. Jointly run by Carnegie Mellon and the Open University in the United Kingdom, OLnet is an international open educational research network. Ms. Thille's focus of research and development is in applying results from the learning sciences to the design, implementation, and evaluation of open web-based learning environments. Ms. Thille also serves as a redesign scholar for the National Center for Academic Transformation and was elected a Fellow of the International Society for Design and Development in Education in 2007. She recently served on a working group at the U.S. Department of Education to write the 2010 National Education Technology Plan and is currently serving on a working group for the U.S. Department of Education to evaluate of the effectiveness of online courses for secondary students.

Gregory von Lehmen serves as provost and chief academic officer at University of Maryland University College (UMUC). He joined UMUC as the area director for Japan in August 2001 and served in that capacity for four years. He returned to the United States in 2005 and served as the senior associate dean within the School of Undergraduate Studies and later as senior vice provost. Prior to joining UMUC, Mr. von Lehmen taught constitutional and administrative law, political philosophy, and public administration for five years at Georgia Southwestern State University, where he was a tenured associate professor. He joined Troy University in 1990, serving initially as assistant professor of public administration in the university's Master of Public Administration program in Europe and teaching in Germany, Spain, England, Italy, Turkey, and Portugal. He returned to the United States to serve as regional director of University College Programs-Southwest, managing Troy's programs at military and NASA facilities in New Mexico, Arizona, and Montana. In 1997, he relocated to Okinawa, where until 2001 he oversaw Troy's graduate programs in Japan, Korea, Guam, and Hawaii.

Suzanne Walsh is a senior consultant for strategy and innovation with Benchstrength. Prior to joining Benchstrength, she worked in philanthropy at Lumina Foundation for Education, where she led the productivity work, and the Heinz Endowments, where she led the Innovation Economy Program's workforce and community college strategies. She came to philanthropy from the Workforce and Economic Development Division at Cuyahoga Community College, where she was responsible for developing new programs and working with the business community.

Ben Wildavsky is a senior fellow in research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation and the author of The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World (Princeton University Press, 2010). Previously, he was education editor of U.S. News & World Report, where he was the top editor of America's Best Colleges and America's Best Graduate Schools. Earlier in his career, he was an economic policy correspondent for National Journal, higher education reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, and executive editor of The Public Interest. He has written for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications. As a consultant to national education reformers, Mr. Wildavsky has written several influential reports, including the final report of the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education.



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