Dr. Robert Zemsky joined the Friends of Lesley to discuss "Higher Education Reform."
The second gathering of Lesley University’s Leadership Council welcomed acclaimed higher education analyst Robert Zemsky, founding director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Research on Higher Education.
The Lesley University Leadership Council is a group of influential alumni and public-spirited leaders in the Greater Boston area and beyond that assist the university in defining its strategic direction and fulfilling its mission. Following group sessions, Lesley University President Joseph B. Moore discussed college affordability, particularly among the middle class, as among the major issues facing regional private universities like Lesley.
“Ours is the sector that, more than any, must address the affordability issue. The only way to compete is to reconsider the resources our students have to spend – in both time and money – to learn and earn credits to earn a degree,” said Moore. “It is this sector that will develop the most interesting and robust three-year degree options, the vertical integration of undergraduate and graduate programs; and the inclusion of internships in every program and major that links theory and practice.”
In introducing Zemsky, Moore described the University of Pennsylvania Professor’s research and writing as unique in that he “has studied educational reform movements and understands the difference between the vacuous political language of reform and actual change.”
In his talk, Zemsky began with comparing higher education to health care, in that it is a third-party payer system, with the federal government paying $113 billion through Pell grants and Stafford loans. He asked the group to consider that college was “affordable” – as evidenced by people still attending college despite the costs. But, he said, “it has become obscenely expensive.”
“We really ought to focus on the expensiveness of education, rather than the affordability, though the two are obviously related,” Zemsky said. “What does matter is that our costs have gone up – we ought to be talking about operating costs not prices.”
Zemsky’s long tenure at the University of Pennsylvania has included positions as the university’s chief planning officer, and he served for twenty years as the founding director of the university’s Institute for Research on Higher Education, one of the country’s major public policy centers specializing in educational research and analysis. In his research, Professor Zemsky pioneered the use of market analyses for higher education.
He was a member of the U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ National Commission on the Future of Higher Education. He has forcefully argued that colleges and universities need to be transformed from within and has focused on what globalism might really mean for higher education, what technology has not accomplished, and how to enhance learning important in higher education.
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