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Letter to the New York Times

Letter to the New York Times

June 23, 2006

Letters to the Editor
New York Times

To the Editor:

David Brooks eloquently captures the value of American higher education to society, and the private-public dynamics that drive it (“Our World Cup Edge,” June 22). Twenty years from now, unfortunately, his column may be the only way to remember what colleges and universities were once able to provide the nation. Look at the language in the Higher Education Act legislation on Capitol Hill, and at the proposals coming out of the Department of Education’s Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education. They seem to envision America emulating Europe’s centralized, bureaucrat-heavy, government-run colleges and universities. The result of any such action would be the same as in Europe – a stagnant, complacent, and isolated academia of diminishing value to society. That’s no way to compete in the global arena.

Under the rallying call of “accountability,” policymakers and bureaucrats in Washington are pushing ahead on efforts that would erode institutional autonomy at private colleges and expand federal control over fundamental institutional responsibilities: admissions, prices, and student assessment. These officials seem to have lost faith in the free market, and want to replace Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” with an iron fist.

As reported in the Times and elsewhere, the Spellings Commission recently explored a one-size-fits-all exam for every college student in the nation, regardless of program, mission, or institution. It is also seriously considering a proposal that the federal government become the sole accrediting body for colleges and universities. Such a move would mean replacing a decentralized self-governing system that’s become a model for European nations undergoing educational reform. The idea of a centralized national database tracking college students, their grades, financial aid information, and enrollment -- regardless of whether they receive federal aid -- is being championed by some in the administration, Congress, and Spellings Commission. This idea, first reported in the Times two years ago, is anathema to the democratic underpinnings of higher education and American society.

The days of great federal investments in higher education for the wellbeing of the nation – the G.I. Bill and the Land-Grant acts come to mind -- may also be destined for the scrap heap of history. Congress has not increased funding for the maximum Pell Grant in five years. Five federal financial aid programs providing access for the nation's neediest students have been recommended for elimination. Unless the president and Congress reverse course quickly, the outlook for this year is grim.

We need more policymakers who remember what transformative, productive things our colleges and universities can achieve when allowed to operate free of government intrusion. Otherwise, 20 years from now, a soccer team may be the only thing that’s globally competitive about America.  

Sincerely,

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Washington DC
Letters to the Editor
New York Times

To the Editor:

David Brooks eloquently captures the value of American higher education to society, and the private-public dynamics that drive it (“Our World Cup Edge,” June 22). Twenty years from now, unfortunately, his column may be the only way to remember what colleges and universities were once able to provide the nation. Look at the language in the Higher Education Act legislation on Capitol Hill, and at the proposals coming out of the Department of Education’s Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education. They seem to envision America emulating Europe’s centralized, bureaucrat-heavy, government-run colleges and universities. The result of any such action would be the same as in Europe – a stagnant, complacent, and isolated academia of diminishing value to society. That’s no way to compete in the global arena.

Under the rallying call of “accountability,” policymakers and bureaucrats in Washington are pushing ahead on efforts that would erode institutional autonomy at private colleges and expand federal control over fundamental institutional responsibilities: admissions, prices, and student assessment. These officials seem to have lost faith in the free market, and want to replace Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” with an iron fist.

As reported in the Times and elsewhere, the Spellings Commission recently explored a one-size-fits-all exam for every college student in the nation, regardless of program, mission, or institution. It is also seriously considering a proposal that the federal government become the sole accrediting body for colleges and universities. Such a move would mean replacing a decentralized self-governing system that’s become a model for European nations undergoing educational reform. The idea of a centralized national database tracking college students, their grades, financial aid information, and enrollment -- regardless of whether they receive federal aid -- is being championed by some in the administration, Congress, and Spellings Commission. This idea, first reported in the Times two years ago, is anathema to the democratic underpinnings of higher education and American society.

The days of great federal investments in higher education for the wellbeing of the nation – the G.I. Bill and the Land-Grant acts come to mind -- may also be destined for the scrap heap of history. Congress has not increased funding for the maximum Pell Grant in five years. Five federal financial aid programs providing access for the nation's neediest students have been recommended for elimination. Unless the president and Congress reverse course quickly, the outlook for this year is grim.

We need more policymakers who remember what transformative, productive things our colleges and universities can achieve when allowed to operate free of government intrusion. Otherwise, 20 years from now, a soccer team may be the only thing that’s globally competitive about America.  

Sincerely,

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Washington DC

June 23, 2006

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Letter to the New York Times

Letter to the New York Times

February 27, 2006

Letters to the Editor
New York Times

Re: Editorial, "Proof of Learning at College," February 26

To the Editor:

The suggestion by the Commission on the Future of Higher Education that a single, one-size-fits-all test be used at the nation’s more than 6,000 colleges, universities, and proprietary institutions appalls many in higher education ("Proof of Learning at College," editorial, Feb. 26).  The diversity of institutions—two- and four-year, for-profit and nonprofit, large research universities and small liberal arts colleges, culinary schools and performing arts institutions—and the differences between their missions and student populations make a single meaningful measure of learning outcomes difficult to imagine.  A nationwide high-stakes test would have a devastating impact on educational diversity and opportunity for low-income students, particularly if results determined whether institutions, and thus their students, were eligible for the Pell Grant and other federal student aid programs.  

America’s college graduates drove the technological and economic boom of the 1990s, and continue to keep our nation the world’s scientific, business, and military leader.  Nevertheless, college and university presidents overwhelmingly believe that student learning must be better measured.  In fact, they are leading the charge for meaningful, mission-driven ways to assess it.  Since the late 1990s, measurements such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment and the National Survey of Student Engagement have grown in popularity.  Each assessment tool is now being used by up to hundreds of institutions.  Institutions are also more accountable than ever for learning outcomes through the accrediting agencies. The 1992 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act mandated that accrediting agencies make assessment of student achievement a cornerstone of their evaluation of an institution’s educational quality.  Higher education has taken this change seriously and developed many forms of purposeful assessment that do not erode its very foundation. 

There is a great irony in the commission’s discussion about improving institutional quality: the administration that formed the commission proposes in its latest budget to flat-fund the maximum Pell Grant for the fifth consecutive year, and to slash funding across the student aid programs.  Federal aid is losing ground to inflation, and the number of needy students is at a historic high.  As institutions reallocate strained resources to fill the gap left by the federal government’s retrenchment, it is educational quality that is most at risk.  A call for better educational outcomes is meaningless when crucial resources are being sucked away.  Now is the time for the federal government to increase affordability, access, and quality of learning by investing in higher education, not by divesting.   

Sincerely,

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

 

Letters to the Editor
New York Times

Re: Editorial, "Proof of Learning at College," February 26

To the Editor:

The suggestion by the Commission on the Future of Higher Education that a single, one-size-fits-all test be used at the nation’s more than 6,000 colleges, universities, and proprietary institutions appalls many in higher education ("Proof of Learning at College," editorial, Feb. 26).  The diversity of institutions—two- and four-year, for-profit and nonprofit, large research universities and small liberal arts colleges, culinary schools and performing arts institutions—and the differences between their missions and student populations make a single meaningful measure of learning outcomes difficult to imagine.  A nationwide high-stakes test would have a devastating impact on educational diversity and opportunity for low-income students, particularly if results determined whether institutions, and thus their students, were eligible for the Pell Grant and other federal student aid programs.  

America’s college graduates drove the technological and economic boom of the 1990s, and continue to keep our nation the world’s scientific, business, and military leader.  Nevertheless, college and university presidents overwhelmingly believe that student learning must be better measured.  In fact, they are leading the charge for meaningful, mission-driven ways to assess it.  Since the late 1990s, measurements such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment and the National Survey of Student Engagement have grown in popularity.  Each assessment tool is now being used by up to hundreds of institutions.  Institutions are also more accountable than ever for learning outcomes through the accrediting agencies. The 1992 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act mandated that accrediting agencies make assessment of student achievement a cornerstone of their evaluation of an institution’s educational quality.  Higher education has taken this change seriously and developed many forms of purposeful assessment that do not erode its very foundation. 

There is a great irony in the commission’s discussion about improving institutional quality: the administration that formed the commission proposes in its latest budget to flat-fund the maximum Pell Grant for the fifth consecutive year, and to slash funding across the student aid programs.  Federal aid is losing ground to inflation, and the number of needy students is at a historic high.  As institutions reallocate strained resources to fill the gap left by the federal government’s retrenchment, it is educational quality that is most at risk.  A call for better educational outcomes is meaningless when crucial resources are being sucked away.  Now is the time for the federal government to increase affordability, access, and quality of learning by investing in higher education, not by divesting.   

Sincerely,

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

 

February 27, 2006

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Letter to the Wall Street Journal

Letter to the Wall Street Journal

February 23, 2006

Letters to the Editor
Wall Street Journal

Re: Op-Ed, "Higher Learning, a Tutorial," February 17

To the Editor:

Mr. Oppenheimer ("Higher Learning, a Tutorial," Feb. 17) fails to grasp the extent to which the higher education marketplace is fiercely competitive.  It is not by chance, but choice, that the private college and university sector continues to increase its enrollments annually, even in competition with highly subsidized public universities and stripped down proprietary institutions.

Students and their families choose private colleges precisely for the reasons that the underlying costs of these schools continue to rise: excellent teaching faculty, small and personal classes, significant student financial aid, first-rate facilities, direct engagement in all aspects of learning, high graduation rates, and successful lives after college which contribute to the public good.

Nonprofit private colleges and universities are not only mission driven, but market-smart.  They hold their own against their peer (i.e., competitor) institutions by carving out and promoting a unique niche in the crowded marketplace.  They serve the public by balancing a quality educational experience with affordable access to students from all backgrounds.  You can also add to that a critical component of higher education’s mission not found in the business world: making the product accessible to students, regardless of the size of their family’s bank account. 

The marketplace demands that private higher education be affordable.  Eighty-eight percent of our students receive some form of aid, and the average annual aid package is $17,000.  Private colleges have increased institutional aid by more than twice as much as tuition over the last decade—197 percent vs. 86 percent.  As a result, grant aid covers a greater proportion of published tuition prices now than it did a decade ago.  But even the full tuition at private colleges and universities only covers two-thirds of the institution’s instructional and other costs. 

Not one dollar is spent at a private college without considering how it will affect its educational value and place in the higher education marketplace.  To do otherwise would be a death knell.   

Sincerely, 

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

 

Letters to the Editor
Wall Street Journal

Re: Op-Ed, "Higher Learning, a Tutorial," February 17

To the Editor:

Mr. Oppenheimer ("Higher Learning, a Tutorial," Feb. 17) fails to grasp the extent to which the higher education marketplace is fiercely competitive.  It is not by chance, but choice, that the private college and university sector continues to increase its enrollments annually, even in competition with highly subsidized public universities and stripped down proprietary institutions.

Students and their families choose private colleges precisely for the reasons that the underlying costs of these schools continue to rise: excellent teaching faculty, small and personal classes, significant student financial aid, first-rate facilities, direct engagement in all aspects of learning, high graduation rates, and successful lives after college which contribute to the public good.

Nonprofit private colleges and universities are not only mission driven, but market-smart.  They hold their own against their peer (i.e., competitor) institutions by carving out and promoting a unique niche in the crowded marketplace.  They serve the public by balancing a quality educational experience with affordable access to students from all backgrounds.  You can also add to that a critical component of higher education’s mission not found in the business world: making the product accessible to students, regardless of the size of their family’s bank account. 

The marketplace demands that private higher education be affordable.  Eighty-eight percent of our students receive some form of aid, and the average annual aid package is $17,000.  Private colleges have increased institutional aid by more than twice as much as tuition over the last decade—197 percent vs. 86 percent.  As a result, grant aid covers a greater proportion of published tuition prices now than it did a decade ago.  But even the full tuition at private colleges and universities only covers two-thirds of the institution’s instructional and other costs. 

Not one dollar is spent at a private college without considering how it will affect its educational value and place in the higher education marketplace.  To do otherwise would be a death knell.   

Sincerely, 

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

 

February 23, 2006

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Letter to the New York Times

Letter to the New York Times

January 23, 2006

Letters to the Editor
New York Times

To the Editor:

A more demanding high school curriculum accomplishes nothing when the federal government takes away crucial funds from academically prepared students and makes it more expensive to take out loans (“College Aid Plan Widens U.S. Role in High Schools,” Jan. 22). The greatest problem facing high school students and their families in the budget reconciliation bill is that it cuts student loans by an unprecedented $12.7 billion. The bill risks the future stability of the entire student loan program, on which millions of high school students rely to attend and afford the college of their choice.

At a time when America needs more science and math majors, and a better prepared workforce, it is unconscionable that Congress would raid the student loan program to contribute 30 percent of the bill’s entire deficit reduction package. Student loans represent less than half of one percent of all annual federal spending, but they are asked to make the biggest sacrifice of any federal program. The bill also transfers nearly a billion dollars a year in administrative expenses for the Education Department to the fund that supplies grants and work-study for needy students, meaning less money for those who need it the most.

What is the point of funding federal K-12 school improvement programs while increasing financial barriers to higher learning? Congress must stop its raid on student aid.

Sincerely,

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

 

Letters to the Editor
New York Times

To the Editor:

A more demanding high school curriculum accomplishes nothing when the federal government takes away crucial funds from academically prepared students and makes it more expensive to take out loans (“College Aid Plan Widens U.S. Role in High Schools,” Jan. 22). The greatest problem facing high school students and their families in the budget reconciliation bill is that it cuts student loans by an unprecedented $12.7 billion. The bill risks the future stability of the entire student loan program, on which millions of high school students rely to attend and afford the college of their choice.

At a time when America needs more science and math majors, and a better prepared workforce, it is unconscionable that Congress would raid the student loan program to contribute 30 percent of the bill’s entire deficit reduction package. Student loans represent less than half of one percent of all annual federal spending, but they are asked to make the biggest sacrifice of any federal program. The bill also transfers nearly a billion dollars a year in administrative expenses for the Education Department to the fund that supplies grants and work-study for needy students, meaning less money for those who need it the most.

What is the point of funding federal K-12 school improvement programs while increasing financial barriers to higher learning? Congress must stop its raid on student aid.

Sincerely,

David L. Warren
President
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

 

January 23, 2006

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Op-ed submitted to the New York Times on behalf of five New Orleans-area private college presidents

Op-ed submitted to the New York Times on behalf of five New Orleans...

November 15, 2005

by Scott Cowen, president, Tulane University; Anthony J. De Conciliis, C.S.C., president, Our Lady of Holy Cross College; Norman C. Francis, president, Xavier University; Marvalene Hughes, president, Dillard University; Kevin Wildes, S.J., president, Loyola University New Orleans

The recovery of New Orleans is tied inextricably to the recovery of this wounded city’s colleges and universities. Along with the rest of the city, our colleges have faced significant trauma in the wake of Katrina. Like other New Orleans enterprises, we had to cease operations here, and face an uncertain future. In the last two weeks, Xavier University has laid off more than half of its faculty and staff members, and Dillard University has let go nearly 59 percent of its employees. Earlier, Tulane University laid off 243 support workers and hundreds of part-time instructors and other employees. With each passing day, the long-term picture for our institutions grows more uncertain.

In the proposed hurricane relief package for New Orleans, which Congress may begin debating as early as next week, very little is reserved for higher education – and nearly all of that would go to forgive federal student aid our students had received before Katrina hit. While that addresses a real need, it misses the larger picture of higher education’s central importance to New Orleans’ economic development, and to the cultural and intellectual richness of one of America’s greatest cities. Our colleges and universities must be essential players in rebuilding a vibrant and self-sufficient economy. With the proper tools, we can create a city that is stronger than the one Katrina so brutally swept away.

It is impossible to imagine a revived, thriving New Orleans without revitalized centers of higher education. It is also impossible to overestimate the essential role our institutions play in the economic fabric of the city. Simply put, as go our colleges and universities, so goes the city.

We pump more than $3 billion annually into the local economy. Tulane University is the largest single private employer in New Orleans. Xavier University hosts the only pharmacy school in the region, producing the vast majority of the region’s pharmacists and African-American scientists. Our Lady of Holy Cross College is one of the city’s largest providers of K-12 teachers and is noted for the quality of its nursing students. Loyola University’s law school provides free legal services to the indigent. Dillard University has a one-of-a-kind program that trains future minority business leaders to work with the Asian marketplace.

The challenges we have faced are formidable. As institutions in exile, we have had to salvage what we could, maintain operations, and respond to the needs of the multitude of students who are a part of us – even if not physically with us. All the colleges in New Orleans had to shepherd 70,000 students out of the city and – with the generous support of fellow colleges and universities – relocate them into alternate educational programs in the space of days. Fifteen thousand college employees have also dispersed. Our hospitals, which are closed now, operated during the extreme duress of the storm, while we packed up what was left of our administration to open satellite campuses in other parishes or states.

In all of this, we have received more than a little help from our friends. But colleges and universities cannot do it alone.

We propose is a bold economic plan that allows us to sustain our vital resources – our faculty, students, and employees – so that they, in turn, can be part of the rebuilding of the economic, educational, and cultural life of New Orleans:

  • Colleges must rebuild. We need immediate help to rebuild labs and classrooms, and restore our communications systems, so that we can be fully operational by the next semester. Families need to know that safe and state-of-the-art facilities will be there, and that students will be receiving a world-class education in a secure and thriving environment. But right now, educational nonprofits have to go through a mountain of bureaucratic red tape with the Small Business Administration in order to become fully eligible for FEMA funds, under a law passed five years ago. As some of the region’s largest employers, we believe this policy is penny wise and pound foolish, and ask for it to be repealed in the interest of funding our recovery.
     
  • Faculty and staffs need to be retained. Faculty need to know that they have a place to return to, will have help restarting their lives from scratch, and that we can be counted on to make payroll. The nurses and doctors in our medical centers, our engineers, and our communications specialists need the same assurances, so that they will return to New Orleans. They will not only serve our students, but lend their expertise to the community as well. They need economic incentives to return.
     
  • Families and students need to be encouraged to return through scholarship funds. Our greatest resource is the energy, vitality, and resources our students bring to our campuses, and to the region. However, many may now be disinclined to return to area in the process of recovery. We are convinced that if you entice students with scholarship funds, and promise them both a place at one of our institutions as well as a role in that recovery, they will commit to New Orleans – not just for their own education, but also to help rebuild our city.

 

There is urgency to our request. Right now, talented students and their parents are deciding where to apply for college next year. Our displaced faculty and staff are looking for a place to call home. Our 75,000 currently enrolled, displaced students are seeking ways to keep their college dreams alive. We want each of these groups to find their home in New Orleans. We need their talents, their energy, and their expertise if we are to once again become the vibrant, engaging, and prosperous city New Orleans has always been.

 

With an investment of several billion dollars – the equivalent of what our institutions pour back into the region every year or two – our colleges and students could be sustained through this difficult time and well into the future. In turn, that investment would ultimately return to New Orleans in the jobs our institutions would provide, and the increased human, social, and economic contributions we would make. A city that has thrived on the strength of its colleges and universities must place them at the center of its revival.


Submitted to the New York Times on November 15, 2005.

 

by Scott Cowen, president, Tulane University; Anthony J. De Conciliis, C.S.C., president, Our Lady of Holy Cross College; Norman C. Francis, president, Xavier University; Marvalene Hughes, president, Dillard University; Kevin Wildes, S.J., president, Loyola University New Orleans

The recovery of New Orleans is tied inextricably to the recovery of this wounded city’s colleges and universities. Along with the rest of the city, our colleges have faced significant trauma in the wake of Katrina. Like other New Orleans enterprises, we had to cease operations here, and face an uncertain future. In the last two weeks, Xavier University has laid off more than half of its faculty and staff members, and Dillard University has let go nearly 59 percent of its employees. Earlier, Tulane University laid off 243 support workers and hundreds of part-time instructors and other employees. With each passing day, the long-term picture for our institutions grows more uncertain.

In the proposed hurricane relief package for New Orleans, which Congress may begin debating as early as next week, very little is reserved for higher education – and nearly all of that would go to forgive federal student aid our students had received before Katrina hit. While that addresses a real need, it misses the larger picture of higher education’s central importance to New Orleans’ economic development, and to the cultural and intellectual richness of one of America’s greatest cities. Our colleges and universities must be essential players in rebuilding a vibrant and self-sufficient economy. With the proper tools, we can create a city that is stronger than the one Katrina so brutally swept away.

It is impossible to imagine a revived, thriving New Orleans without revitalized centers of higher education. It is also impossible to overestimate the essential role our institutions play in the economic fabric of the city. Simply put, as go our colleges and universities, so goes the city.

We pump more than $3 billion annually into the local economy. Tulane University is the largest single private employer in New Orleans. Xavier University hosts the only pharmacy school in the region, producing the vast majority of the region’s pharmacists and African-American scientists. Our Lady of Holy Cross College is one of the city’s largest providers of K-12 teachers and is noted for the quality of its nursing students. Loyola University’s law school provides free legal services to the indigent. Dillard University has a one-of-a-kind program that trains future minority business leaders to work with the Asian marketplace.

The challenges we have faced are formidable. As institutions in exile, we have had to salvage what we could, maintain operations, and respond to the needs of the multitude of students who are a part of us – even if not physically with us. All the colleges in New Orleans had to shepherd 70,000 students out of the city and – with the generous support of fellow colleges and universities – relocate them into alternate educational programs in the space of days. Fifteen thousand college employees have also dispersed. Our hospitals, which are closed now, operated during the extreme duress of the storm, while we packed up what was left of our administration to open satellite campuses in other parishes or states.

In all of this, we have received more than a little help from our friends. But colleges and universities cannot do it alone.

We propose is a bold economic plan that allows us to sustain our vital resources – our faculty, students, and employees – so that they, in turn, can be part of the rebuilding of the economic, educational, and cultural life of New Orleans:

  • Colleges must rebuild. We need immediate help to rebuild labs and classrooms, and restore our communications systems, so that we can be fully operational by the next semester. Families need to know that safe and state-of-the-art facilities will be there, and that students will be receiving a world-class education in a secure and thriving environment. But right now, educational nonprofits have to go through a mountain of bureaucratic red tape with the Small Business Administration in order to become fully eligible for FEMA funds, under a law passed five years ago. As some of the region’s largest employers, we believe this policy is penny wise and pound foolish, and ask for it to be repealed in the interest of funding our recovery.
     
  • Faculty and staffs need to be retained. Faculty need to know that they have a place to return to, will have help restarting their lives from scratch, and that we can be counted on to make payroll. The nurses and doctors in our medical centers, our engineers, and our communications specialists need the same assurances, so that they will return to New Orleans. They will not only serve our students, but lend their expertise to the community as well. They need economic incentives to return.
     
  • Families and students need to be encouraged to return through scholarship funds. Our greatest resource is the energy, vitality, and resources our students bring to our campuses, and to the region. However, many may now be disinclined to return to area in the process of recovery. We are convinced that if you entice students with scholarship funds, and promise them both a place at one of our institutions as well as a role in that recovery, they will commit to New Orleans – not just for their own education, but also to help rebuild our city.

 

There is urgency to our request. Right now, talented students and their parents are deciding where to apply for college next year. Our displaced faculty and staff are looking for a place to call home. Our 75,000 currently enrolled, displaced students are seeking ways to keep their college dreams alive. We want each of these groups to find their home in New Orleans. We need their talents, their energy, and their expertise if we are to once again become the vibrant, engaging, and prosperous city New Orleans has always been.

 

With an investment of several billion dollars – the equivalent of what our institutions pour back into the region every year or two – our colleges and students could be sustained through this difficult time and well into the future. In turn, that investment would ultimately return to New Orleans in the jobs our institutions would provide, and the increased human, social, and economic contributions we would make. A city that has thrived on the strength of its colleges and universities must place them at the center of its revival.


Submitted to the New York Times on November 15, 2005.

 

November 15, 2005

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About the items posted on the NAICU site: News items, features, and opinion pieces posted on this site from sources outside NAICU do not necessarily reflect the position of the association or its members. Rather, this content reflects the diversity of issues and views that are shaping American higher education.

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