Janet Napolitano Inspires Forum Attendees with Four Truisms of Higher Education
Janet Napolitano Inspires Forum Attendees with Four Truisms of Higher EducationKate Levin, Associate Director, External Communications
University of California (UC) President Janet Napolitano addressed College Board Forum 2014 attendees last Wednesday, sharing her vision for supporting higher education’s mission to expand access to opportunity. Introduced by UC Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Admissions Stephen Handel, and College Board President David Coleman, who praised her unwavering commitment to propelling low-income and underserved students toward academic success, Napolitano shared what she called the basic truisms “that serve as important compass point” in guiding the work of higher education.
This first basic truism Napolitano shared: you cannot cut your way to continued excellence.
“This may seem obvious in the realm of higher education, however it is not,” she said. “In the last six years, 41 out of 50 states have asked higher education institutions to do this. It’s undeniable that the recession forced state legislators and governors to grapple with difficult decisions, but public funding is still strained even as the economy begins to recover.”
Despite funding cuts in 20 states last year, institutions are expected to maintain their reputations and excellence, which presents an obvious challenge for higher education.
“Colleges and Universities bear a responsibility to streamline spending and eliminate waste, but waste is not synonymous with cost…and there are real costs to be born in higher education,” Napolitano said.
The next basic truism Napolitano shared: the idea of the magic bullet is a myth. “This is especially true when it comes to education and technology,” she said. She stressed that technology only serves as a tool to enhance what is already being done well, and public colleges and universities rarely have enough funding to implement necessary technologies with fidelity.
Napolitano added that to apply “smart public policy” recognizes the distinction between different kinds of institutions. This notion led to her third truism: one size dos not fit all. “Not all higher education institutions are the same,” said Napolitano. “All possess different missions, serve somewhat different populations, and answer to different constituents. Implementing public policy is not only a multi-year process; it’s built carefully around nuance.”
The final truism Napolitano shared: investment in education is an investment in an advanced, vigorous society. “It’s no longer about brawn,” Napolitano said. “It’s about brains. It’s no longer about exploitation, it’s about innovation. It’s no longer enough to out produce or out harvest the world, we have to outthink it. The societies that will succeed are those that recognize how and why the world is changing and invest accordingly. When we talk about investment, we’re talking about investment in access and academic quality: equity, excellence, and rigor – the very principles of this forum.”
Napolitano ended her remarks by sharing the motto of the University of California: Fiat Lux, which is Latin for “let there be light.”
“All of us who fight the education fight share the same mission,” she said. “Fiat Lux. I think shining the light of what higher education does and how it transforms society is a case we can take to the American public, and that’s the case that will help the next generation.”