Miller Center launches financial non-partisan education initiative

Commission will explore ways to make higher learning more affordable

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The Miller Center's National Commission on Financing 21st Century Education is supported in part by the Lumina Foundation.

John Pappas | Cavalier Daily

The Miller Center recently announced the creation of the bipartisan National Commission on Financing 21st Century Education, aimed at finding solutions to the high costs of higher education in America. The commission held its first meeting March 31.

The commission is supported by the Lumina Foundation, a private foundation that is working to increase the proportion of higher education degrees in America. Raymond Scheppach, an economic fellow at the Miller Center and senior lecturer of economics in the Batten School, is the project director for the commission.

Scheppach said the commission is important because education will be the key to success in our future economy.

“Well, most of the economists like myself, would argue that education is the key to innovation and productivity change and productivity change is the key to increasing real income and wages,” Scheppach said. “In 15 to 20 years there will be a different population we need to prepare now, so that these people can get into higher education and graduate schools. We currently have 50 percent of the population with postsecondary degrees, but we need to increase that to 60 percent.”

The commission is made up of university presidents, CEO’s and state legislators. Former Delaware Gov. Michael Castle and Bob Graham, former Florida governor and U.S. senator, are co-chairing the commission.

Scheppach said that the mix of career backgrounds will be helpful for the project.

“People say that public college presidents have a different view of the world,” Scheppach said. “The CEO’s have to be at the table because they are the ones who know what students need [to get jobs] and the presidents know how to get the students what they need.”

Castle said the cost of higher education is a heavy burden on students that the commission hopes to alleviate.

“The cost of higher education has increased exponentially and is more then any cost of living index out there,” Castle said. “It is very burdensome for individuals and families to pursue education. It has been very hard for lower and middle income students.”

Scheppach said the commission will get experts to help them put together papers on issues concerning higher education.

“First we are going to commission outside officers with 7 or 8 papers. Some of them will be of the best practices in the state now with respect to higher education,” Scheppach said. “There will be papers looking at how do we bring private finance in to help higher education. What we are trying to do there is create a new dialogue about the issue.”

Scheppach said they hope to also focus on helping students of minority backgrounds pursuea higher education.

“It’s really focused on bringing more access to higher education and higher graduation rates of students of minorities,” Scheppach said. “More and more of the population are going to be Hispanic, African Americans and other minorities. In order to keep an economy in track we are going to need to have more in higher education.”

Castle said he is hopeful that the commission will be able to come together and bring attention to the issue of affordable education.

“It is a group that is able to work together and I think we will come up with some good thoughts that will help in this area,” Castle said. “Hopefully it will get the attention of people in higher education with these cost issues that are being a hindrance to students.”

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