Relevancy, Meaning, and Impact for Today and Tomorrow
The World Grant Ideal is a concept, a way of understanding how a research-intensive university adapts to a changing world while helping to shape changes that will be hallmarks of our future.
Meeting and addressing the challenges of this century will require that higher education institutions in the United States contribute to two important goals. First, we must educate for the jobs of the future as well as the present, creating graduates who become learners for life, capable of adapting to changes in the processes and nature of work in a global economy. Second, we must continue to create, disseminate, and apply knowledge that drives economic development and creates jobs locally and globally. It is the combination of both significant job creation and an educated citizenry that will move our nation toward a more sustainable prosperity and, ultimately, lead the world in solving problems of global scale and consequence—problems that link all nations. Education is the key to developing jobs that not only employ the world’s population but also employ it to the betterment of all citizens and the planet.
A World Grant frame of thinking seeks to overcome a pervasive dilemma facing higher education institutions: How can universities prepare graduates and produce knowledge to meet the needs of today’s economy while remaining attentive to new developments on the horizon? At the same time, how can they maintain the agility to reshape themselves as institutions to meet the societal needs of the future as they prepare their students for the jobs of tomorrow?
It is the combination of both significant job creation and an educated citizenry that will move our nation toward a more sustainable prosperity and, ultimately, lead the world in solving problems of global scale and consequence—problems that link all nations.
The actions we must take—for the nation as a whole to meet the challenges of this century—require that a greater share of the U.S. population attains a college degree. There is national urgency in creating a more educated population—an urgency that requires higher education to forge new relationships and develop new effective initiatives across the full educational and life-span continuum. At a time when other nations are aggressively taking the same kinds of actions that were stimulated in the United States by the nineteenth-century Morrill Act (investing in higher education, creating universities, and expanding the proportion of the population with a university or college degree), education attainment levels in the United States remain flat. Even as other nations adopt the U.S. approach to educational access, our nation is losing momentum for the vision of an educated citizenry. The cohort of Americans aged 35 and older has attained greater levels of formal education than the group aged 25 to 34; for the first time in decades, a younger population in the United States is less well educated in the aggregate than its parents’ generation.8 The wide disparity in literacy and numeracy skills among our school-age and adult populations has been documented as one of the most significant forces our nation must address if we are to more positively shape our future.9 For institutions pursuing the World Grant Ideal, creating a more educated population means a continued and expanded commitment to enrolling and ensuring the success of students from a full range of cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, particularly those who represent the first generation in their family to attend college.
We are committed to moving beyond the “tyranny of the more”—the practice of producing more graduates without helping to ensure those graduates have acquired relevant skills AND find places to work productively and contribute to a vital and effective society. If graduates cannot find work and careers, and if graduates cannot contribute more broadly to society as well as be successful in future environments, we have failed in our covenant with society.
That said, institutions pursuing the World Grant Ideal today cannot just increase the number of graduates in the United States. They must commit themselves to move beyond what I call the “tyranny of the more”—the practice of producing more graduates without helping ensure that those graduates have acquired relevant skills to work productively and contribute to a vital and effective society. Universities that set about to fulfill the World Grant Ideal must work with business, industry, and government officials to ensure that graduates have opportunities to find meaningful and fulfilling employment to contribute to the vitality and well-being of a global society. The World Grant institution pursues a vision to work in innovative ways, both in creating jobs for economic development and in increasing the educational attainment of its citizens. The World Grant Ideal embodies the commitment to educate citizen-scholars whose value is calibrated not just by their earnings but also by their contributions to the betterment of the world.