It’s up to universities to do a better job of making the case for their value to economy and society, leaders say

10.6.10 – Beth Hawkins – If universities are to flourish during the next century, they need to do a better job publicizing their role as drivers of economic growth, civic discussion and the production of new knowledge. That’s the opinion of three distinguished leaders who took to the stage on September 30th as part of the University of Minnesota’s Great Conversations lecture series in Minneapolis.

America’s best universities “have become the engines of innovation and discovery,” according to Jonathan R. Cole, the John Mitchell Mason professor at Columbia University and the author of The Great American University: Its Rise To Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected.

“Universities don’t do a terribly good job of tooting their own horns about the things they do well,” Cole said. “If we disinvest in them as we have begun to do, then I think the nation’s welfare is literally under threat. They will not spin off new companies, new industries.”

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks, who hosted the discussion, concurred. “I occasionally get paid to lobby for the university,” he joked, “and it’s not a hard job because I can’t imagine what Minnesota would do without this engine for its economy.”

Bruininks reeled off the names of numerous medical-device manufacturers and biotech concerns that call Minnesota home, explaining that their executives have often said they would not be here if it weren’t for the university’s ability to supply a skilled workforce.

And the return-on-investment for those who attend college is clear. A recent report by the College Board, “Education Pays 2010,” found that “the median earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients working full-time year-round in 2008 were $55,700, $21,900 more than the median earnings of high school graduates.” The report also noted that the unemployment rate of college graduates is about half that of high school graduates.

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October 6th, 2010

Staff Reporter

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