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Issue guide - Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want?

published: 2012

Issue Guide_Shaping Our Future.pdf (492 K)
Moderators Guide_Shaping Our Future.pdf (370 K)
Post forum questionnaire_Shaping Our Future.pdf (113 K)
Two page summary_Shaping Our Future.pdf (218 K)
Flyer_Shaping Our Future.pdf (267 K)
SO YOU WANT TO HOLD A FORUM resources and links.pdf (289 K)
List of colleges and universities that have committed to holding forums.doc (28 K)
From Nancy Gansneder_PowerPoint Presentation about Shaping Our Future Forums.pptx (2062 K)
Forum conveners/moderators, please submit information about your upcoming forum for the NIF calendar
Forum moderators, after your forum please complete this brief survey
Watch a one hour webinar about moderating Shaping Our Future forums

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Watch the starter video:


This new issue guide will be used in many public deliberative forums in the coming year as part of a national conversation about how higher education can help us create the kind of society we want. In partnership with the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI), the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP) launched a national discussion on higher education’s role in America’s future. The discussions in communities and on campuses began in April, 2012, and will continue through the year.

Be a Part of this Important Deliberation.

For a limited time (through June 30, 2013) these issue materials will be available as a FREE pdf download. Materials that are available include an issue guide, a guide to forums (a moderator's guide to help prepare for forums), an online starter video, and a post-forum questionnaire for forum participants to complete and submit. The 12-page hardcopy version of the issue guide can be ordered for $2.49 plus shippping cost. You can find more information about downloading or ordering these materials here.

The following is excerpted from the issue guide titled Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want?

The diverse system of US higher education--including public and private universities, smaller four-year independent colleges, two-year community colleges, for-profit schools, and others--already serves a number of important social purposes.  But this guide focuses on the future.  It takes up this fundamental question:  How should higher education help us create the society we want?  It offers three options to consider, each with benefits as well as drawbacks.

While it's certainly possible for higher education to pursue multiple goals, it's also true that colleges and universities can't do everything.  To be effective, they need to focus their energies and set priorities.  As we envision higher education in the future, there are options and trade-offs, and it's important to think and talk about them with our fellow citizens.  By doing so, we can begin to make tough choices about what higher education can and should be expected to do. 

This issue guide presents three options for deliberation.

Option One: Focus on Staying Competitive in the Global Economy
Higher education should help ensure that our economy remains competitive in a tough global marketplace--and that means recapturing our lead in science and technology.  Countries like China are transforming their systems to educate more high-tech professionals, and we should too.  It's our best chance to keep our economy growing.

Option Two: Work Together and Repair an Ailing Society
Many of the problems we face as a nation reflect an underlying crisis of division and mistrust.  Higher education shapes students' views about the larger society, and it can do more to strengthen values like responsibility, integrity, and respect for others.  Students also need real-life experience in collaboration and problem solving.

Option Three: Ensure that Everyone Gets a Fair Chance
We call this the land of opportunity, but it isn't that way for many Americans.  Because graduating from college unlocks the door to advancement, higher education and government should do much more to ensure that all Americans have an equal shot at getting a degree--without accumulating huge debts.

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