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The Military's Next Generation
Prestigious National Defense University seeks to create strategic thinkers

  In This Issue

Geri Kodey, UNLV, for CrossTalk

THE UNIVERSITY of Nevada, Las Vegas, once best known for its winning basketball teams and their accompanying scandals, is gaining in academic accomplishment and reputation.
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The Military's Next Generation Prestigious National Defense University seeks to create strategic thinkers

Colorado's "Grand Experiment"
Voucher program could give the state's colleges a new lease on life

An "Entrepreneurial" Way of Thinking
UNLV seeks to establish itself as a respected research institution

Pushing Advanced Placement
Dallas business and philanthropic communities lead the way in promoting incentives program

An Interview
Howard "Buck" McKeon

Other Voices
Declining Access
A potential-if slow moving-train wreck

Undermining Student Aspirations
The frayed connections between K-12 and postsecondary education set students up for failure

The Online Learning Boom
Tailoring college to the needs of working adults

By Kathy Witkowsky
Washington, D.C.

It probably came as no surprise that the Bush administration's plan to invade Iraq was heavily debated on college campuses across the nation in the months leading up to the war. But it might surprise you to learn that similarly frank discussions were going on among the students at National Defense University, the nation's premiere graduate institution for military officers and federal employees engaged in national security. It certainly surprised Air Force Colonel and NDU student Mark Wasserman, who estimated in early March that only about half of his classmates in the school's prestigious Industrial College of the Armed Forces favored military action in Iraq.

"I was just a little taken aback," Wasserman said. "Military people not supporting the president? Wow, that's interesting."

That is not to suggest that NDU students are disloyal. Quite the opposite: They are deeply committed to protecting their country, which is why they're at the school to begin with. It is also why NDU's two graduate schools-the National War College (NWC) and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF)-emphasize the need for thoughtful analysis and free speech (even if it means respectfully disagreeing with the commander in chief) as they try to create strategic thinkers capable of dealing with future threats to national security.

NDU's main campus is located at Fort Lesley J. McNair, in Washington, D.C., an active Army base just across the Potomac River from the Pentagon. Military officers make up two thirds of its 500 graduate students, the bulk of its annual $102.5 million budget comes from the Pentagon, and the university president reports directly to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Its hallways are laden with military art and memorabilia; in accordance with the school's dress code, students wear either military uniforms or business suits, and their speech is peppered with military acronyms.

But in stark contrast to the Pentagon's often bellicose rhetoric, NDU's approach to foreign policy and military firepower is remarkably cautious, even humble.

"We believe that the military resort should be the last option," said James Keagle, NDU's vice president for academic affairs. That does not preclude the preemptive use of force, nor excuse the responsibility to do something about evil, he said, but "there are real consequences. People do die. And we don't want to go into the decision lightly." (continue)


Colorado's "Grand Experiment"
Voucher program could give the state's colleges a new lease on life

By Pamela Burdman
Denver, Colorado

Eric Lars Bakke, Black Star, for CrossTalk
Businessman Bruce Benson chaired the blue ribbon panel that has proposed Colorado's higher education voucher plan.
As colleges and universities around the country find themselves facing the budget noose, policymakers in Colorado have devised a voucher-like proposal that they hope will give the state's institutions of higher education a new lease on life.

The first of its kind in the country, the plan would turn the traditional form of state appropriations on its head, routing state subsidies for education directly to students, instead of institutions. As envisioned by the panel that hatched the idea, the higher education commission that refined it, and the legislators who are seeking to enact it into law, the new funding mechanism would have a dual effect: enticing more low-income students to attend college while allowing four-year universities the tuition increases they say they badly need.

The plan is designed to address the peculiarities of Colorado's fiscal landscape-namely by liberating schools from constitutional limits on revenue increases. Since 1993, state government has operated under the Colorado Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR, amendment, which strictly limits increases in state revenue, including tuition. By placing a large chunk of institutions' traditional revenue in students' hands, the plan would reduce schools' revenue below the ceiling required for exemption from TABOR-a key reason the state's two research universities favor the proposal. But since distributing dollars to students could help keep higher education funding on the public's agenda, the notion is drawing interest from policymakers in other states as well. (continue)


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