Summary of Findings
Part I: Areas of Consensus
Part II: Areas of Disagreement
Supporting Tables
About the Author
About the National Center
About Public Agenda

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Taking Responsibility
Page 5 of 12


The disagreements between business executives and educators are sometimes wide-ranging. From the perspective of business people, higher education should be more efficient and financially accountable, more focused on what the students really need to learn, and more mindful of the need to cut costs and charge students more before asking for more subsidies from the public till. They also want higher education to be less preoccupied with issues of race, and more focused on teaching. Higher education professionals, for their part, see the universities as serving a different mission, and vigorously object to the idea that higher education should be judged by the standards of efficiency and responsiveness to the needs of business.

Rough Sailing Ahead?
If these disputes remain unresolved, higher education will certainly face severe problems as it tries to navigate a future that nearly everyone agrees will be difficult. Clearly, higher education is going to be dependent on the support of the larger community, and it is not clear how forthcoming that support will be if a group as important as the business community continues to harbor deep doubts about such basic questions as how well higher education is administered or how effectively it performs its teaching mission.

The Real Bar to Access: Poor Academic Preparation
These disagreements, as important as they may be, have to be contextualized by the larger framework of commonality. None of the disagreements undermine the shared assumption of the importance of maintaining a strong higher education system and of insuring that qualified students have access to it. And for all of their disagreements, the leaders we interviewed agree with each other on the major problem that faces higher education -- the lack of preparation of the students who enter our higher education system. What the leaders seem to be saying is that higher education cannot do the job alone; we cannot hope to produce an educated society without finding a way to produce larger numbers of students who are sufficiently prepared and motivated to take advantage of the world's finest system of higher education.


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