Friday, September 27, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Education in state needs improving

Dist. 43

Arkansas has ambitious goals when it comes to higher education. We are no longer just thinking about changes for the next session or even five years from now. Legislators and several leaders in education are thinking about our vision for higher education in the year 2025.

In the most recent session, we passed Act 1082, which created the Vision 2025 Legislative Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The commission held its first meeting on September 18.

The commission’s purpose is to study and research ways in which higher education can transform and positively impact the state by 2025 and beyond. It will make a progress report by April 2014 and a final report in October 2014.

We are one of 38 states that currently has a specific goal in mind when it comes to the number of college graduates it would like to see in its future. Gov. Beebe has stated we must double the number of college graduates in Arkansas by 2025. If that goal is achieved, over half of Arkansans will have at least an associate’s degree.

According to the latest census figures, 24% of Cabot residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Statewide 19% of our residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

By 2018, 63 percent of all jobs will require post-secondary education or training, according to a study by researchers at Georgetown University. The study finds that America will be short 3 million college graduates if college graduation rates remain at current levels. America also will need 4.7 million new workers with certificates by 2018. These findings reinforce national goals to ensure 60 percent of Americans hold a high-quality degree by 2025. State legislators are in a prime position to help increase college completion. We have the power to enact effective policies that can increase the number of students who earn a certificate or degree.

And while state funding and scholarships will be an issue for this newly formed commission, one of the goals will be to find ways to enable families to start saving for their children’s education.

Statistics show a college graduate will make a million dollars more than a non-college graduate over the course of a life-time.

But our 2025 goal will not just benefit the individual. If the goal is achieved it could create another $450,000,000 in state income. That includes savings to our corrections department, Medicaid, and an increase in personal income tax.

The Vision 2025 Legislative Commission will continue to meet periodically over the next year. I will keep you updated on the progress.