National Governor’s Association: Higher Education is Insufficiently Linked to the Needs of the Marketplace.

The National Governor’s Association, a bipartisan association of American state governors, recently published a report through their Center of Best Practices claiming that policymakers had to work to make sure education was linked to vocational needs. The stated goal of the report was to encourage lawmakers to “move beyond their focus on getting more students to get “degrees” to asking: ‘Degrees for what jobs?’”


Inherent at the argument of the report was the contention that the American education simply doesn’t produce enough qualified workers for many types of jobs. Even in a time of job-shedding and stubbornly high unemployment, the lack of workers to hire is a common complaint in many industries.


The report recommended that governors push college administrators to cooperate with local business leaders to produce better-educatIt usually ends up better than this…ed workers and create curriculum after consulting with data from projected labor markets of the future. Although such policies would primarily impact public institutions, many private universities receive significant amounts of money from state governments, money that state governments could link to such proposals.


The movement within public policy circles to strengthen the focus of education on creating qualified workers certainly wouldn’t make much of an impact on Dartmouth itself. The tendency of graduates to flee to coastal, and the tendency of the New Hampshire state government to not throw huge sums of money around, would insulate Dartmouth from such policies, but such proposals could still be symptomatic of a moving focus throughout all of American higher education public policy.


The report also lauded Governors Christine Gregoire (D-WA), Beverly Purdue (D-NC), Ted Strickland (D-OH), and Tim Pawlenty (T-PAW) on how state governments implemented measures similar to those advocated by the report during their respective gubernatorial tenures. These initiative seem to have acquired relatively broad bipartisan support, possibly because the prospect of improving education outcomes, without having expend political capital in a showdown with rapacious teachers’ unions, is very politically attractive.


The report, above all, raises an interesting question: how do we balance our desire to enrich students with balanced liberal arts education and the pressing economic imperative of creating a more well-educated and competitive workforce. At times, it seems as the prominence of a liberal arts education has declined alongside with the vocational preparedness of college graduates. But here at Dartmouth, with our stringent distributive requirements and vocationally enriching programs like MALS, we surely don’t have to worry about these issues.

Report can be found here.

Kirk Jing