Spellings Report Targets Higher Education “Watch out for emergencies. They are your big chance.”-Fritz Reiner, famed Hungarian-born conductor A commission convened by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has declared a crisis in higher education. The commission, assembled in 2005 and officially called “A National Dialogue: The Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of ... Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   April 01, 2007
Spellings Report Targets Higher Education
Author Notes
  • Silvia Quevedo, is ASHA’s manager of academic affairs. Contact her at squevedo@asha.org.
    Silvia Quevedo, is ASHA’s manager of academic affairs. Contact her at squevedo@asha.org.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   April 01, 2007
Spellings Report Targets Higher Education
The ASHA Leader, April 2007, Vol. 12, 1-12. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.12052007.1
The ASHA Leader, April 2007, Vol. 12, 1-12. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.12052007.1
“Watch out for emergencies. They are your big chance.”-Fritz Reiner, famed Hungarian-born conductor
A commission convened by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has declared a crisis in higher education. The commission, assembled in 2005 and officially called “A National Dialogue: The Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education,” issued a report calling for significant changes for public and private post-secondary institutions to address challenges in increasing the accessibility, affordability, and accountability of higher education and its impact on the country’s economic future and the workforce.
The 19-member Spellings Commission hosted a discussion through a series of eight meetings and public hearings around the country to gather public input. More than 100 stakeholder organizations and groups provided comments by speaking at the meetings and through thousands of written comments. The commission also received 15 issues papers and reports developed by experts in various fields, such as financial aid, college costs, accreditation, improving college readiness at the K-12 level, accountability and assessment, preparation of the workforce, and federal regulations in higher education.
The year-long activities culminated in a final report, “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education.” The report, issued Sept. 19, 2006, outlines a plan to address challenges in the U.S. higher education system and will serve as a blueprint for the 21st century higher education system.
The Commission’s report notes that increased demand for postsecondary education—coupled with diminished capacity—together with economic and fiscal stress translates into unequal access to higher education for some sectors of U.S. society. The report also noted that transparency and accountability of student learning at the K-12 level and beyond, as well as international competition, affect the viability of the future workforce and economic health of the nation.
The Spellings Commission recommended that all students have access to and adequate preparation for postsecondary education, which could be achieved through better alignment between K-12 education and expectations in postsecondary education. Other recommendations include reviewing and restructuring the entire financial aid system, increasing transparency and accountability by creating a consumer-friendly national database to track the educational progress of every student, and encouraging innovation in teaching and curricula, particularly in math and science.
The report also called for advocacy for lifelong learning, federal support for areas of higher education that impact the competitiveness of the United States in the global economy, and innovative means to attract the “best and brightest” to higher education institutions.
Opponents Speak Out
But the Spellings report was not without detractors. Among those who voiced concerns is David Ward, president of the American Council on Education—the only commission member who would not sign or endorse the final report. Ward issued a statement on his association’s Web site expressing dissatisfaction with the Commission’s report, stating that “the recommendations as a whole…fail to recognize the diversity of missions within higher education and the need to be cautious about policies and standards based on a one-size-fits-all approach.” Ward indicated that he would have preferred a “best practices” approach and an acknowledgement by the Commission of the efforts of higher education programs to improve an already good system.
For Ward, as well as for other higher education policy experts, there is no crisis in higher education. In a National Crosstalk editorial in response to the commission’s report, David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, expressed concerns with the commission’s recommendation of a centralized national database that would put students’ security and privacy at risk. His concerns also included the commission’s recommendations for outcome measures that may lead to adoption of a “single test” to compare one institution of higher education with all others.
The American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) Committee on Government Relations issued a statement calling the report “seriously flawed.” AAUP’s principal complaint was the commission’s insistence that U.S. higher education is in “crisis,” requiring complete overhaul, without providing adequate evidence for the “crisis.” The group also found fault with limited mention of the role of faculty in higher education.
Spellings convened a Higher Education Summit March 21–22 in Washington to begin the process of moving forward with some of the recommendations presented in the commission’s final report. Details from the summit were not available at press time. Visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site for more information about the Spellings Commission and the report.
CSD Education Resources

Visit ASHA’s Reports & Surveys to read the following reports about CSD education:

  • Audiology Education Summit I: A Collaborative Approach

  • Audiology Education Summit II: Strengthening Partnerships in Clinical

  • Education

  • Innovative Academic Program Models

  • Responding to the Changing Needs of Speech-Language Pathology

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April 2007
Volume 12, Issue 5