- Incoming governors say they have big plans for higher education in their states, Inside Higher Ed reported, including improving equity and access, increasing funding, lowering student debt and bolstering community colleges.
- California will replace Gov. Jerry Brown when he steps down in January with current Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom (top image), who has been critical of tuition increases in his role as an ex officio member of the boards of the California State University System and the University of California System. And in Wisconsin, incumbent Gov. Scott Walker was unseated by Tony Evers, currently superintendent of the state's public school system.
- Other areas of focus for new governors include open educational resources in Colorado, free community college for some state residents in Connecticut and expanding research at public universities in New Mexico.
In addition to the gubernatorial races, several key ballot initiatives proved favorable for higher education at the polls this week. Among them were bonds for infrastructure improvements, general funding increases and a free college measure. And a newly won Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is expected to bring additional oversight to the Education Department, which could stall efforts underway to reverse or eliminate Obama-era efforts to regulate the for-profit sector, specifically.
Meanwhile, as the cost of attendance rises and performance-based funding models become more prominent, ensuring graduates find gainful employment and don't default on student loans will become a bigger issue for all types and sizes of colleges. States will need to do this with low levels of government funding and a market growing more averse to tuition increases.
Private money is expected to play a greater role. Higher ed has seen record-breaking fundraising campaigns this fall at public at private colleges. Harvard recently wrapped up a five-year, $9.6 billion fundraising effort that beat its original goal and the previous largest college fundraising effort by about $3 billion. The University of Michigan led public colleges with a $5 billion campaign, which included at least four gifts equal to or greater than $100 million. Several other public colleges have fundraising efforts of a similar scale in progress.
Some of those gifts come with strings, however, such as a $100 million match required by the University of Wisconsin-Madison to realize a full $100 million gift from Taiwanese electronics maker Foxconn. Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker heavily courted Foxconn with $3 billion in tax and other incentives in exchange for the company promising to invest $10 billion and build a 22-million-square-foot plant, The Wall Street Journal reported.
UW-Madison's deal with Foxconn also includes the creation of an interdisciplinary research initiative, The Foxconn Institute for Research in Science and Technology, which will be located 100 miles from the university's campus in Racine, Wisconsin, near the site of the planned Foxconn plant.
The private sector is playing a role in the meeting new student outcomes goals in other ways, too. For example, tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon are developing curriculum for colleges to train students in skills needed for their workforce.