In a Year of Change, A Year of Service
By CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed
It is time for some “big ideas” in higher education. I believe that the United States should do away with the 12th grade, take the money we would have spent on that year and spread it around to math and science teachers so that we can really get our young people to understand these critical subjects and then teach them to others. In place of the 12th grade, I would institute a year’s service requirement – community service, military service – that the students would choose. After they completed that year, they would then be given funding for two years at any public higher education institution. If we get them to attend the first two years, we can get them to stay and graduate and then move into the workforce. By doing this, these students will be more mature, will have had life experiences and will understand better the needs of this country. As it is now, the 12th grade is a wasted year for most students – let’s make it more meaningful for them, their families, communities and their country.
Tied to this is that the federal government needs to come up with a new Title I program for higher education. Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides money to schools with high numbers of children in poverty. Those universities and colleges that serve a predominately higher number of low-income students should also receive a lump sum of money similar to Title I to educate these students, just as the elementary and secondary schools do. This would mean additional funding to many public universities, since we overwhelmingly educate the majority of these students.
This is a radical realignment of the education continuum, but we need to shake up the established way of doing things. This world is rapidly changing, and just because the norm has been kindergarten through 12th grade, there is no reason why we cannot have kindergarten through 11th grade and then a mandatory year of service. Now is not the time for the status quo. Imagination is what is needed.
(This statement is part of a chapter written by Chancellor Reed for a book on the Future of Academe that is expected to be published in 2009. It also reflects comments made to CSU campus community engagement directors at their annual meeting on August 12, 2008).