To the Editor:
In his Commentary “Say Something!” (Jan. 23, 2008), James E. Ryan contends that university and college presidents are “invisible in the public sphere and, most jarringly, in the debates and discussions about K-12 education.” In Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, however, the higher education leadership is not only talking about the gaps and failures in the K-12 system and colleges’ need to attract and better retain a diverse graduating class, we’re doing something about it.
We began as three university presidents (from the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, and Northern Kentucky University) getting together to discuss a variety of issues about college access and success. What riveted our attention was the fact that too many students were not getting the education they needed to be successful in the 21st century.
Our conversation soon expanded to include many other stakeholders, and began to focus on the idea of a systemic partnership, with our clarion call being “every child graduates; no exceptions.” Our regional collaborative, Strive (www.strivetogether.org), launched in August 2006, includes not only partners in higher education, but also the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, urban public and diocesan school districts, the business community, and nonprofit and civic organizations. Our strategy spans birth to career and focuses on success in high school, increasing college preparedness, and degree completion.
Many other universities around the nation are involved in P-16 partnerships as well. The Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, formed in 2005, is led by university presidents and chancellors and is focusing on three key areas: developing a 21st-century workforce, revitalizing urban neighborhoods and fueling economic development, and improving community health. Central to its comprehensive plan is the coalition’s commitment to high school and college graduation.
As Mr. Ryan said in his essay, there are plenty of issues that the nation’s college presidents can and should be addressing. But I would add this: Many of us are.
Nancy L. Zimpher
University of Cincinnati
The writer is the chair of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities and a co-chair of the Strive executive committee.
A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 2008 edition of Education Week as Some Presidents Not Only Say, But Do Something