By STEVEN NALLEY
The Mississippi State University College of Education held its fifth annual faculty and student research forum Friday, starting with a keynote address from Martha Kanter, undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Education.
Elton Moore, MSU dean of education, said the forum is designed to showcase research by faculty and students in the college. Activities included a panel presentation on tips for winning grants, a “speed meeting” for researchers to share common interests and a display of research posters by faculty and students, with awards for the best entries.
“We try to provide a forum whereby people can interact with each other ... share ideas and share their research interests to collaborate on research projects and go after external funding,” Moore said. “With a decline in state funding, our biggest resource is external funding. A lot of this is to provide a forum where faculty can come together, exchange ideas and talk about collaborative projects for external funding.”
Kanter’s speech, titled “Affordability, Quality and Completion for an America Built to Last,” summarized several of USDOE’s current initiatives. She said 41 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds in America have post-secondary educations, and several countries, including Canada, Japan and Russia, have higher proportions of post-secondary graduates.
“Just a generation ago, we were first,” Kanter said. “In just one generation, we’ve lost that place. I sort of think of the federal government as a catalyst for incentivizing better and better work in states, in institutions, and in students and families themselves. What does it take for young people to do things that are hard, and how do we really instill that desire to do things that are hard that are going to be a challenge for students?”
Kanter said she wants to build a multi-year educational approach starting before kindergarten and leading all the way through college-level research. She said educators also need to do more to prevent students from dropping out of college.
“We have to change the culture. It’s very easy for people to just step out, and it’s hard to stay in, and the money is hard,” Kanter said. “Harvard just published a new study about the reasons students ... drop out. We need to pay attention to that research, but we also need to say, “No” (to students who want to drop out). We need to be much more directive, I think, especially for students that haven’t had the kind of guidance that they may need.”
Kanter said several states are also cutting funds for higher education, and those funds need to stabilize. She said small cuts have added up over the last five years, slowly attenuating higher education.
If more graduates do not receive higher education, Kanter said there will not be enough of them to fill the jobs of the future.
“We’re going to need 10 million more graduates between now and 2020,” Kanter said. “Half would come from higher education, colleges and universities, and the other half would come from community colleges. Every American should be encouraged to have post-secondary education or training. We’ve got to think about strategic partnerships and ways we can significantly increase those students. One of those things we’re really promoting is dual enrollment.”
Moore said he enjoyed Kanter’s overview of USDOE’s initiatives, and he was delighted to have her at MSU.
“We’ve had grants funded by the office of post-secondary education, which is under her administration,” Moore said. “This is the first time that I know of that we’ve ever hosted an undersecretary of education in our college, ever. So we’re excited about that.”