In America, the public is very much aware that attaining higher education, going to university or college help a person as an individual to move ahead. However, the public does not understand how colleges and universities help society as a whole and it becomes hard for the public to contemplate how people benefit more from these colleges than the individual graduates. The government however realizes the importance of higher education towards the social-economic development of the state. On most occasions, the citizens tend to question the operation and the efficiency of institutions of higher education which results in them refraining from investing in these institutions and even in higher education.
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A national campaign by the Public Trust Initiative is convincing the public of the broader social benefit that a society has in high education. These are efforts that will be adopted in all the states in the United States that will involve the national ad campaign and shifting of communication in colleges with their constituencies. This will help to direct the parents, students, alumni, and leaders who are the taxpayers, towards understanding higher education and avoid information on individual institutions.
There are plans to launch the public trust initiative where data has been studied on public education. (Curry, and Hager, 1987 pp. 87-134)
Efforts to enhance public trust are done through seminars, conducting focus groups, and instructing college leaders on the significance of maintaining a good public trust in their colleges. The very first public briefing on this campaign is underway which is in the collaboration of the American Council of Education and the American Association of community colleges in Boston where they will hold their first annual general meeting addressed to this issue of public trust in the universities and colleges.
The campaigns are aimed at making the public aware of the things they should know about higher education institutions which will help in establishing and maintaining good public health. The concerned academicians should be selective wherever they give a speech on higher education, they should consider the sensitivity of the issue of higher education to the public and therefore should at all means avoid mentioning to the public about the existing crisis in higher education as this may lower the public trust towards these institutions. Stanley O. Ikenberry, the former president of the American education council of education and university of Illinois, said in a speech that, the public would not like to hear more about crisis not especially with institutions of higher education as they already have enough crises facing the United States, for example, the Iraq crisis. According to him, the public does not see higher education at any crisis and any information to the public about the same will erode the public trust there have been between the Universities and colleges with the society.
The theme of the campaign would entail the important aspects that can boost this relationship. It should therefore insist on the positive side of higher education and the role of the universities and colleges in the betterment of society. The message to the public should focus on the effects of having learned people in society.
In a society full of learned members, there are many advantages to the community. There is a reduction in the rate of crime as every individual is busy in the development process and improvement of their lives. There is also an effect on the health care of the community with an educated population. The economy, in general, improves in the state as a result of the higher education institution’s efforts to make a good future of the society. (Seymor, 1993 pp. 73-120)
Although there is a lot of tension when it comes to the accountability of the colleges and universities in the management of funds, the colleges should be ready to answer any question that the public asks them to be able to demystify the existing mistrust in accountability of the institutions. Community colleges have an advantage in maintaining a good reputation with the public as they are very close to society. The public trust in these colleges can easily be maintained due to this association.
The chancellor of the City College of Francisco, Philip Day who also participated in the campaigns of improving the college and university’s public trust, suggested the major role that universities and colleges should be concerned with is to ensure that they meet society’s demands. The colleges should be able to accomplish their mission to gain public trust. Accomplishing their mission and meeting their goal that is, delivering to the community the colleges will be able to mask the bad reputation they may have acquired from the public.
The president of the American Council of Education (ACE) admitted that the universities and colleges had for a long time lacked public support as a result of the old system of advocacy. Public investment had deteriorated so much and something must be done to buy back public trust in universities and colleges, lest, the investors in this sector will be discouraged. (Curry, and Hager, 1987 pp. 56-98)
What needs to be done for the colleges to gain public support is through appropriation that will give the public confidence in investing in these universities and colleges.
The public should learn through what they see in the efforts of the colleges and universities in changing society. The social-economic benefit that the colleges and the universities bring to the community is very clear. People who attain college or university education get jobs that are well paying as they produce more benefits than they cost the employer. This encourages the investors in these colleges and supports higher education. The benefit that is accrued to these employees boosts public support and investment in education.
The colleges and universities revolution of management from state agencies management to independent multipurpose education institutions in the 1980s under the autonomy laws that restructured the coordination of higher education in 1994 was a step in serving the public trust of the colleges and universities. Since the changes, the state’s colleges and universities became more effective as well as increased productivity throughout the United States. However, these management changes reduced the state’s support of these institutions. The reason why the colleges and the universities became efficient in their services and gained more public trust than before is because of the cutting down of bureaucracy that stifled the states agencies that managed the institutions.
Many colleges have restructured their management and improved on their services to the public meant to increase public trust and maintain it. The New Jersey Association of States Colleges and Universities (ASCU), is a good example of the many colleges that are working towards maintaining public trust. The Association has generated micro-level policies that will lead to economic saving and also boost the productivity of the colleges. Examples of these policies include:
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l Increase the flexibility of these colleges in the public and private partnership towards the development of the college’s new facilities. This would mean that the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority (NJEFA) will be able to finance revenue-generating projects through affiliates of the institution and modernizing contract law that will provide support for private development just like in other states.
l The management also looks forward to the reformation of the worker’s compensation statutes which had more limitations on the institution in that they required the institutions to pay a lot of money to questionable claims.
l The reformation of the priorities of the state budget would allow long-term planning in favor of the colleges and the universities. For example, it will allow multi-year budgeting, creation of a capital budget that will help in the protection of the public assets which have very positive results in the public trust.
l The changes in the ethnic code of the Universities and colleges by supporting staff and scholars in the institution will help preserve and maintain public trust.
l Amendment of the rules governing the foundation of the universities and colleges that will help to build a stronger base in fundraising success in the universities and colleges. (Bogue, and Saunders, 1992 pp. 45-102)
The Universities and colleges can also maintain and preserve the public trust by taking the primary obligation of the college or the university towards the institution trustee. A trustee in this case is the steward for public trust. The teaching staff in a university or a college is the trustee and he possesses unique characteristics, serves diverse distinctive resources of the institution and all should be protected by the college or the university to get public trust. The colleges should know that particular academic programs are very vital to the interest of the state/ the public and hence can get attention from the public. This is a very effective way of getting public trust for the university and colleges and it does not break a bone for the institution. Higher education institutions of all nature develop and put into practice a financial governance program and maintain it for the trustees to acquire education and training that will boost the public trust towards the university and colleges.
The teachers, tutors, and lecturers should be offered the best training as the nation needs to offer its people fair opportunities to be able to fit in a knowledge-based economy. Young people need well-equipped teachers to be able to acquire the necessary skills and aptitudes for adequate negotiating power in the contemporary world that is a global village, the computer era. Educating the teachers to meet this noble goal is a vital step that colleges and universities can use to maintain public trust throughout the state and the world at large. For example, there are some universities and colleges in the world especially in the United Kingdom that have been able to get full public trust all over the world due to their notable productivity across the globe.
The trustees are the ones who determine where the lot falls and they can hold the crucial public interest at stake. (Seymor, 1993 pp. 34-123)
The universities and the colleges can also increase public trust through the public disclosure statement that is an independent sector. This is a sector in the United States that comprises diverse groups, both government and non-governmental organizations that provide services to the public including religious institutions. The organization works towards the provision of power to the society aimed to improve the society in various ways. They follow American unique tradition and they feed, teach, heal, and inform the public which is part of their charity. The colleges and the universities can take this opportunity to earn the public trust as the charity relies solely on public trust. The universities can participate in these charity events directly that will have unique attention from the public towards these institutions. The independent sector also recommends the disclosure of the use of public funds in the colleges and universities as well as other organization including the government taxation programs. Through the disclosure, the public can develop a positive attitude towards these institutions and help them in developing trust towards them.
Charity is based on transparency and the involvement of the universities and colleges displays transparency that maintains and preserves the public trust.
The universities and colleges are in a position to provide free services to the community through research work especially in environmental degradation that can gather useful information to the solution of the problems in the society hence boosting public trust.
The sector encourages the use of an electronic filing system that would be available to the public for review. The public through this disclosure will trust the colleges and the universities and they can be able to invest in them in the future as well as giving higher education provided by the higher education institutions full support.
Colleges and universities are the key drives to the process of development of any state either big or small. The success of the United States lies in the education provided to its citizens. A country that invests in education is investing in development. The United States federal government should encourage higher education by investing in it. By the government showing great interest in the institutions of higher learning, colleges, and universities, it encourages private investors and the general public, in general, to heavily invest in education which is through the development of public trust. Therefore the state’s withdrawal in the management of the colleges and universities should not be associated with the funding and support of the state in these institutions. The public has so much trust in the government in whatever way and the state should therefore be in the frontline in enhancing public trust towards higher education. (Adelman, 1995 pp. 125-200).
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