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American Businesses Push for Increased College Productivity

The headlines may be about unemployment, but many business leaders say they can't find enough qualified workers. To solve that disconnect, the Committee for Economic Development, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of 200 business leaders and university presidents, is calling for a national campaign to get the business community involved in college reform.

The new CED report, Boosting Postsecondary Education Performance, outlines steps to improve productivity of colleges and encourages companies to support workers who want to further their education. The report, released today, will be the focus of an event in New York City.

CED suggests business look beyond elite schools and big-name research universities to focus on helping "broad-access institutions" where most American workers will likely be trained. These include less-selective, less-expensive regional public and private colleges, community and technical colleges, and for-profit schools. Innovation with state-level policy could allow these institutions to be more efficient and create new models for education delivery using technology. The report calls on business leaders to become active in lobbying for policies that reward institutions for meeting state education goals.

Just as businesses operate with goals, strategies, and metrics, business leaders want those approaches applied to higher education. The report calls for "policy audits" by state officials to change laws or regulations that are unnecessary or impede innovation. To make sure colleges are publicly accountable for their progress toward efficiency and affordability, the CED proposes an annual statewide summit for stakeholders to discuss college reform efforts and develop new strategies, as needed.

In turn, the CED encourages business to support employees' higher education goals with tuition assistance, flexible hours, and steering workers toward the most productive and effective colleges and universities. The report notes that 37 million adults have taken some college courses, but have not completed a degree—and workplace supports could help boost the college completion numbers in the country.

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