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September 23, 2012

Column: Northern Essex aims for national leadership in education

At the Statehouse on Thursday, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education released a special report, “Time to Lead: The Need for Excellence in Public Higher Education.”

The report is part of The Vision Project, an effort among the commonwealth’s 29 public colleges and universities to achieve excellence in higher education for our nearly 300,000 students. Goals of the project include increasing college participation and completion, enhancing student learning, more closely aligning curriculum with the needs of employers, and closing achievement gaps among students from different ethnic, racial, and income groups.

The state’s public community colleges, colleges, and universities are currently above average when measured on seven key outcomes that have been identified but The Vision Project sets the bar even higher, aspiring to national leadership.

When the goals of the Vision Project are r

ealized, Massachusetts will be one of the top five public higher education systems in the nation, benefiting our students, their families, our communities, and our economy.

The report released on Thursday is our first look at how close we are to reaching our goal of excellence or national leadership.

There is quite a bit of good news in the report:

Massachusetts already leads the nation in the rate of recent high school graduates who attend college.

Those high school graduates are better prepared for college than in any other part of the country.

More adults have college degrees in Massachusetts than in any other state.

Our programs are closely aligned with workforce needs, especially in health care and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

Our community college graduates have strong passing rates on national licensure exams.

And we still face some challenges. Despite our status as the state with the best prepared high school students and largest proportion of college educated adults in the nation:

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