President Obama's Remarks Reaffirm UCM's Commitment to Innovation
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Aug. 23, 2013) – President Barack Obama’s speech at the University of Buffalo in the State University of New York Aug. 22 reaffirms that the University of Central Missouri is on the right track in terms of finding innovative ways to better serve students, UCM President Charles Ambrose said today.
With the average cost of a four-year degree increasing nationally by 250 percent over three decades, and household income only growing by 16 percent during that time, President Obama said the nation must combat the rising cost of higher education and make college more affordable for American families. Among a number of items on his aggressive agenda, his plan includes measures such as funding public colleges based on performance, and tying financial aid to college performance through a college rating system by 2015. He also outlined steps that include encouraging innovation and offering a greater range of affordable, high-quality options for students, a topic he addressed during a July 24, 13 visit to UCM.
In President Obama’s speech at Buffalo, he noted five different examples of innovation at U.S. colleges and universities. President Obama spoke briefly about UCM and The Missouri Innovation Campus telling his national audience, “I went there (UCM), and they’ve partnered with local high schools and community colleges so that their students can show up at college and graduate in half the time because they’re already starting to get college credits while they’re in high school or while they’re in a two-year college, so by the time they get to a four-year college they’re saving money.”
Ambrose said he was pleased that President Obama once again recognized UCM and The MIC as a national example of innovation within higher education.
He added, “The President’s goal to make college more affordable through innovation reaffirms UCM’s commitment to The MIC, which we are convinced will make college more accessible and affordable for students. At the same time, the President’s July 24 and August 22 comments also make it very clear that the challenge is to reach for the next level, and to grow the initiative, and other similar initiatives, so that more students can graduate in less time, with no college debt, with skills that businesses need.”
The MIC, which is beginning its second year, pairs UCM with the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community College, and local health care, engineering, energy and infrastructure firms that will drive emerging job growth in the future. Together, they are making it possible for students attending the Summit Technology Academy from 19 sending high schools in and around Lee’s Summit to begin their college education while they are still juniors in high school. During a four-year period, those who stick with this rigorous program and participate in applied competencies internships not only will earn their bachelor’s degrees in fields such Systems Engineering Technology, but they will have years of hands-on experience in high-tech industries to add to their resumes by the time they graduate. What is more important, they will leave college in half the time with no student debt.
“President Obama will undoubtedly continue to lift up programs that will create the future and discover many other examples of innovative partnerships that can have a positive impact on education. Perhaps other institutions will use the President's example of calling attention to programs that can be a part of the solution,” Ambrose said. “Certainly, more grass roots initiatives that challenge the traditional thinking at colleges and universities about funding higher education, and making it affordable for students are unquestionably needed, and the barriers that prevent such innovation need to be removed.”
The President also cited examples of innovative ideas that are designed to help students graduate on time, using as one example a program at the University of Buffalo which is focused on helping students graduate within four years. The recognition of such efforts also reaffirms UCM’s own commitment to initiatives such as the Learning to a Greater Degree Contract for student completion, according to Ambrose. This initiative was launched this fall with a goal to increase the number of UCM students who will graduate in four years.
First-time freshmen who began classes this fall will commit to taking 15 hours per semester, seeing their academic advisor each semester, showing up for class on a regular basis, staying in a residence hall for their first two years, and other measures to help ensure they graduate on time. UCM is assisting students by providing additional academic advisors, creating a 24/7 campus environment that includes extended hours for services and facilities such as dining, the James C. Kirkpatrick Library, Elliott Student Union, and Student Recreation and Wellness Center. The university is also offering the 15 to Finish Scholarship. This is a financial incentive for this year’s incoming freshmen to complete 90 hours of study their first three years. If they do so, their senior tuition will be reduced by $1,000.
The Learning to a Greater Degree contract is being implemented at the same time the university is experiencing what could be a record fall enrollment for the third consecutive year. Preliminary data released on the first day of classes Aug. 22 indicated that there were 12,297 students enrolled, a 5.4 percent over opening day fall 2012. Final data will be available after the fall census Sept. 17.