State Business Roundtable Discusses Higher Education


ANN ARBOR — Top state and national leaders in business and academia met today to discuss strategies to maintain the preeminence of America’s public research universities and the role states can play in this effort. The workshop was hosted by Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable, and was an opportunity to provide input to the National Research Council on recommendations designed to ensure that American research universities are able to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the nation compete and prosper globally in the 21st century. 

The featured guest was Chad Holliday Jr., chairman of the board of directors of Bank of America, former CEO of DuPont Corporation, and chair of the National Academy of Engineering. He shared the findings in the Research Universities and the Future of America, a report compiled in concert with leaders in academia, industry, government, and national laboratories. A workgroup discussion followed discussing the importance of higher education to the nation, business and citizens; how to better communicate the value of higher education to different stakeholders; how to better connect the needs of businesses with universities; and possible strategies for making college more affordable on a long-term basis. This was the fourth in a series of meetings with business leaders across the nation to gain feedback on the recommendations. Earlier meetings were held in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Arizona.

As states’ finances improve, the report calls for striving to return higher-education funding to prerecession levels. Commenting on how cuts to higher education are hurting the global competitiveness of U.S. research universities, Holliday said, “The pressures on these institutions are just massive.”

“We greatly appreciated Chad Holliday, Jr.’s national perspective about the future of higher education, and in particular, our research institutions,” said Patrick Doyle, president and CEO, Domino’s Pizza and BLM champion on higher education issues. “Michigan is not alone in its need to find a sustainable way to fund our universities and make college more affordable. Across the nation, our higher education systems have been defunded. We cannot ignore that Michigan is facing a talent shortage of 900,000 workers with more than a high school education by 2020. It’s imperative that businesses work with higher education in an integrated manner to ensure that our students are prepared to succeed in the workplace and important for us to get connected with a national group trying to raise awareness and develop solutions.”

Doug Rothwell, BLM president and CEO, said, “We learned that all states are facing the same financial pressures we are. But the good news is that Michigan has at least turned the corner in stemming the cuts to higher education after a decade of disinvestment. In general, we align with the recommendations of the National Research Council and asked them to play a role in sharing best practices from around the nation so states can more effectively address our common challenges.”

“Leveraging Michigan’s higher education system is a key component of growing the New Michigan economy. We are pleased to work with the National Academies in developing strategies at the federal level to use this strength to Michigan’s advantage,” Rothwell said.