SUU’s Benson to Serve in American Council on EducationAugust 08, 2008
Southern Utah University President Michael Benson has been invited to join the advisory council of the Center for Policy Analysis, a branch of the American Council on Education (ACE).
The council is charged with problem-solving current issues in higher education, and convenes annually in Washington, D.C., looking ahead to plans for the coming year. The current topics of discussion within the Council are student financial aid, demographic trends and college preparation.
This membership will provide Benson the opportunity to meet with policy-makers and have an impact on the future of higher education. As one of the few university presidents on the council, Benson will play a key role in determining what topics will be of interest to other college presidencies. He will also stand as a representative for the needs and interests of other regional universities, like SUU.
According to Jacqueline King the assistant vice president of the ACE Center for Policy Analysis, one of the reasons Benson was selected is because the Center is trying to anticipate the “intergenerational change that is approaching in the leadership of higher education.”
King claims half of all college presidents are at least 60 years of age, and with so many presidents due to retire, the Center wonders “whether higher education can afford to insist future leaders touch every rung of the traditional career ladder.” States King, “as someone who became a president at such a young age, [Benson’s] thoughts on this topic will be invaluable.”
ACE has been influencing public policy for over 90 years. This particular branch, the Center for Policy Analysis, is more research-intensive and focuses on key issues and trends in higher education. Some of its past projects have included "Improving Lives: Ensuring the Academic Success of Low-Income Adults" and "Advancing College Readiness: Higher Education's Role in Improving America's High Schools." These topics are of particular interest to President Benson.
"I think the biggest problem for higher education is access—for low-income families, first generation students or kids who graduate high school and think they don't have it in them to go to college. I'd like to see as many students as possible get onto a college campus," Benson commented. He added that he hopes to address the issues of student financial aid, making grants and low-interest loans more accessible to students.
Other current ACE council members include professors from Harvard, UCLA, Stanford and Penn State, as well as leaders from educational organizations like the College Board. In President Benson's words, "I was honored to be chosen for this committee. These are serious people."
President Benson's membership on the advisory council will be a three-year commitment, beginning with the ACE annual meeting in January, 2009.