President’s Message: Higher education must continue to innovate in 2021
January 07, 2021
Last year, COVID-19 put higher education to the test, but colleges and universities met the challenge through ingenuity and innovation.
As institutions reimagined procedures and protocols for bringing students back to campus, they also made important contributions beyond the classroom. When the Kentucky Community and Technical College System paused instruction in technical labs, personnel pivoted to manufacture vital PPE for businesses and healthcare workers. Meanwhile, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville made scientific breakthroughs in the development of novel therapeutics and participated in vaccine trials.
Amid skepticism about the value of college, COVID reminded us that innovation is, and always has been, a hallmark of public higher education. The advancement of students and society through knowledge and discovery is central to its mission. It is no accident that so many advances in the history of mankind — the polio vaccine, chemotherapy drugs, solar power, the Internet — originated on a college campus.
As we begin 2021, widespread COVID vaccinations are imminent. However, the after-effects of this pandemic will linger long after the virus recedes. Unemployment, food and housing insecurity, income inequality, mental health challenges, and the digital divide threaten the health and security of Kentucky's people and economy.
I'm calling on the state's higher education institutions to marshal their intellectual resources to be part of the solution. This year, the Council will focus on innovation to help the Commonwealth recover economically and prepare for the future of work. Here's a preview of what we're planning:
- For too long, the measure of academic rigor has been seat time, resulting in credentials that take years to complete. Competency-based education (CBE) allows students to bypass information they already know and move at an accelerated pace. Through its ALIGN initiative, KCTCS will explore large-scale implementation of CBE, which will help individuals capitalize on current skills to retrain quickly and affordably. Likewise, the Council will encourage public universities to reimagine program delivery and integrate technology in new ways.
- The Commonwealth Education Continuum is a partnership between early childhood, K-12 and higher education. This advisory group will begin work in 2021 with the goal of creating more seamless transitions from cradle to career.
- The Council will begin work on a new strategic agenda, which will determine our statewide priorities from now through 2026. We will be meeting with countless constituents to explore innovative strategies for increasing affordability, success and value for students, employers and communities.
I look forward to working with you to make this year one of recovery and discovery.
Last Updated: 7/26/2021