- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A new organization wants to bring accountability and reform to higher education by helping philanthropists target their money more effectively to their interests and demand better results from the schools they assist.

The Center for Excellence in Higher Education, which opened its doors yesterday, will work primarily with donors, helping them give their money to schools and projects that match their interests. It also will require more accountability and start programs that will reshape higher education.

“It’s time for the donor community to demand excellence, accountability and results,” said Frederic J. Fransen, the group’s executive director. “By helping donors be more attentive, we think we can raise the bar for everybody.”

CEHE is funded by the Marcus Foundation, the John William Pope Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation, that have committed $5 million over five years to help CEHE get started. The group is based in Indianapolis.

Mr. Fransen said Americans are spending more and getting less, while higher education is at a “crossroads,” faced with unsustainable costs, declining productivity and increasing global competition.

CEHE is developing a system that will use donor gifts to create competitive grant programs by soliciting proposals from different schools or scholars in specific areas of interest. It also is calling for more teaching in areas including entrepreneurship, business history, Middle East studies and principles of America’s founding.

It also plans to support projects that would reform the governing structure of schools, including giving trustees more power. The group has donors interested in funding research to develop a better college-ranking system, Mr. Fransen said.

Terry Rhodes, vice president for quality curriculum and assessment at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said that while it’s acceptable for groups with different views to get involved, he is concerned CEHE is spreading a faulty message that colleges routinely don’t use donor gifts properly. In reality, he said, that’s “really quite rare.”

He also worries that CEHE’s efforts will give private donors too much control over how schools are managed.

Neal McCluskey, education policy analyst at the Cato Institute said CEHE might force higher education to police itself, which is preferable to the government creating new regulations.

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