A collaborative spirit was evident during the recent legislative budget hearings through the presentations of Freida Hill, chancellor of the two-year system; Council of College and University Presidents Chair Carol Garrison; and Alabama Commission on Higher Education Executive Director Greg Fitch, who gave a comprehensive overview bridging the budgetary needs of the two- and four-year schools.
Each higher-education institution has its own mission and responsibilities and represents individual needs and requirements. It is the uniqueness of each institution, as well as their diverse missions, that prompted the Legislature to create the commission in 1969 to serve as the state's coordinating board for public higher education.
This coordinating responsibility involves presenting an annual budget recommendation to the Legislature. For the past two legislative sessions, higher education has carried the significant portion of financial cuts due to the economic downturn. This year's budget reflects the realization of the state's current fiscal economic condition and presents the real level of need by providing the Legislature with a three-tiered budget recommendation (lastly, seeking a return to higher education's budget level in 2008).
The coordination of multiple institutions has challenges; but this legislative session is seeing all of higher education breaking down barriers to continue to offer students a quality education in preparation for the workforce.
The commission works closely with all of Alabama's public higher-education institutions to serve as a conduit for information to Alabamians. Some of those responsibilities include coordinating the state's student financial-aid services; collecting and compiling educational student data; administering federal and other educational services; and reviewing and approving new academic units of instruction.
Higher education is improving the quality of life for all Alabamians in many ways through community and technical schools, universities and professional programs. Teachers, electricians, nurses, cosmetologists, doctors, lawyers, welders — just to name a few — are all prepared at higher-education institutions.
To remain competitive in an ever-expanding global society, I urge the Legislature to consider any additional growth in the Education Trust Fund to be distributed to the two- and four-year schools based upon the consolidated budget request.
Thomas P. Davis is chairman of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.