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Dr. Daniel Sullivan
Dr. Daniel Sullivan

A Fresh Start for higher education: liberal and accessible

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In our series "A Fresh Start," we're asking leading thinkers to share their thoughts on what Barack Obama's administration should be paying attention to as the president-elect takes office in January.

Dr. Daniel Sullivan is president of St. Lawrence University in Canton. St. Lawrence is part of a cadre of schools, many small, many in the East, that carry the label "private liberal arts." It's a brand that's been challenged by charges of elitism as tuition and fees rise to 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars, and challenged by a changing vision, particularly under the Bush Administration, toward career- and "outcome-" driven education. Two years ago, Sullivan wrote strong and detailed responses to that vision as it was laid out in the Bush Spellings Commission report on higher education. The report concluded that higher education in America, "has become what, in the business world, would be called a mature enterprise: increasingly risk-averse, at times self-satisfied, and unduly expensive."

Sullivan called the report "negative and cynical," "a national embarrassment," and wrote its reforms "will inevitably lead toward a cafeteria, grab and go undergraduate education lacking in coherence and depth." He told Martha Foley he has several ideas for the new administration (not surprisingly) very different from those of the current one. Dr. Sullivan is currently chair of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

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