Fattah Urges Urban Universities to Emphasize Scholarship, Sustainability and Self-Sufficiency

Oct 26, 2010, 16:00 ET from Office of Congressman Chaka Fattah

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Chairman of the Congressional Urban Caucus,  says urban universities have a critical role to play in their communities as well as in the classroom and the research lab. And they need to step up their partnership with Congress and the federal government.

Fattah told a group of urban university officials that the challenge for major universities in our cities is to combine scholarship, sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Their core mission, he said, is scholarship in terms of higher education instruction and research. Urban universities must also promote sustainability in terms of greening the local economy and pulling adjoining neighborhoods out of poverty. Advancing self-sufficiency, he said, means preparing students, including adults, with job readiness skills and training for real jobs in the workforce.

Citing President Obama's goal of returning the United States to world leadership by 2020 in terms of college graduation rates and an educated workforce, Fattah said, "There is no possibility we can accomplish that goal without your universities." Referring to Congress, he said "we should have a much more engaged partnership with urban universities."

A leading education innovator in Congress and architect of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, Fattah made his remarks Monday by video-conference from Philadelphia to the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities meeting at California State University in Fresno.

The Philadelphia Congressman noted that urban universities are a major player in higher education. They grant more than 55 percent of bachelor's degrees and two-thirds of all advanced degrees, employ more than one million staff, spend over $200 billion, and conduct research valued at $27 billion, according to 2006-07 data.

Fattah pledged to fight for more spending for all education programs, including the $3 billion GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), which he authored, and the $14 billion AOTC which he will work to turn into a permanent tax credit when Congress reconvenes in mid-November.

While some politicians are calling for spending cuts for education, Fattah said he would oppose that effort: "We are cutting off future generations of leaders if we cut education spending."

Fattah, who formerly served on the boards of Temple University and Community College of Philadelphia in his home town, said urban universities face special challenges and responsibilities because of the "permanent stakeholders in university areas that need to be at the table." He said urban universities often have poor neighborhoods and underserved public schools nearby and must play multiple roles as landlord, employer, energy-conservation leader, economic stimulator, adult education and literacy provider and community developer.

"I pledge my partnership with you in Congress," Fattah said. "There is much work to be done."

SOURCE Office of Congressman Chaka Fattah