Teacher-Scholar: The Journal of the State Comprehensive University


On a warm July afternoon in 2010, AASCU convened its Academic Affairs Summer Meeting in Chicago. The hotel ballroom had a festive look about it, with red balloons hanging from every imaginable place. At that conference, we used the red balloons to announce the launch of the Red Balloon Project, a national initiative focused on reimagining undergraduate education. The Red Balloon Project grew out of three critical challenges for AASCU institutions: declining state support, increasing expectations, and dramatic changes in technology. The year 2010 witnessed an acceleration of disinvestment in public higher education as states, struggling with the consequences of the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression, continued their precipitous withdrawal of financial support. Yet ironically, expectations for higher education were increasing dramatically. President Obama had set a goal that by 2020 America would once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. At the same time, the Lumina Foundation had just announced its goal for 2025: 60% of Americans would have high-quality degrees or certificates. And caught between declining funding and increasing expectations, our institutions found themselves confronting revolutionary changes in technology that would forever alter the landscape of American higher education. Reflecting the kind of technological change seen in other industries, such as music publishing and photography, the technology innovations were starting to be seen as a challenge to every aspect of American higher education.