WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of
State and Land-Grant Universities are calling for a renewal of the historic
“covenant” between the American people and their public colleges and
Washington State University President Samuel Smith is one of 26 national
higher education leaders on the commission. He is chair of the National
Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the nation’s oldest
higher education association.
During its final meeting here on March 21, the commission issued its sixth and
final report since it began meeting in 1996. The report encourages passage of
new federal legislation, a Higher Education Millennial Partnership Act, to serve
as the “Information Age” equivalent of 19th century legislation that promoted
the founding of public universities.
“We face new challenges that require new approaches and support,” said
Smith. “It is vital that the historic agreement of two centuries ago be reshaped
so that it fits the times that are emerging instead of the times that have
The “covenant,” the commission said, was created nearly 140 years ago when
Congress created the U.S. land-grant university system, of which WSU is a
part. The Morrill Act of 1862 was supplemented in later years by other
In the report, the commission lays out a series of commitments it says public
universities are willing to make to uphold their part of the covenant. These
include providing genuinely equal access to students of all ages and
backgrounds, as well as “conscious efforts to bring the resources and
expertise at our institutions to bear on community, state, national and
international problems in a coherent way.”
According to the report, challenges to the covenant in the 21st century
— Diversity – a more diverse pool of young people, as well as more adults
seeking new knowledge and skills.
— Access – the effects of growing financial inequality in society are
jeopardizing access to institutions.
— Technology – the surge of powerful new technologies, many of which are
the fruits of university labs, may erase boundaries between universities, the
nation and the world.
— Funding – today state support for public universities is uneven, federal
support for basic research is narrowly defined, and institutions are encouraged
to plan for growth through a variety of public/private partnerships.
The entire text of the report, “Renewing the Covenant: Learning, Discovery
and Engagement in a New Age and Different World,” is available online at
The commission operated on a grant to NASULGC by the W.K. Kellogg