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Study finds students discouraged from tough courses

By HENRY DAVID ROSSO

WASHINGTON -- Students in American colleges and universities take safe courses and are discouraged from undertaking risky research projects or challenging the ideas presented to them, a study by the Carnegie Foundation's Advancement of Teaching says.

Written by Frank Newman, president of the Education Commission of the States and former president of the University of Rhode Island, the new report recommends a wide range of proposals linking higher education to the nation's future, including the need to develop within students a sense of creativity and entrepreneurship, civic responsibility and an international perspective.

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'Despite the advantage that American higher education has over other systems of higher education, it far too often stifles the inherent creativity of the student,' the report says.

'Students too frequently sit passively in class, take safe courses, are discouraged from risky or interdisciplinary research projects and are discouraged from challenging the ideas presented to them,' Newman said.

'We must all recognize the demands that the American role of leadership in the world places on higher education -- leadership in the best and fullest sense of the word,' Newman said. 'Economic leadership is involved, as is scientific and technological leadership. But more is involved -- cooperative efforts at home and abroad, a willingness to face the difficult social and political problems, and a determination to work toward constructive solutions.'

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'In short, what is needed is more than just an economic renewal; what is needed is a true American resurgence.'

The study also addressed student loans, saying students too often are saddled with huge debts.

'Excessive loans inadvertently undercut traditional values,' Newman said. 'Working one's way through college is a cherished American concept that conflicts head on with 'Go now, pay later.' A student who leaves college with a large debt burden may well feel he has already assumed all of the risk that he possibly should.'

Among the report's recommendations:

-Students must become more actively involved in their own learning.

-More student aid should be given in return for community service.

-The use of merit as a means for selecting students to receive aid should not be allowed to detract from other forms of aid, particularly need-based and service-based aid.

-The sum of student aid programs should be expanded, not contracted.

-The balance among the differing types of student aid programs should be altered so that public service programs are increased.

-Work-study programs should be expanded so that a larger share of those receiving aid work; the significance of the jobs students perform increases; and colleges and universities are encouraged to use at least 20 percent of their work-study funds for public service on and off campus.

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-Loan programs should be maintained in a more measured amount.

-The GI Bill should be restored for military service and a new program should be created, providing student aid in return for community service.

-To improve minority participation in higher education, a new agency should be created to support competitive grants to programs for disadvantaged students.

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