By John R. Rathgeber

Published by Westfair Online, January 25, 2012

To a significant degree, the quality of a state’s education system determines that state’s long-term economic success.

Students who graduate from high school prepared for the rigors of the modern workplace or college classroom become an indispensable resource for companies seeking to innovate and grow.

In addition, partnerships between a state’s higher-education institutions and businesses facilitate the commercialization of intellectual property, spurring economic development and job creation.

Connecticut is a prime example of how education drives economics. For decades, our state’s most important strategic advantage has been our well-educated workforce – one of the most productive and innovative in the world.

By several measures, however, that advantage has become tenuous in recent years. To maintain our edge in an increasingly competitive global economy, we must ensure that our education system does all it can to increase educational access and attainment.

And we must develop closer ties between the world-class companies that comprise our economic base and our colleges and universities.

The appointment last December of Susan Herbst as the University of Connecticut’s 15th president is a key step in the right direction.

Her recognition of our flagship university’s latent economic power and commitment to making UConn a more effective industry partner is cause for optimism.

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association looks forward to maintaining a dialogue with Herbst, as well as with Robert Kennedy, president of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education, and Stefan Pryor, the state’s new commissioner of education.

Kennedy, who was appointed in August, is charged with fulfilling the governor’s vision for a more effective state university system, which includes Connecticut’s four regional universities and 12 community colleges.

Pryor, appointed in September, will focus on improving student performance at the pre-college level and narrowing Connecticut’s education achievement gap between low-income and more affluent students.

The governor has said the 2012 General Assembly session should focus heavily on education issues. We agree and we encourage the administration and legislators to consider the recommendations made by the Connecticut Council for Education Reform for strengthening education in our state.

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