Engines of Opportunity


Colleges, universities, and academic medical centers play a vital role as engines of learning, innovation, prosperity, and opportunity in America’s cities. But they face growing tectonic stresses: declining public confidence in their programs and value propositions, weak completion rates, overly narrow and incremental research, threats to free inquiry, and unsustainable financial models.

America needs thriving higher education and academic medical institutions – “eds and meds” institutions – in cities across the country, which means the eds and meds sector needs to change in significant ways.

  • Eds and meds institutions that perform best as engines of opportunity will be those that engage closely with surrounding communities to promote innovation ecosystems, develop talent, and build opportunity-rich cities. Success will demand “blue-sky” research addressing society’s greatest challenges and recommitment to free inquiry and objective research. For most institutions, it will also require moving to a more sustainable financial path.
  • Federal, state, and local policymakers plus philanthropic funders can best amplify the economic impact of eds and meds institutions by supporting innovative research, education, and placemaking strategies but also ensuring more accountability and competition.

This report explores which cities are performing best in building effective innovation ecosystems and talent pipelines. It presents new rankings of U.S. metro areas for university innovation and community college outcomes. It includes rankings of 177 leading universities and other research institutions for innovation impact. And it includes a first-of-its-kind dataset on the performance of one of the fastest-growing strategies in the eds and meds sector: urban innovation districts.

For leaders of eds and meds institutions, this report highlights numerous talent, innovation, and placemaking strategies high-performing institutions are pursuing to promote local prosperity and opportunity – and the results they’re seeing.

Read the rest of this piece at BushCenter.org.

Red the full report here (PDF)

J.H. Cullum Clark is Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative and an Adjunct Professor of Economics at SMU. Within the Economic Growth Initiative, he leads the Bush Institute's work on domestic economic policy and economic growth. Before joining the Bush Institute and SMU, Clark worked in the investment industry for 25 years.