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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

From President Kimbrough...Potential Increase in Federal Oversight/Involvement in Higher Education

FYI- two articles summarizing the NAICU meeting this week in Washington. In short, expect more Federal Government intrusion, wanting to know the return on investment for government support (for us that means Pell Grants, Title IIIB), as well as how much graduates make once they finish. Incidentally, I know of 2 studies that have tried to do this for HBCU grads, one saying they perform worse than Black grads of PWIs (Frierson at Harvard), and one saying HBCU grads outperform Black PWI grads (Price at Morehouse).


The earnings piece is a concern because it devalues liberal arts (which is already happening with foundations pushing STEM- and I am a STEM guy but value liberal arts). STEM folks make more money so having more of them helps address that issue.


One more piece to consider. I am in conversation with the Kresge Foundation about a grant to help us boost recruitment efforts. We are up 6.5% from spring 2012 to this spring (which again is good compared to most schools), but we really need a couple of years with 10% growth to get to 1,600 and stabilize fully. I think they will help BUT they want us to talk about how will we grow in a way that will be cheaper than what it cost for us to run a school with 1,600 students in the late 1990s? So they want to know how will we reinvent ourselves by decreasing our operating budget and increasing enrollment? This can be a sub question for the next strategic plan under resources- not just how do we acquire more but how do we maximize resources and in fact use fewer resources.


Tough big picture questions I’ll be asking so start thinking about them now.




College Administrators Discuss Dealing With Increased Government Involvement


February 4, 2013

by Jamaal Abdul-Alim




Maureen Budetti, NAICU director of student aid policy, says that schools are being asked to provide prospective students and their families with information that might be overwhelming.


WASHINGTON — As the federal government seeks to expand its reach within the realm of higher education, administrators should expect their institutions to face more scrutiny, more accountability and more unfunded reporting requirements.


That was a the advice delivered during a half-day “academy” that kicked off the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, or NAICU, this week on Capitol Hill.


Some of the more spirited discussions concerned federal efforts to require colleges and universities to collect and disseminate data on how much their graduates earn upon graduation.


“If you want to look into the crystal ball to the new regulations of higher education, you need to be prepared to collect more systematically and report more information related to the employment of graduates,” said Susan Hattan, NAICU senior consultant.


Hattan made her remarks during a session titled “Assessing Institutional Quality through Graduates’ Earnings.”


Hattan said efforts to tie wage data for graduates back to institutions and programs emanates from larger conversation about whether a college degree is worth it in light of the nation’s ongoing employment woes, the rising cost of tuition and growing amount of student debt. She noted how two bills known as the “Student Right to Know Before You Go” act — one sponsored by U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and another one by U.S. Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif. ) and Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) — would have required the posting earnings data on graduates by institution, degree and program. She also recalled the Obama Administration’s court-blocked bid to require for-profit colleges to post “gainful employment” data on their graduates.


“This is something that Congress very much wanted during the last go-round,” Hattan said of tying earnings data for graduates to institutions and programs. “This is something that the administration wants, and all signs are this is something they will demand at a greater level of detail than has been included … in the past.”


Tying wage data for graduates to institutions and programs is already being done, said Mark Schneider, vice president of the American Institutes for Research, who spoke of research he has done in half a dozen or so states to link wage records to student transcripts in order to determine how much graduates from a given program within a school earn upon graduation.


While the records enable him to determine short-term earnings for graduates, he said the data does not enable him to figure out how much they earn later in life.


The longer-term data is important because it will confirm or refute the notion held by proponents of liberal arts education that liberal arts degree holders may not earn much after graduation but fare much better in the long run.


But in the short-term, Schneider’s research in Virginia has found that graduates of occupational or technical associate degree programs out-earned bachelor’s degree graduates by almost $2,500 statewide.


Graduates of not-for-profit colleges — where he said graduates mostly earned liberal arts degrees — fared the worst in Virginia in terms of earnings upon graduation, according to Schneider’s research.


“This is a serious issue in terms of measuring what students earn,” Schneider said during a forum titled “The Changing Role of the Federal Government in Higher Education.”


“We need you to say [to policymakers]: ‘One-year data is not sufficient,’” Schneider said. “We have to know what happens to students 10 or 15 years out.”


Others noted that Schneider’s data on Virginia graduates only captures students who continue to work in Virginia — about a third or so of the graduates — whereas many graduates from Virginia colleges and universities may go on to work for the federal government in D.C., on Wall Street in New York or on the West Coast.


Schneider conceded that there is a need to capture data of graduates nationally.


“This is a serious data issue that the nation has to address,” Scheider said.


In a session titled “Shopping for College: What the Feds Think Students Should Know,” Maureen Budetti, NAICU director of student aid policy, said that colleges and universities are being asked to provide prospective students and their families with information that may overwhelm or confuse prospective students.


“We’re not against disclosures. We believe that [with] consumer information, transparency is a good thing,” Budetti said. “The problem we’re having is that it’s just too much information,” she said, raising concerns that prospective students and their families may ignore the information altogether if they don’t deem it useful.


She also said it was burdensome for institutions to produce much of the data.


“It’s overwhelming, redundant, unclear, costly and of questionable usefulness,” Budetti said. “Other than that, they’re pretty good.”


Among the things that Budetti took aim at was the new Shopping Sheet created by the U.S. Department of Education.


Though no NAICU institutions were among the 500 colleges and universities that have volunteered to use the shopping sheet, Budetti said it “has a lot of problems in it.”


The problems, she said, included checkboxes that don’t work well if an institution has graduate students, and other checkboxes that are “confusing and inadequate.”


“We tried to tell [the Department of Education] you can’t put everything on the first page or the way that you think is best,” Budetti said. “We need to have some flexibility.”




Higher Education Leaders Wary of Increased Federal Oversight


February 5, 2013 |

by Jamaal Abdul-Alim



WASHINGTON — Despite the largeness of the audience they addressed this week at the NAICU annual meeting, all of the fresh-faced Congressional staffers and Obama Administration officials who spoke about federal efforts to hold colleges accountable declared their remarks “off-the-record.”


But to the extent that you can trust that a room full of college presidents and other senior administrators were listening intently, you can still get a good sense of where these young politicos were coming from — or at least where their “bosses” were coming from — based on the responses from the attendees, including some who indicated they were former Congressional staffers themselves.


“As I listen to you and listen to your agenda, I’m beginning to hear a centralizing, top down force out of the concern that we all share for affordability, for student success, for graduation rates, for giving students the ability to thrive in their lives after they arrive (on campus),” Marlboro College President Ellen McCulloch-Lovell told the speakers during the Q-and-A session of the panel talk, titled, “Holding Colleges Accountable: A View from Key Capitol Hill and Administration Staff.”


McCulloch-Lovell said the Congressional staffers spoke as if “we have to solve a problem” in higher education.


She was joined in her criticism by C. Todd Jones, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio, who noted how most of the student loan defaults and lackluster completion rates the staffers lamented were “primarily and disproportionately” concentrated among for-profit colleges, not the private nonprofits that were represented at the annual meeting of NAICU, an acronym for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.


Statistics support that view.


According to “The Condition of Education,” an online resource maintained by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, the six-year graduation rate at private nonprofit institutions was 65 percent, compared with 56 percent at public institutions and 28 percent at private for-profit institutions.


As for default rates, for the fiscal year 2008 cohort, the default rates were highest at private for-profit two-year institutions at 12 percent, and private for-profit four-year institutions at 11 percent, but lowest at private not-for-profit and public four-year institutions, each with 4 percent.


McCulloch-Lovell and Jones addressed their comments collectively to the panelists:

•Ajita Talwalker, special assistant to Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter;

•Libby Masiuk, education policy advisor for the majority staff at the Senate HELP Committee, which is chaired by retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa);

•Brian Melnyk, professional staff member for the majority at the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is chaired by U.S. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.); and

•Rich Williams, education policy advisor for U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), senior democratic leader for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.




McCulloch-Lovell prefaced her remarks by saying she understands the position the young staffers are in because she once worked as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) from 1983 to 1994.


But that did not stop her from critiquing the staffers’ “bosses,” whom she suggested are “experiencing kind of a lag time.”


“I think we’ve got the message, and I think collectively, we are doing everything we can to cut costs, be efficient, keep our quality high and come up with the lowest possible increases in tuition and to increase student aid,” McCulloch-Lovell said. “And I’m wondering if part of what needs to go on with the administration and Congress is catching up on all of our actions and our innovations, because I hear this federal government’s urge to regulate more, and one of the reasons we’re having trouble with our costs is regulations and the cost of regulation.”


Her comment about the cost of regulation drew a hearty applause.


McCulloch-Lovell also took exception with the staffers’ repeated references to “return on investment” when they spoke of federal tax dollars being used to support higher education.


“I’m also hearing a kind of consumerist ‘return on investment’ kind of language that makes me a little afraid, because the return on investment for higher education is not only jobs that help people advance their lives and have families and become good participants in society,” McCulloch-Lovell said. “It’s also the perspective and knowledge that helps us reanimate our democracy.


“I want to know what you mean by ‘return on investment.’”


All of the speakers gave various answers, but — as per their request — their comments were off the record.


In summary, however, the staffers collectively stated that the issue of “return on investment” emanates from fact that as providers of what they said was some $170 billion in federal aid to higher education, federal policymakers bear special responsibility for ensuring quality in the academic “enterprise.”


They also said that as students take on high-stakes risk when they invest in a college education, that it’s a matter of concern when students are unable to get jobs that justify the investment and enable them to pay off their student loans.


The staffers also said they welcome input on how to reduce the regulatory burden to colleges and universities.



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