EducationDynamics Webinar: Strings May be Attached to New Federal Funding Earmarked for Higher Education

William Hansen and Scott Fleming say all sectors of higher education may face increased scrutiny to improve student retention and completion rates, and data reporting efforts.

Higher education institutions will likely face increased reporting burdens and mounting pressure to simultaneously increase enrollment levels while improving graduation or completion rates as a result of the new Presidential Administration and its proposed policies. These implications and others were put forth by William Hansen, former deputy secretary of education, and Scott Fleming, former senior education policy advisor with the U.S. Senate, during an EducationDynamics Webinar held on Monday, titled Now What? Political Implications of the New Administration on Higher Education.

Providing unprecedented insight into the inner workings of Capitol Hill, Hansen and Fleming addressed the primary opportunities and challenges that colleges and universities are facing as a result of the Congressional shift and new policy proposals.

A prevalent topic of discussion in the Webinar and among higher education administrators surrounds the proposed Access and Completion Incentive Fund. Aside from knowing that the five-year, $2.5 billion dollar Fund is intended to support state efforts to help low-income students persist to graduation or program completion, ?Few details are known other than it is an entitlement program that will require Congressional action to authorize,? says Bill Hansen, president and CEO of Chartwell Education Group. ?Details outlining who will control the funds, how the plan will be implemented and its allowable uses have yet to be determined.?

Hansen does predict, however, that policymakers interested in the Access and Completion Incentive Fund will apply pressure to all higher education sectors to improve retention and completion rates in an effort to meet President Barack Obama?s goal for America to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. As a result, schools may experience increased reporting burdens with regard to completion persistence and graduation rates, and potentially employment rates, as well.

Postsecondary institutions will also feel added pressure due to a more critical disposition among members of the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee. According to Scott Fleming, president of Madison Education Group, Congress is looking at higher education through a stronger lens, which could lead Congress to:

1. Impose completion and retention requirements;
2. Require negotiated performance rates (similar to the Workforce Investment Act and the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act); and/or
3. Take further action to address costs and possibly even cap tuition increases.

Furthermore, Hansen and Fleming expect state data systems to continue as a prevalent theme in the coming year. Many groups, including the Data Quality Campaign, are pushing for aggressive expansion of state data systems and stronger linkages between K-12 and postsecondary systems. While Congress and the Administration are encouraging state agencies to work together to aggregate longitudinal data that tracks student progress, the challenge is that few states have robust postsecondary systems from which to report.

?It may be several years before data systems are complete and sufficiently populated to affect policy,? says Fleming. ?Once that happens, data will almost certainly influence policy decisions and could be used to inform performance requirements, such as completion rates.?

In the days to come, a recording of the Webinar will be available on EducationDynamics? website. Additionally, education professionals will have rare access to Hansen and Fleming on EducationDynamics? Higher Ed Dialog blog, wherein readers are invited to pose questions to the speakers and engage in discussion among peers about the opportunities and challenges associated with the new Administration.

Now What? Political Implications of the New Administration on Higher Education is the second in a series of the National Dialog on Student Retention Webinars, the first of which featured Dr. George Kuh, director of the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University. Future events will feature esteemed experts who will address retention dynamics specific to the varying facets of higher education, including for-profit and not-for-profit institutions interested in recruiting undergraduate or graduate students to on-campus or online programs.

About EducationDynamics
EducationDynamics, a portfolio company of Halyard Capital, is higher education?s leading marketing and information services company dedicated to helping institutions find, enroll and retain students. Its content-rich and highly visible education websites, including EarnMyDegree.com, eLearners.com, GradSchools.com, StudyAbroad.com, and its more than 50 special interest microsites, make EducationDynamics the premier provider of qualified prospective students for colleges and universities. In addition, the company offers a full suite of Web-delivered services proven to drive enrollment growth and reduce student attrition.

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