A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n
US Department of Education


Teacher Helping Student


1. Providing Leadership at the Turning Point

What became clear through the Agenda Project process is that many factors point to an enhanced role for OPE-not in terms of money or control, but mainly in terms of leadership and advocacy. Agenda Project participants described a changing, growing postsecondary education system, one difficult to fathom, let alone navigate. OPE should serve its stakeholders as a doorway to new ideas, partnerships, and practices. OPE should expand its work as a think tank for good ideas, analysis, and research in postsecondary education, especially in the access and financing areas. For example, through in-house analysis, contracted research, competitive grants, staffing to commissions and study groups, and development of policy papers and legislation, OPE should play a major role in revamping our financial aid system.

2. Building Financial Power for Institutions and Students

The U.S. Department of Education uses two tools to expand opportunity and enhance quality in postsecondary education: grants to postsecondary institutions and financial aid to students. Many of our grant programs have proven highly successful at helping students; improving teaching; promoting innovation and technology in education; strengthening international education; and promoting access through institutional development and support. We need to strengthen these existing programs

3. Examining the Roles and Responsibilities in Paying for College

The Department of Education should lead a dialogue on how to pay for college. College presidents, leaders in national and state governments, students, economists, and business and community leaders should discuss how all the partners should share in helping to make college accessible for Americans from all groups. This should be a big picture look ahead to provide a road map for change in the next decade.

Questions to be addressed should include: How much should postsecondary education cost? What prices should students and parents pay? Should there be free public education? How much should states and the federal government pay? What is the role for private sources? What is the mix of aid-how do institutional subsidies, grants to students, loans, and tax policy interact? What is the appropriate balance among different sources of aid? How do all these questions and answers vary for different groups of students?

4. Becoming a Gateway to the Federal Government

Federal government agencies-from the National Institutes of Health, to the Department of Energy, to the Department of Defense-operate many programs that support higher education. Identifying these programs, though, can be a problem for those they are designed to benefit. OPE must become a better gateway to the federal government for America's postsecondary education community. As part of this effort, OPE has published on the Web a Directory of Federal Programs for Postsecondary Education. The Directory is a comprehensive, single source of information on all federal programs on or relating to postsecondary education offered by all federal departments and agencies. The Directory includes all federal programs of benefit to colleges and universities managed by a variety of departments and agencies, including the Department of Education. It can be accessed at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/programs.html.

5. Expanding Resources for All Institutions

The Department plays a critical role in helping institutions expand resources. Several of OPE's established programs address this issue; our Strengthening Institutions, Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) programs have been indispensable in building up institutions that serve low-income and minority students. We should expand such programs.

6. Dancing to the Same Tune

OPE administers over 40 grant programs that address challenges facing postsecondary education today. Ensuring that these programs run effectively and efficiently is a critical step to help institutions meet these challenges. Many participants in our Agenda Project dialogue sessions pointed out ways that OPE can improve service to its customers-from standardizing application procedures, to reengineering grant processes, to using more meaningful statistical measures in our programs. We should also improve collaboration among OPE programs to take advantage of potential synergies, and avoid duplication of work. We should move to the point where all are grant applications are on the Web.

7. Watching Public Dollars and Measuring Outcomes

Across the country, taxpayers and their representatives rightfully demand accountability for public dollars spent. In the digital age of rapid change, the process is more difficult but no less important. Funds must be accounted for and outcomes measured. With respect to those principles, OPE will remain stubbornly old-fashioned-but the means by which we measure outcomes may have to change. We regulate distribution of billions of dollars in Title IV funds and rely on measurements that have been called into question in the information age. It is up to the entire postsecondary education community to reassess this situation and devise outcome assessments more suited to today's education environment.

8. Recreating Regulatory Reform

The first multipurpose computer, ENIAC, developed at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946, was a breakthrough idea at the time. But no one would think of using it today. Yet, that is almost what we are doing when it comes to regulatory reform in postsecondary education. The system, its facts, beliefs, and attitudes, were developed in the 1950s. New distance learning providers are espousing new standards based on outcomes. There have been some change and progress, but not enough to deal with the changing technology and number of students the system must deal with today. How do we measure outcomes in the digital age? OPE should lead the way in reforming the system to bring it up to date.

9. Building New Partnerships

One of the clearest messages we received in our Agenda Project dialogue sessions was that postsecondary institutions and the Office of Postsecondary Education cannot meet the challenges we face today alone. Many of these challenges relate not only to our education system but also to our entire society; businesses, community organizations, local governments, and, in fact, every institution in society need to work in partnership to address them. The Department of Education has an important role in bringing these diverse constituencies together to build these partnerships.

10. Creating a New Best Practices and Research Web Site

What is working, and what isn't, in postsecondary education? What is the economic value of postsecondary education? What kinds of skills do employers value in potential hires? What will America's student body look like in 5 years? 15 years? What will postsecondary institutions need to do to accommodate this changing student body?

Answers to many of these questions are available-in universities, think tanks, government agencies, and particularly in the Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Yet many educators don't know where to go to find such research and "best practices." In our dialogue sessions we discovered that many look to OPE to provide them. A new Web site would be very helpful.

11. Launching a Web Site Regarding Quality Distance Learning

As Secretary Riley testified before the Web Based Education Commission on 2 February 2000, "Here is, in my mind, one of the thorniest problems of the Web-ensuring that the quality of what is retrieved is high-or, at the very least, ensuring that users have the intellectual capacity to discern when it is not. No one expects that a medium as free and unchecked as the Web can be completely monitored or, for that matter, be of completely high quality. But we can work to ensure that students and others will know how to make well-grounded intellectual choices when they use the Internet for education."

To do that we should provide information that will assist consumers in locating providers that offer distance education courses and programs that meet standards of acceptable quality.

12. Sponsoring a Competition to Create 21st Century Teaching Academies

OPE, with appropriate public and private sector partners, should consider sponsoring a grant competition to encourage states, or regional partnerships, to build upon some of the creative ideas that are being tried to improve teacher training, for example, the teacher training program created by the Open University in the United Kingdom, and the Cornell University Master of Arts in Teaching program, and other ideas.