Laws & Guidance HIGHER EDUCATION
Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965
Access and Retention Strategies Panel of Experts Question and Answer Session
Archived Information



MR. BRYANT: Thank you, Ms. Albert. Now that we've heard from all of our panelists, we can now open it up for questions, or any comments from the audience.

Let me lead it by asking Rick a question: You indicated that you were formerly a university president; you talked about Quality & Accountability, and you touched on measuring quality. More specifically, how did you measure that? You talked about a report card; did you issue a report card, and what was the general response from the community?

MR. JERUE: This is the proposal that we're making that we should have made, an institutional report card. But as a president for three years, we went through several self-studies: One to become a regionally accredited institution, and another to go from a two-year institution to a four-year institution.

In all those self-studies, you're looking at yourself very critically from a variety of factors. But the problem with all of that is, once you finish that self-study, it goes on the shelf; you don't share it with the public. It's a voluminous document, and in many cases it's three, four, 500 pages with all kinds of work group documents that support it.

And I guess what we're proposing, and what the Career College Association is proposing is something a lot simpler than that; something that could be included with any kind of admissions material that is sent to a student; but essentially bullet points: I mean, what's your faculty/student ratio?

What percentage of your faculty has the appropriate credentials to teach the courses they're teaching? What are your physical resources? What are your library holdings?

Things that can done, that probably institutions have that information at hand anyway, but they don't provide it in a readily accessible format so that students, parents, policymakers can look at it pretty quickly.

I mean, we've got the greatest system, I think, of the postsecondary education choice in the world. And I think what we're suggesting is that for consumers to make an informed choice, they should have as much information as possible.

MR. BRYANT: I agree. Greg, just one question for you. You talked about financial aid and that more needs to be done through advertisements on what's available for students.

How did you find out about financial aid opportunities available prior to your matriculating in postsecondary education? Or what do you recommend we do on that?

MR. PORTER: All right. With my experience with financial aid, I was lucky to have two sisters go through college before me who also received a great deal of financial aid that helped them get through school. But they heard about it through school programs, because my mother, she's from another country, and so she was not familiar with the financial aid process.

It was through the programs that I suggested, of just helping high school counselors get more information to their students that allowed our family to take part in financial aid.

MR. BRYANT: You also talked about the steep inflation of tuition and fees; I'm sure all 50 states are concerned about that very same topic. What are your recommendations on that? I know in one state in particular, the General Assembly took action to put a cap on tuition and fee increases; what are your views on that?

MR. PORTER: My views on that, I would like to see states make education a higher priority than what it presently is. I think that would solve a lot of problems, if we would take a higher priority in education. But also just speaking to people in my age group, we have to get out to vote. That's why more attention is paid to other segments of the population and not higher education, because we don't make legislators give us the money.

MR. BRYANT: And just one final question. Dr. Coles, you talked about students' lack of preparation for postsecondary education, which I tend to agree with; the President's No Child Left Behind Act, I'm sure you read that?

DR. COLES: Yes.

MR. BRYANT: What are your views on No Child Left Behind, and the success of that program over a period of years in eliminating the students' lack of preparation of postsecondary education?

Because I know many folks in business and industry indicate that young people coming into the work force are not prepared to do the work and need basic skills; like you said, many students require remediation when they go over to the college system to be prepared for college work. Can you comment on that?

DR. COLES: Yes. I think that No Child Left Behind is a very important step forward in establishing high standards for all students across the United States; that we expect all students to learn at high levels, and are going to provide them with the rigorous course work and the support that they need in order to do so, and hold ourselves much more specifically accountable.

What I think is going to be very important is the support issue. In addition to the academic rigor, many of the students that were talking about, under-served students, will need a lot of support academically and socially in order to achieve those standards.

And I think it's very important for the federal government to take a role in help working with states and school districts to ensure that that support is there, and also there is "quality teacher" which is a very important part of that Act in every classroom.

MR. BRYANT: Thank you. Other questions?

MR. ANDRADE: Zina mentioned how college cost increases have eroded the buying power of the Pell Grant over the years. Greg talked about how students are getting fed up with having to take out more loans to pay for these increases.

I would like to throw out as a general point of discussion, perhaps, incentives, or disincentives, that could be offered in terms of having institutions keep a lid on these costs, and things that we can do to help institutions reduce their costs of educating students and not constantly pushing increases on the backs of their students.

MR. JERUE: Well, the college cost is probably one of the most difficult issues to address because, I mean, there are factors in college costs that are uncontrollable but that are important as well.

For instance, I would believe that most institutions in this country are trying to upgrade their technology to keep pace with all the technological developments that are going on in the world; that costs money.

Facilities and infrastructure cost money. It's so labor intensive, and you're dealing with faculty and staff that require new benefits, raises; that costs money. So I think institutions are struggling. Institutions don't, by practice, try to charge as much as they possibly can, because there are so many choices out there.

In our institutions, students have a variety of different choices; so it's a complex issue. Incentives to keep costs down, that would be one -- I don't know what they would be, but I think it's a very complex, difficult issue.

And states are struggling with it because of reduced tax base; they've got to find ways to finance their operations. I don't have any good answers for you, but incentives of some sort might be useful, if we could come up with some good incentives.

MR. BRYANT: Other questions from the audience?

MS. STROUP: Can I ask a few questions?

MR. BRYANT: Yes.

MS. STROUP: Rick, I want to go back to your idea about an institutional report card, you know, because you hear about that periodically coming up as a solution. What about accreditation issues? You raised accreditation as sort of the key to what goes on, and certainly from the federal government's prospective, accreditation is where we get involved in those kinds of issues, because we don't dictate what institutions do and what their policies are on any number of fronts. But when I look at accreditation sometimes, again, it's self-study and it's over time, and it sits on the shelf for years, I agree.

But most people don't know what's in an accreditation study when it comes out. Who reads those, except for the institution it's on and the accreditors? I mean, I don't believe we spend a lot of time reading them, and I'm sure the public doesn't read one, and I'm sure you don't look up an accreditation evaluation. But what about accreditors getting involved in this whole discussion?

MR. JERUE: I certainly think there is a role for accreditors. One of the things that CCA recommends in their institutional report card is, you have and you make sure that there's an accreditation component there. My only concern with accreditors being involved in this issue is, some of the outcome measures that we're looking at, accreditors don't really follow that carefully.

For example, we went from a nationally accredited institution to a regionally accredited status. Some of the things that we considered to be appropriate outcomes; job placement, starting salaries, was of no consideration at all to the regional accrediting bodies.

And so I think if we can find a way for accreditors to really follow the outcome measurements more carefully than they have in the past, accreditation could issue the report card.

But in my experience with accreditation, they're looking mostly at the input measurements, and they're really looking at those things that institutions are doing on a day-to-day basis to make the institution a quality institution and outcomes of secondary importance. But if we could expand the accreditation's focus to look at that, I think it would be a legitimate deliverer.

MS. STROUP: Yeah. I agree with you that it was in the past about inputs, but I actually think they are moving towards outcome measures having been spending some time talking to the regional accreditors about these issues.

And they're starting to look more at student achievement issues again, and other outcome related issues. This may help us get where we're trying to go without really doing a whole lot. I mean, it's certainly picking up many pieces to put together.

MR. JERUE: Oh, I think that's certain, and if they wanted to take up that mantle, they would probably be as good a body as any to do that.

MS. STROUP: And when you talked about K-12 and postsecondary alignment, it comes up all the time.

DR. COLES: Right.

MS. STROUP: For the most part, we serve no real role in that process, we the government, in what goes on between the K-12 system and the postsecondary systems in any state. In the work you do, I'm trying to figure out what you see already happening, and if you see a place that the government should somehow step in and look at aligning those issues.

DR. COLES: Well, I think it's a very critical issue, and that somehow I think it would be very helpful to the public if the government provided leadership on college access issues across the board for the past 40 years. And I think it would be terrific to find some way to provide leadership here. I think focusing on states and state level policymakers and K-16 policymaking, and looking at that transition from high school to college; perhaps doing some convening or encouraging in some way.

I think that's one of the things that's striking about No Child Left Behind, is that the federal government is really focusing on states and asking the states to work with districts on some of the accountability issues and putting in place these new standards.

So I've wondered if the Federal Government could take through reauthorization a similar role with regard to states and this 12 to 13 transition, because I think they're changing what's happening through No Child Left Behind and it has had an enormous impact in what's happening in states. I'm thinking there is a parallel impact that could be had in terms of this alignment issue.

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MS. STROUP: If you have any good ideas, you need to send them to us and spend some time looking at that.

DR. COLES: Okay. I think that there's been some good, specific work done. And David Connelly at the University of Oregon has done some very good work on that alignment. And then the Stanford, Michael Kurst at Stanford University would then be two good people to talk to.

MR. ANDRADE: I have one more, if I could. We had the issue of information. One of the frustrations I always have on this is not being able to tell a family, even within the ballpark, how much they need to pay for out-of-pocket, and how much they need to save and set aside.

And I was wondering if anyone had perhaps some ideas, a concept that we could at least help families navigate this very complicated process and actually give them something more tangible, instead of having the great mystery of what's in the award letter every year be the determining factor, you know, two or three months before you're planning on starting your education, you can give people advanced notice of that?

MS. ALBERT: Go ahead.

DR. COLES: Could I? I think one problem that I think exists is that a lot of the messages about financial aid go through schools and colleges, as opposed to directly into homes and to your students and parents directly. And I think there's some good tools that have been developed for calculating what families might have to pay, and how much they would get, that could be used. But I think people don't know about them; they don't know how to use them.

A lot of those tools are technologically based, and so that's what I would encourage, is messages directly to students and families crafted to meet different groups, and then directing them to the resources that are available and making those resources more accessible and convenient for them to use.

MS. HAYWOOD: I agree with what she said. I think there are lots of other avenues to get to folks. There are churches, there's community based organizations, a lot of things that are in neighborhoods where people go for different information. And I think if we could go outside the realm of the college, or of the high school, then we can get to a lot more people who really need that information.

MR. JERUE: I think that all of that is essential. The complicating factor always is going to be that such a large portion of the federal student assistance is subject to the annual appropriation's process, so you can't tell anyone with certainty, at any point in time, what they might be able to expect from the Federal Government in many cases until it's too late. But if, for instance, you could begin --

MR. ANDRADE: But loan limits haven't changed since '92. We've had very incremental changes in the Pell Grant program with the exception of a couple years ago, where we had some big jumps; campus-based has been relatively constant. So, I mean, I see a fairly static set of federal funding; I don't know why we can't do more of that, given that static nature where we're actually adding people, rather than upping the amount.

MR. JERUE: Well, you're adding more and more people to the postsecondary education pot all the time; so, for instance, if you take a look at your campus-based programs, those institutions that are fortunate enough to get campus-based allocations, trying to spread that out over more and more people, all I'm saying is that the quality of the appropriation process is in flux, andit always creates some uncertainty out there.

But I think there's no reason why you can't get the students and families that are, you know, relatively early age, say junior in high school, you begin to say: If things stay the same as they are today, this is what you might expect four years from now. At least, that would give them some process and information to begin to plan. And if we can continue to find as many different vehicles as possible to get that information out to people, that would be helpful.

MR. ANDRADE: Well, --

MS. ALBERT: Can I make a comment?

MR. ANDRADE: Go ahead.

MS. ALBERT: I think all these ideas are very good in theory, and, you know, we definitely try to get out there and spread the word. I don't think there's probably a financial aid administrator anywhere who hasn't done a high school financial aid night to an audience of two. You can go out there and provide the service, but, you know, you can lead the horse to water, but you can't make him drink. And that's why I think making it a mandatory part of the curriculum in high school is really the only way that we can ensure that, at least, the students are going to get that information.

You can't really rely on your high school counselors very much anymore, because their plates are just full; they're dealing with behavior disorders, violence, academic problems, and we can't rely on them to give the information on planning for college financing. So I think, definitely, anything we can do, you know, more places like churches, and that type thing is great, but until we can just get it written into the curriculum and make it mandatory that everyone has that information given to them, I don't think we can ensure that they'll get it.

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MR. BRYANT: Some states are doing that. Has an attempt been made here in Missouri by way of the General Assembly to have them incorporated into a bill to mandate that the schools teach it?

MS. ALBERT: Not that I am aware of yet. I know that there is some talk about that proposal on the table now.

MR. BRYANT: Okay. Are there questions from the audience of our panelists?

MR. BURD: Steve Burd from the Chronicle of Higher Education. I've got a couple questions. The first one is: I've always wondered on this information question why the Federal Government couldn't do a TV campaign, kind of like the Army has where they could get it into the homes; obviously, television is an effective tool in the homes. Just to say, you know, financial aid is available; call this number and you can find out more. Does anyone have thoughts on that?

MS. HAYWOOD: Make sure they're on MTV television.

MR. JERUE: His question was why couldn't the Federal Government do similar television campaigns about financial aid similar to the Army's "Be All You Can Be," I guess, I don't know, I think it's costly.

One of the things that I think would be helpful, and I know every time I open my computer, those things come across from every industry in the world, particularly the Lending Tree, maybe something like that. I mean, everybody has computers these days, have a blast of: The Federal Government student aid is available to you, and that might be helpful.

DR. COLES: If I could add to that, I think the Federal Government could lead in a partnership; there are a lot of campaigns going on now that just aren't very effective, state campaigns; system campaigns; association campaigns; and I think the Federal Government working with these other partners could help do research and craft messages that really resonate with target populations.

Also, they could enlist financial institutions participating in the federal education loan programs to spend a lot of money on targeting middle-income and upper-income families advertising for the 529 savings plans, could ask them to partner in terms of spending similar resources on supporting communication strategies to reach lower-income families.

MS. HAYWOOD: I agree, the partnership is probably what's needed. There are lots of early awareness programs out there, but they're not well-funded, so they can only reach out so far. A partnership would definitely help in getting the word out, especially to the early awareness population, which is junior high and even younger.

MR. BURD: Okay. I also have a second question, which I want to direct over to Ann Coles on No Child Left Behind. Isn't there some concern in states like Massachusetts, that No Child Left Behind could actually be very bad for the students that we're talking about; in that, schools like say Dorchester High School may have to eventually shut down because of the difficulties of improving their performance in such a short period of time?

DR. COLES: I think the implementation does, as you say, provide major challenges for schools and school district leaders, but I don't think that takes away from the importance of the standards and the goals of No Child Left Behind. And I think that states and school districts need to work in partnership, again, with the office of the Department of Education in addressing those challenges. But I don't think we should back off the standards; I think ultimately they will serve under-served students very well.

MR. BRYANT: Last statement right here (Indicating).

MS. GERARDI: I was at the back of the room, but I'm Natalie Gerardi, and I'm a Client Service Representative. I just wanted to address the question on what Missouri's doing for high school students.

I personally go out and do presentations during the December and January months; I usually do presentations between four and five times a night.

We also have financial aid presentations on the web for high school counselors to use, so we are definitely beefing up that. We are constantly in the high school areas talking to students, so I just wanted to say we are really active in that.

MR. BRYANT: Thank you. Other comments, or questions in the rear?

MS. BUTLER: I'm Cindy Butler. I'm the District Financial Aid Director for the Metropolitan Community Colleges here in Kansas City, and I'm also one of the financial aid directors that goes around and attempts to educate parents and students at high schools.

I think there's a cycle that needs to be broken somehow. Parents who have no relationship with higher education are afraid of the institutions of higher education, and they feel completely inadequate to help their children.

Even though they have great dreams for their children to go on, and understand probably the desire of higher education, they don't have any way of helping their children with the process of preparing.

And I think it goes further; I think they feel stupid, and they think that their children are going perceive them that way. So I think there's an effect that some parents are discouraging their children from preparing for higher education because of this inadequacy that they feel about themselves.

And it's not overt, it's covert. I don't know how to break that cycle with parents, to reach families of students that are afraid of us and won't come to public presentations, and try to give them some very simple instructions on how to help their children prepare for higher education. I don't know if anybody can speak to that.

MR. BRYANT: They are valid comments and observations. I can tell you of the programs that I oversee at the Department of Education, there are two that do just that; in the federal TRIO programs, as you know, Talent Search is there, and Upward Bound is there--they contribute in that area. And then there's another newer program called GEAR-UP, an early awareness program for secondary students.

All of those programs contribute to that, but I'm in agreement, much more needs to be done in order to educate parents about the availability of opportunities for postsecondary education.

Are there any more questions?

MS. HAYWOOD: I have a comment on what Cindy said as well, and that goes back to my comment about churches and community-based organizations. At my institution, Gateway Technical College, three years ago our president instituted a new campus, which he called the Community Campus, and we have a process at that campus along with our three major campuses where we actually hold classes at community-based organizations.

We hold classes at classrooms in churches and in elementary schools, so people who are intimidated by the postsecondary institution can actually take classes. We have low-level, first-year courses we teach in these places, and then we use that as a bridge program to say: You've completed this program, congratulations, are you interested in a full program? Just come on campus and we'll help you get what you need.

So I agree that there is that evasive feeling out there that it's intimidating, but if you go, your group will just have to take it to those populations so they can get it right where they live.

MR. BRYANT: Thank you. One question in the rear will be our final question.

MS. HALL: Yeah. I'm Joyce Hall from Purdue University, and I guess for me our struggle is a lot of times very good programs are done but they're one-shot, the money comes in, and then all of a sudden it's gone. So it obviously has to be a very sustained program for parents, and we've been asking ourself where are the parents, all of the parents are at work. Okay? They're at work during the day.

I think that if there were more encouragement from employers to build in a very sustained program, we do it for retirement funds for our employees. We all know a lot more than we care to know about our TI prep now, but I think that that would be a way to get a sustained program to the parents because they're all at work.

MR. BRYANT: Thank you very much for your comments. And let me take this opportunity to thank our five panelists for their participation this morning, and thank the audience for your questions. I think we have enough time here for the new, or the panel No. 2 to get in place. Thank you all.

(Recess.)

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Last Modified: 02/23/2009