APSCU Blog: A Preview of Higher Education and the State of the Union

16 Jan 2015 /
By APSCU Communications 
President Obama, through his ambitious 2020 college attainment goal, new community college tuition proposal, and comments on educational enrollment, has made postsecondary education a cornerstone of his economic strategy.

The President’s objective is to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, while also placing emphasis on high-demand “middle skills” development, attainment for new traditional students, and the benefits obtained after one year of post-high school education.

These goals are the embodiment of higher education for all – a goal that private sector institutions wholeheartedly share. While we share the President’s vision for higher education access and attainment, the policies advanced by the Administration to date fail to meet these goals. Although the Administration claims to want to increase student access and opportunity, its regulatory agenda actually restricts both.

Higher education policy cannot simply be about one provider. Rather, there must be a collective discussion about how federal, state, and local governments, in partnership with the private and philanthropic sectors, work with all of higher education to achieve positive outcomes for all students.

Administration Goals
Enrolling in postsecondary programs of all types already brings individual and societal benefits, including better pay and lower risk of unemployment. The President’s focus on improved workforce training, increased postsecondary enrollment, and a globally competitive proportion of graduates clearly show that President Obama is looking to prepare the U.S. for a globalized and knowledge-based economy. These cornerstone beliefs have long guided private sector institutions.

However, the Administration’s actions show they are only addressing the needs of a narrow segment of traditional students in higher education, not creating new opportunities. Many of the Administration’s recent initiatives unjustifiably disadvantage students attending private sector institutions and fail to account for the needs of new traditional students – a growing and often underserved segment of higher education. These actions are limiting progress toward the Administration’s goals for higher education, as well as cutting off the supply of qualified workers for employers.

The Administration has acknowledged the vital role that private sector institutions play in achieving the President’s goal. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “Those colleges … are critical to helping the nation achieve President Obama’s goal of making the United States the nation with the highest portion of college graduates by 2020.”

Unfortunately, the Administration has taken aggressive steps that harm student access and opportunity, and ultimately work against some of the President’s own higher education goals. The Department of Education’s gainful employment regulation is one such measure that does not align with the President’s stated goals for higher education.
Presidents 2020 goal
Losing Access chart
The private sector plays a critical role in educating Americans and preparing our workforce to be competitive in the future in ways that are critical to the U.S. economy. However, the President’s recent community college tuition proposal ignores these benefits of private sector institutions. While community colleges “are an essential component of higher education’s delivery system in America…they are also an incredibly diverse system of postsecondary education, where they must meet a vast array of educational demands of their communities,” says APSCU President Steve Gunderson. “Private sector institutions are uniquely focused on equipping students with career skills and preparing them for in demand careers. That is our mission and we work hard every day to ensure that we fulfill it.”

Private sector institutions currently play a major role in achieving higher educational attainment in high-demand fields, but due to shortsighted regulations, this positive impact is being limited. Rather than developing policies that pit one sector of higher education against another, we should be working together to educate America’s workforce for the 21st century.

The Role Of Private Sector Institutions
Private sector institutions all across the nation are already hard at work accomplishing the President’s higher education goals. Specifically, private sector institutions are leading in the following ways:
  • Enrolling, educating and graduating new traditional students. Expanding access to higher education new traditional students is essential to achieving the President’s 2020 goal, and educating these new traditional students will help to maintain a sufficiently skilled workforce that will also expand the middle class.
New Traditional Students chart
  • Private sector institutions provide students with flexible educational options that other sectors of higher education cannot match. Many students, especially new traditional students, at private sector institutions have busy schedules to balance. Private sector institutions are best suited to meet students where they are, e.g. through distance education opportunities.
Distance Education chart
  • Private sector institutions lead the way in educating active duty military and veterans. Over 325,000 veterans and their families choose private sector institutions for their career oriented programs with flexible schedules and credit transfer rules, among other reasons.
  • Private sector institutions save taxpayers money. Without private sector institutions, states would either need to contribute significantly more taxpayer dollars each year to satisfy the demand for postsecondary education, or deny access to individuals seeking to continue their educations.
Jorge chart
  • Private sector institutions also provide job-ready graduates to thousands of employers in high demand fields. Employers in both the private and public sectors value private sector educations.
High Demand Fields chart
  • Students who receive credentials from private sector institutions experience significant earnings gains after graduation.
Earnings Boost chart
  • Students who choose private sector institutions are looking for a quality career-oriented education that fits their goals and lives. Employers with high demands for middle-skilled workers in their field look to private sector institutions to provide graduates that are job-ready. As a result, students who graduate from private sector institutions are more likely to work in their degree field than the average student.
LinkedIn Chart
  • Private sector institutions are meeting a critical need for the US higher education system. Since 2000, they have played a major role in increasing enrollment and attainment. Between 2000 and 2012, they experienced over 300 percent growth in enrollment, accounting for 26 percent of the total increase nationwide. Without their contribution to the system, President Obama’s goals would be far out of reach.
Growth in sector
Private sector institutions provide quality education and training to students, a worthwhile goal that the President has supported through his rhetoric on higher education. However, actions by the Administration run counter to these values and limit student access and success.
Does Not Equal Chart
We need higher education policy in this country that values the contributions made by all segments of higher education and acknowledges the complexities of educating America’s workforce while fostering collaboration and cooperation among all postsecondary education providers.

Direct link to article:http://www.highereducationforall.com/preview-higher-education-state-union/

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