On Wednesday, December 12, 2018, the College Board’s Access and Diversity Collaborative (ADC) released Understanding Holistic Review in Higher Education Admissions: Guiding Principles and Model Illustrations, which provides insights into the logic, rigor, and fairness behind effective holistic review in higher education admissions. The guide endeavors to open the perceived “black box” of admissions decision-making by outlining key features and elements of well-designed holistic review policy development and process management. It provides institutional examples and promising models that illustrate effective and sustainable practices (including illustrations of holistic review practices upheld over the course of four decades of federal court litigation and in U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights enforcement activity). The guide also calls on the higher education community to think differently about transparency and communications associated with holistic review in admissions.

In late 2015, the U.S. Department of Education set out on an experiment to give some students federal aid to participate in select non-traditional education programs, such as bootcamps and employer-based training. Independent entities were tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of these nontraditional programs. Now, three years after its inception, the experiment has yielded more challenges than successes: only one participant has received federal approval and most of the others have discontinued participation.

This memo provides an overview on the outlook for education policy based on the 2018 election results, including the likely impact on the 116th Congress and on the state level. Specifically, the memo takes a deeper look at how the 2018 elections have led to changes on the federal and state level that will have important implications for education policy. Some of these changes that will affect both the federal and state education landscape include: (1) Democrats have won control of the House for the 116th Congress starting January 2019; (2) in the Senate, Republicans will hold at least 51 seats in the 116th Congress, with three seats remaining undecided as of November 8; and (3) on the state level, there are 19 newly elected governors, based on current races that have been called, with one race undecided in Georgia. This memo is intended to inform thinking around the results of the 2018 elections and what this could mean for the education policy agenda on the federal and state level, as well as the ripple effects that we could see as new governors in many states appoint new state board of education members, new chief state school officers, and/or other early learning and higher education leaders.


May 24, 2018

Secretary Riley reflects on successful strategies to transform schools in rural communities. Read more.


A recent 2018 consensus study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine titled, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (Academies Report), reported that sexual and gender harassment remain widespread and prevalent, and have negative outcomes for women, as well as others (albeit at lesser rates):

  • Greater than 50 percent of women faculty and 20-50 percent of women students encounter or experience sexually harassing conduct in academic science, engineering, and medicine (Academies Report 65) and women with multiple societal identities targeted for bias experience harassment at even greater rates (p. 44-46).

Recognizing sexual harassment as a barrier to excellence, the newly launched Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM is a collective act of leadership and accountability—53 societies strong and counting—to advance inclusion and success of all talent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical (STEMM) fields. Collective efforts on this scale don’t happen often (the full press release can be read here).

In the 1940s, Russia developed a prototype of a new military advancement called the Antonov A-40. It was an ambitious, seemingly innovative leap forward that would provide battlefield support and overwhelming, agile deployment. It was also, quite literally, a flying tank. For reasons that seem obvious in retrospect—weight and inefficient transportation chief among them—it was not functional in practice and thankfully never produced at wide scale. However, the lessons learned regarding its design ultimately provided beneficial advances to future military developments.

Federal lawmakers would be wise to heed the lesson that all ideas—particularly those with billions of dollars at stake—should not be rushed into wide-scale production. Many of them seem eager to open the $130 billion per year of taxpayer funding to new ways of providing higher education instruction without any assurance that these programs provide quality outcomes to their students. It’s still too early to tell if these innovative models will turn out to be the Antonov A-40 or the (significantly more effective) Chinook helicopter of higher education, but it’s not hard to see the potential damage—for both taxpayers and students—of going into “mass production” at this early stage, without assuring that the quality, design, and outcomes of such innovative programs are well understood.

Because Congress and the Trump Administration have signaled enthusiasm to opening Federal student aid to shorter term and other nontraditional providers, it is critical to develop quality assurance models that can meet the needs of these new learning delivery methods. It isn’t clear that accreditors—the traditional arbiters of quality more focused on inputs such as course catalogs than on outcomes like employment, earnings, and aptitude—are the right fit for newer learning models that focus more on building a skill set for adults looking to gain an additional certification for their next job. The bad news is that currently, there is no consensus and little evidence for what such a quality assurance regime would look like. The good news is that a little-known Federal experiment known as EQUIP—Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships—is in the early stages of making Federal funding available to test whether such quality assurance providers could serve as a backstop for ensuring students are getting a superior education in exchange for their taxpayer-funded Federal grants and loans. The time is ripe to enable such innovation, to evaluate whether these quality assurance models can ensure that both taxpayer and student investments would be sufficiently protected.


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