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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

President Announces Higher Ed Plan

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August 22, 2013

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President Announces Higher Ed Plan

In a press release this morning, President Barack Obama announced his plan to improve postsecondary education access and affordability. Over the past few years, the President has continually professed his support for community colleges and ensuring access to higher education for low-income students, and this new proposal looks to build on those efforts through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The proposal focuses on three main points for restructuring higher education — pay colleges and students for performance, promote Institutional innovation and competition and ensure student debt remains affordable and manageable for graduates. The specific details of these points, if enacted, would have an impact on CTE programs in postsecondary institutions.

The plan calls for a new college ratings system, incorporated into the current “College Scorecard,” which would compare institutions with similar missions based on access, affordability and outcomes. The President proposes that ratings generated by this system would then be used to transform federal aid, allowing colleges with better ratings to offer larger Pell grants and more affordable loans to students. The new rating system can be enacted by the Department of Education immediately. However, changing any requirements for federal aid will require congressional approval.

Concerns with this type of system include comparing smaller institutions with fewer resources to large institutions with a more diverse population and greater program offerings, as well as how to control for differences in incoming students’ qualifications and goals. There are also numerous data collection and quality issues that must be addressed before any such ratings could be considered valid and reliable.

In another section on encouraging innovation in higher education, the proposal would encourage institutions to recognize prior learning, specifically dual enrollment opportunities and skills of returning veterans. Additionally, the proposal calls for a broader use of competency-based learning, which would award class credits based on knowledge instead of the traditional seat time measure. ACTE has continually supported these opportunities for students, and we encourage institutions to partner with secondary schools to offer more skill-based college credit earning opportunities to students beyond the traditional Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs.

While the President’s proposal leaves many questions for CTE programs in community and technical colleges and other public, non-degree granting institutions like area CTE centers, there is plenty of time for discussion. It is unlikely that the plan, or any of its components, will actually be adopted into law in the near future due to the timeframe of discussions on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and continued congressional gridlock.

ACTE has submitted its own recommendations for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Our recommendations suggest better utilizing short-term postsecondary programs to make the higher education system more accessible, efficient and beneficial for students.

 

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