We believe in common sense policy approaches to increased transparency, stronger and more effective institutional governance, innovation and collaboration, tuition reform, and state funding incentives in higher education.
Tuition and fees, the starting point for college affordability, are rising out of control across the nation, including at public institutions. With financial aid struggling to keep pace, several state policymakers and institutional leaders have acknowledged that a critical way to start to improve affordability is simply to stop the increases. In the past three years, at least 23 states had some form of a tuition freeze (source: SHEEO). This action attacks the affordability problem at its root, ensuring that students will not spend more money or take out more debt to access public colleges and universities in their state.
Often, the decision to raise tuition and fees is done without any input from the people it impacts most—students and family members who are paying. At least ten states have recognized the importance of involving the public, including students and their families, in the process of raising costs for college and specifically mandate public comment periods prior to a tuition and fee increase being approved. Public colleges and universities should be required to adopt participation policies that ensure students and the public are notified about plans to increase tuition and given adequate opportunity to make their positions heard well in advance of trustee tuition votes.
All tuition and fee increases have one thing in common—they were all voted on, almost always unanimously, by a public governing board. In almost every state, governing board members are political appointees, typically appointed by the governor. Board members, while often successful in their career, when appointed, rarely have background or familiarity with higher education policy and cost setting. At least seven states have recognized that governing board members need training to help them carry out their public responsibility and have required it. Training can help board members gain an understanding of state priorities, their public duties, national trends and best practices, and insight into higher education budgeting, cost drivers, and price-setting.
State higher education funds are often disconnected from student and institutional outcomes. While at least 26 states have some performance-based funding, it remains a small percentage of total appropriated funds in most. We seek to advance meaningful funding formulas that incentivize increased student success, higher levels of productivity, and broad access. By connecting state funds to outcomes, institutions are financially incentivized to meet state identified objectives, while at the same time increasing their accountability to the public.
States should adopt policies that mandate or create an environment for institutions to collaborate and develop affordable pathways in higher education. States should also adopt policies that spur innovation and create on-ramps for the judicious use of technology, including online learning and open educational resources.
Transparency is the foundation of accountability. Unfiltered data regarding institutional spending and quality outcomes can drive meaningful conversations about affordability. Colleges must be required to make relevant data related to finances, productivity, and student outcomes easily accessible to the public.
Learn more about the student debt and college affordability crisis that these policies aim to help solve.GO NOW
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The cost of higher education has risen out of control. We must do more to make quality public education affordable for all students and restore trust in our institutions. If you agree, sign your name here.