ACT’s Policy PlatformPOSTSECONDARYEDUCATION
The United States has adiverse and vibrant systemof higher education with along-standing commitmentto expanding accessand opportunityto all students.
IntroductionBuoyed by strong public and private support, 1 the higher education enterprise hasgrown by nearly 30 percent over the last ten years—from 17 million students in 2004to a projected 22 million students in 2014. 2 Over the last several years, however,federal policymakers and institutional leaders have raised concerns about laggingrates of degree completion relative to the gains in college enrollment.For example, just 64 percent of first-time, degree-seeking students at public four-year colleges completed theirdegrees within six years. More worryingly, only two out of five first-time, degree-seeking community college studentsearned a postsecondary credential within six years. 3 Both rates have barely budged in the last decade. 4 In otherwords, simply encouraging more students to attend postsecondary institutions, and increasing funds to do so, areinsufficient as standalone policy interventions. It is just as critical, if not more so, to improve students’ completionrates. Among underserved groups of students, the need to improve completion rates is even more immediate.Recent labor market projections lend a strong sense of urgency to efforts to increase the degree attainment ratesat our nation’s public two- and four-year institutions. By 2018, nearly two-thirds of jobs in our country will requireat least some college education. 5 The United States has a diverse and vibrant system of higher education with along-standing commitment to expanding access and opportunity to all students. Thus, it is imperative that policyand research join forces to develop and expand innovative policies and effective practices that will increase thenumber of Americans earning college degrees. The forthcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act(HEA) and other related statutes affords an opportunity to ensure that more students are ready for and graduatewith a high-quality postsecondary education.Driven by its mission of helping people succeed in education and the workplace, and leveraging more than 50years of empirical evidence related to postsecondary readiness and academic achievement, ACT has identifiedspecific opportunities to improve existing policies and craft new ones that can help more people access,succeed in, and benefit from postsecondary education.While the issues discussed in this platform do not cover the entire spectrum of challenges faced by highereducation, they represent areas where ACT’s research on and experience with vital education and workforcedevelopment issues provide relevant and compelling evidence to inform policy decisions.Readinessin numbersOnly 2 out of 5 first-time, degreeseekingcommunity college studentsearned a postsecondary credentialwithin 6 years.By 2018, nearly two-thirds of jobs inour country will require at least somecollege education.1
Support Postsecondary Readiness1SUPPORT POSTSECONDARYREADINESSImprove the educational attainment levels of all studentsby supporting policies at both the K–12 and postsecondarylevels that are designed to increase academic readinessand initial postsecondary success.< >Increasing college persistence and degree completion rates is a shared responsibility across the K–12 andpostsecondary education systems. Factors at both levels influence a student’s likelihood of postsecondary success,whether in two- or four-year colleges, career and technical centers, or targeted workforce training programs.A student’s success in college-level courses is heavily influenced by the academic rigor of his or her high schoolcurriculum, and college instructors have repeatedly raised concerns about the level of academic readiness of highschool graduates. ACT’s latest National Curriculum Survey demonstrates a stark and persistent gap betweenhigh school teachers’ generally positive perceptions of their students’ readiness for college-level work andcollege instructors’ generally negative perceptions of the readiness of their entering students. 6 Specifically, thevast majority of high school teachers surveyed reported that, after leaving their course, their students were “well”or “very well” prepared for college-level work in the content area covered by that course. In contrast, only aboutone-fourth of the college instructors surveyed reported that their incoming students were “well” or “very well”prepared for credit-bearing first-year courses in their content area. 7ACT offers the following recommendations as examples of what K–12 and postsecondary education systems cando independently and collectively to improve students’ academic success in the first year of college and beyond.3
ipudio al militarismo, in sintonia con il comandamento:”non uccidere”ed in contrasto con quellotipico delle alte gerarchie militari che hanno diretto “da lontano” le due guerre mondiali.il nuovo ruolo dell’Europa;La considerazione dell’art. 11 della Costituzione Italiana il quale recita “L’Italia ripudia laguerra…” dove il termine ripudio non è casuale, fa notare il relatore, poiché esso sancisce larottura di un vincolo, in precedenza riconosciuto come valore.La consapevolezza di un nuovo modo di fare le guerre e le tecnologie caratterizzanti le due guerremondiali, l’ultima delle quali conclusasi con le bombe atomiche sulle città giapponesi.Il relatore si sofferma, ora, a considerare l”eticità”della guerra: può essere la guerra giusta? Ilrelatore sostiene che, anche su questo punto argomento, sia necessario avere rispetto per coloroche non la pensano come noi. Egli parla di guerra di difesa in caso d’attacco da parte d’altri paesi(come storicamente è avvenuto).Passa quindi a considerare il nuovo scenario internazionaleall’indomani del crollo del comunismo (con la caduta del muro di Berlino, infatti, tale crollo vienein qualche modo sancito). Ora non vi sono più le due “vecchie “super-potenze, America e Russiache si affrontano, ma, verosimilmente, sono America e Cina, accompagnate da un fenomenosempre più preoccupante: il terrorismo internazionale. Egli riprende una frase già nota: “Il silenziodella ragione produce mostri”A questo punto il nostro relatore introduce un ulteriore elemento di riflessione: parla del”metodo”inteso come strumento d’approccio all’analisi storica. Si pone, infatti, la domanda se sono le grandipersonalità oppure le masse ad incidere sul corso storico. Sono, in altri termini, gli uomini e ledonne appartenenti ai ceti popolari a fare “resistenza”nei confronti delle classi dominanti: ciò alloscopo di ottenere giustizia sociale e diritti.? Il relatore osserva Inoltre che l’esigenza di pace egiustizia, intesi come valori universali, sono più desiderati proprio quando essi sono assenti. Essisono, inoltre, maggiormente sentiti da coloro che hanno avuto esperienza dei loro opposti. Ilrelatore continua ponendo anche il”caso” com’elemento di variabile storica.: cita, come esempio, ilcaso, del fallito attentato a Hitler, fallito, forse, appunto, solo per caso.Riprende, ora, il ragionamento rispetto al giudizio storico, riferendo che, attualmente, staemergendo un atteggiamento di “anti/antifascismo”. Antifascismo come patrimonio storicoappartenente, di diritto, a quel popolo italiano, dotato di particolare passione democratica e didesiderio di libertà. Libertà, parola nobile, dunque; essa ha connotato storicamente icomportamenti di molti uomini e di movimentiIl relatore cita il liberale Benedetto Croce e gli appartenenti a “Giustizia e Libertà” ed altri ancora iquali si sono distinti per l’affermazione di questo valore, sia pure con sfumature e situazioni tra diloro differenti. La parola libertà ha assunto anche altre variabili, per esempio, liberismo ed altro.pag.8 di 15
Adopt Holistic Approaches to Increasing Postsecondary Completion3ADOPT HOLISTIC APPROACHESTO INCREASING POSTSECONDARY COMPLETIONSupport the linking and scaling-up of interventions and policiesthat are effective at improving students’ advancement acrossthe K–career continuum.PSESince the early 1980s, ACT’s What Works in Student Retention? series has highlighted several institutional strategiesemployed by colleges and universities that have been observed to improve student retention to the second year ofcollege. Over the years, the series has endorsed the expansion of tutoring programs, mandatory course placement,early warning systems, and enhanced first-year student orientation, to name a few. 35 The underlying conclusion ofthis research, however, is that postsecondary institutions succeed in improving student retention not by focusingon a single “silver bullet,” but by implementing more holistic solutions that combine a range of supports to increasestudents’ rates of success.Research-based insights and effective data exchange across sectors can further guide and inform policymakersand practitioners, enabling them to make decisions that better support individuals along the K–career continuum.Such interaction can be particularly beneficial when it comes to improving student transitions, persistence anddegree completion, and institutional practices.9
POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION1 st RECOMMENDATION 2 nd RECOMMENDATIONPROMOTE RESEARCH AND LINK EFFECTIVEINTERVENTIONS: Expand existing fundingmechanisms—such as a repurposed Fund for Improvementin Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant program—tosupport efforts to scale up interventions proven to increasepostsecondary persistence and completion.The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), as part of theDepartment of Education, funds new and innovativeeducation research from conceptual planning to thescaling-up of rigorously evaluated practices and policies.Expanding research and identifying effective interventionsin postsecondary education, and then linking promisingfindings to other projects and findings across the educationalcontinuum, can lead to better programs for students.For example, lessons learned from successful high schooldropout prevention programs could be used in combination withresearch findings from college orientation programs in waysthat may lead to better retention of first-year college students.Likewise, a summer bridge program for low-income studentscould be supplemented with an innovative method, identified viaan IES-funded project, for delivering need-based financial aid.ENGAGE EXPERTS ACROSS FEDERALAGENCIES: Establish a review panel of experts familiarwith K–12, postsecondary, and workforce-related researchprojects across the various federal departments and agenciesto make recommendations for linking large-scale initiativesin innovative and effective ways.The federal government’s commitment to supporting researchand applying relevant findings is clear. The rigorous and wellrespectedwork of the IES helps identify programs and policies,but it is only one piece of the entire federal education researchenterprise. 36 Other departments and agencies outside of theDepartment of Education, such as the Department of Healthand Human Services, the National Science Foundation, andthe Census Bureau, are engaged in research and developmentactivities but often do so in isolation, which can lead to missedopportunities for focus and funding.Greater interagency coordination is needed to reduce thisfragmentation and the potential inefficiencies it creates. Asone example, chairs from different research grant programscould serve on an interagency research grant program panelto identify already-funded projects that can be linked in orderto more holistically and systematically improve studentachievement and progress from the early grades throughcollege and into the labor market. As another, two or moreteams working on related research projects could share data orcollaborate to examine longer-term effects.10
Adopt Holistic Approaches to Increasing Postsecondary CompletionExpanding research and identifyingeffective interventions in postsecondaryeducation, and then linking promisingfindings to other projects and findingsacross the educational continuum, canlead to better programs for students.Other departments and agenciesoutside of the Department ofEducation are engaged in research anddevelopment activities but often do soin isolation, which can lead to missedopportunities for focus and funding.11
POSTSECONDARY EDUCATIONThe recommendations offeredin this platform will helpestablish a frameworkthat improves students’ experiencenavigating the postsecondary portionof the continuum.