The Association of Former Students
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Welcome to all of you who have recently joined our ranks. There has been a surge in interest in our Advocacy program, and thanks to those who have have helped recruit Advocates.
In this news update, you will find a series of articles regarding higher education issues at either the federal level or those that analyze nation-wide trends. The first article deals with Pell Grants - a subsidy the U.S. federal government provides for students who need it to help pay for college. The second article covers the "disconnect" between reduced funding for higher education and the emphasis on recruiting and graduating more students on an annual basis. Additional articles include a proposed federal legislation known as the College Transparency Act, and an opinion piece on the potential higher education implications of the retirement of Justice Kennedy from the Supreme Court. We concluded this news update with recommendations about how to address the negative perceptions of higher education and an article recommending increased investment in education and workforce talent.
While some articles may reflect opinion pieces, we hope that you will find all of the material informative, reasoned, and useful. The Advocacy program provides these articles to share a broad context on the issues and not as an endorsement for any particular view.
Thanks and gig ’em,
Dave Fujimoto ’17
Director of Strategic Engagement

Higher Education - Federal

The Pell Divide: How Four-Year Institutions are Failing to Graduate Low- and Moderate-Income Students

"Since 1972, the Pell Grant has served as the primary tool for increasing access to higher education for low- and moderate-income students. That’s why the federal government continues to spend nearly $30 billion dollars on this important program each year. But despite this large taxpayer investment, there has been almost no publicly available information on how well institutions serve Pell students. This is in large part because the Department of Education has not previously required institutions to report the outcomes for this critical student population."
Continue reading here.  

American Higher Education Hits a Dangerous Milestone

"As younger generations become more racially diverse, many states are allocating fewer tax dollars to public colleges and universities. Drawing almost no attention, the nation crossed an ominous milestone last year that threatens more economic polarization and social division: For the first time, public colleges and universities in most states received most of their revenue from tuition rather than government appropriations.
"This historic shift away from tax dollars funding the bulk of public higher education comes precisely as the nation’s youth population is crossing a succession of milestones to become more racially diverse than ever. As statisticians would say, it’s an open question whether these twin trends represent an example of causation or just correlation. But whether resources are shrinking because diversity is growing, or the two trends are proceeding independently, their convergence is still a dangerous development—not only for higher education, but also for the nation’s economic future."
Continue reading in The Atlantic here

College Transparency Act Builds Momentum

"Senator John Cornyn [in late June] quietly signed on to a bill that would overturn the ban on a federal postsecondary student-level data system.
"Advocates for the College Transparency Act say the Texas Republican’s support doesn’t just mean one more co-sponsor for the legislation. The decision by Cornyn, the second-ranking GOP senator, also suggests the kind of bipartisan support that could make stronger federal data inevitable. The legislation was introduced a year ago with backing from a number of public higher education organizations and since then has continued to add Republican and Democratic co-sponsors."
Read more about the College Transparency Act here.  

Higher Education - Judicial

What Does Justice Kennedy's Retirement Mean for Higher Education? 

"Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s announcement that he planned to retire this summer from the U.S. Supreme Court set off legal and political shockwaves [last week] in the nation’s capital. The open seat will give President Trump an opportunity to appoint the second justice of his term and set the court on a more conservative footing for, possibly, decades.
"But lawyers and legal scholars have mixed opinions on how much Kennedy’s departure could affect higher education. Early indicators from the court point to a willingness to overturn previous rulings.... (and) Kennedy was a key vote in three relatively recent rulings on higher-education issues."
Continue reading in the Chronicle of Higher Education here.

Opinions on Higher Education 

Can Higher Ed Change America's Negative View?

"Several national polls make it clear that the public and policy makers are not happy with higher education institutions. Much of the discontent is coming from forces beyond higher education’s control, but colleges and universities are not helpless. I see three primary reasons for their fall from grace that they can and must work harder to address."
Continue reading for further analysis from Inside Higher Ed.

The Time to Begin Building Tomorrow's Workforce is Now

For the first time since the Great Recession of the late 2000s, the fiscal position of the states is looking bright. The economy is growing more rapidly than anytime over the last decade, causing state revenues to rebound, and many states will see additional revenues as a result of last year's federal tax overhaul.
"But if there is one thing I've learned as an economist who led the National Governors Association for decades, it's that budgeting in good economic times can be much more difficult than in bad times. The competition for any surplus revenues is always going to be intense. Meanwhile, however, most economic forecasters are warning that the next recession could be far worse than the one that decimated state budgets a decade ago. That's why it's critical to seize this opportunity and invest the current surpluses in education and workforce talent. Otherwise, we will spend years struggling to recover from the next economic downturn. Here are six takeaways from state leaders..." 
Continue reading in the article here

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