Defining and Analyzing the Issues
Diagnostic Questions
Compiling the Basic Data
Data Analyses
Creating a Policy Environment for Change
Formulating a Public Agenda
The Higher Education Policy Environment
The Capacity Audit
The Policy Audit
Policy Formulation
Alignment of Policy Tools: Two Examples
No Single Answer
Appendix: Examples of the Presentation of State Data
About the Authors
About the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

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Alignment Of Policy Tools: Two Examples

In order to reach the state's priorities for higher education, it is usually not sufficient to create a policy initiative. Rather, it is necessary to develop a coherent strategy involving an integrated set of policies aligned so that they address a broad array of related topics in the context of overall objectives. The following illustrations regarding the preparation and participation categories in Measuring Up 2000 may be useful.

Example 1: Improving Preparation

If the objective is to improve student preparation for higher education-along the dimensions identified in Measuring Up 2000-the following elements might be considered as components of an overall strategy for improving state policy.

  1. Use the bully pulpit. It is not enough for policy leaders to identify "preparation" as a major agenda item. They must also use their positions to reinforce-to educators, business and political leaders, and the general public-why preparation is important in the context of higher education and in relation to opportunity in general. Of course, the key issues must be expressed in terms to which audiences can relate.
  2. Establish expectations. Policy leaders can establish the levels of performance to be attained, as well as timelines for reaching these performance goals. They can also outline steps to build consensus around these specific objectives.
  3. Structure. Venues can be created for faculty to meet from across educational sectors (K-12 and higher education) to reach a common understanding of the meaning of "high expectations." What should students know and be able to do in order to fully prepare for college? The objective should be to create a mechanism such as a work group or task force-rather than a new structure-to serve as the neutral convener for conversations that would be difficult for any one of the participants to initiate.
  4. Finance. There are many fiscal levers that can be applied in pursuit of better performance in preparing students for college-level programs. A sampling includes:
    • Paying students' costs of taking college entrance and Advanced Placement exams, removing the economic barriers for students who cannot afford these expenses.
    • Allowing both secondary and postsecondary institutions to count enrollments for high school students enrolled in college courses (dual enrollment courses).
    • Rewarding students who complete one or more years of postsecondary education before they leave high school (for example, by providing one or more years of free tuition at a state college or university).
  5. Regulation. While regulation is not always the most effective tool, there are instances where mandates can be useful. For example:
    • Requiring all high school seniors to enroll for full academic loads.
    • Requiring academic assessments of all students.
    • Requiring that courses be taught by teachers who are certified in the field (a mandate which also has major fiscal implications for teacher education programs and other postsecondary institutional functions).
  6. Accountability. State leaders can require that assessments be performed and, where appropriate, nationally normed so that comparative results can be obtained.

Certainly not all of these policy tools would be employed in any one circumstance. However, a well developed strategy will require simultaneous application of several of these tools.

Example 2: Improving Participation

In relation to the participation category in Measuring Up 2000, the generic policy tools are substantially the same as for preparation, but many of the specifics are different. The following elements of a comprehensive strategy might be considered-again, purely as illustrations.

  1. Use the bully pulpit. As with preparation, it is important to explain why participation in higher education is important to enhancing opportunity for state residents. But it may be more effective if employers rather than political leaders deliver this message, especially if they back it up with action (for instance, by requiring postsecondary-level skills as a condition of employment and/or promotion, and by providing for professional development as a normal part of work assignments).
  2. Structure. The reality is that most students attend college close to home. This is especially true for working adults, a group that will become a larger part of the postsecondary education market. This calls for an educational system that offers college-level programs where students are, rather than making them travel long distances to take courses. This approach can be accomplished in several ways, such as by offering courses electronically, by providing baccalaureate programs on community college campuses, or by selectively subsidizing access to private institutions that are located in underserved areas of the state.
  3. Finance. The notions of participation and affordability are closely and frequently linked. As a result, fiscal elements associated with improved participation often focus on student financial aid mechanisms such as:
    • Offering need-based aid that removes economic barriers to participation by low-income students.
    • Allowing part-time students to be eligible for student financial aid.
        But there are other less frequently used elements that should be used more often:
        • Creating incentives for institutions to collaborate in delivering instruction at each other's sites.
        • Financing the installation of a telecommunications network in the state.
        • Funding learning centers whose students can gain access to student services from multiple institutions.
      • Regulation. As noted previously, regulation tends to be a blunt instrument that should be used selectively. However, there are occasions when it can be used to good effect in improving and removing barriers to participation. For example:
        • Increasing access by capping tuition and fees charged for distance-delivered courses (at or below on-campus levels, for instance).
        • Requiring state agencies-or public agencies that receive state funds-to promote/attain higher levels of educational attainment among their workforces (especially those agencies with relatively lower average educational attainments).
        • Accountability. The objective in this area is to ensure the availability of information, so that answers to the following questions can be obtained:
          • Are the gaps in participation rates decreasing for recent high school graduates who have different economic circumstances, who have different demographic characteristics, and who live in different parts of the state?
          • Are part-time participation rates among adults increasing and becoming more equalized across the state?



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