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President to President

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President to President
Molly Corbett Broad's weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders.

President to President: Higher Education Leaders Call for Bold Action on Attainment

Vol. 14, No. 3

  • ​President Obama Inaugurated for Second Term
  • Higher Education Leaders Call for Bold Action on Attainment
  • House Extends Debt Ceiling Through May 18
  • WEBINAR: Health Care Reform: Next Steps and Issues for Colleges and Universities

As you all know, the early part of the week in Washington was dominated by President Obama's ceremonial second inauguration on Monday (he was officially sworn in on Sunday, Jan. 20, as required by the Constitution). The president touched on one issue of interest to colleges and universities in his inaugural address: the importance of finding a permanent solution for young people in this country illegally (the so-called DREAM students). However, as this administration made higher education a cornerstone of his first term, we expect to hear more about the DREAM Act as well as other issues throughout his second term. Kevin Carey speculates in The Chronicle of Higher Education on what the president needs to do to make higher education central to his legacy—the brief piece is worth a read.

I want to alert you to an important new report released yesterday by the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment—a panel comprised of college and university presidents—urging higher education leaders to make retention and completion a top priority in order to better serve the needs of our changing student population.

The report provides a blueprint for a campus-level college completion campaign designed to prevent students from falling by the wayside as they pursue a degree. The commission focuses on three main areas for reform: changing the campus culture, improving cost-effectiveness and quality and making better use of data. Also included are possible strategies to advance the goal of increased attainment, including assigning responsibility to specific senior administrators for improving retention and graduation rates; considering expanded use of assessments that measure learning acquired outside the traditional classroom; improving remedial services; pinpointing weaknesses in preparation; and harnessing information technology to identify at-risk students.

My deepest appreciation to Gordon Gee, chair of the commission and president of The Ohio State University, and his vice chairs: Andrew K. Benton, president of Pepperdine University (CA); Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College (NY); and George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College (NJ). The entire commission worked unstintingly to research and come to a consensus on what is needed for students, campuses and the nation as a whole in this critical area. Thanks also to Gordon for tirelessly helping me make the rounds this week to talk to the media about the report. You can see a sampling of the results of those efforts here, here and here.

On a related note, ACE last week released the Manifesto for College Leaders, authored by Louis Soares, which says the needs of adult learners, a national innovation economy and an information-driven democracy can combine to produce a "new era of innovation in higher education." He offers some intriguing ideas about the role innovation might play as higher education leaders continue to address the pressing issue of post-traditional learners and attainment.

In budget news this week, the House on Wednesday voted to suspend the debt ceiling until May 18 by approving a bill that threatens to withhold lawmakers' pay until that work is done.

The House approved the No Budget, No Pay Act in a 285-144 vote. The bill suspends the debt ceiling until May 18, and requires both the House and Senate to pass a budget by April 15 or have its members face a suspension of pay (as you might remember, the Senate has not passed a budget in nearly four years). Republicans are hoping the bill gives Congress a few months to find a longer-term debt ceiling agreement that includes significant spending cuts.

This leaves sequestration—our biggest concern—as the next big budget fight. The fiscal cliff measure signed by the president earlier in the month simply postponed these cuts until March 1. More on this debate in the coming weeks.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last June, the amount of ACA-related federal regulations and guidance has greatly increased as Jan. 1, 2014 (the date the law's most significant provisions take effect) draws closer.

In order to comply with these new mandates, institutions should be planning, making decisions and taking action now. The National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA), in cooperation with ACE, has scheduled a webinar for Jan. 30 from noon-2:00 p.m. ET, to help you with the planning process. Speakers include Steven Bloom, ACE director of government relations; Harvey Cotton, principal in the Boston office of Ropes and Gray, LLP; and Tara Sciscoe, a partner at Ice Miller, a law firm with offices in Indiana, Washington, DC and Chicago.

For more information and to register, see the NACUA website.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE