How Colleges Can Avoid the Dreaded Data Dump

 

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Aired July 28, 2022

Colleges have plenty of data but what does that data mean when it comes to improving completion rates, access, and equity? Mamie Voight, president and CEO of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), joins the podcast and talks with Jon Fansmith and Sarah Spreitzer about IHEP’s work on Capitol Hill in support of students, including through the College Transparency Act, and offers suggestions for colleges looking to avoid the dreaded “data dump.” Before that, Jon and Sarah discuss how Congress is wrapping things up before their summer break.


Here are some of the links and references from this week’s show:

Introd​uc​tion

Senate Passes Bill to Subsidize U.S.-Made Semiconductor Chips
The Washington Post | July 27, 2022

Bill Aimed at Lowering Medicare Drug Prices Faces Next Test in the Senate
CNN | July 21, 2022

Student Loan Servicers Told to Hold Off on Sending Billing Statements
The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) | July 25, 2022

Conversation with Mamie Voight

Institute for Higher Education Policy

College Scorecard
U.S. Department of Education​

Three Metrics I Didn't Have During My College Search, But I'm Glad Students Now Do
Data at Work (IHEP Blog)

Research Center
National Student Clearinghouse

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System
National Center for Education Statistics

House Approves College Transparency Act
Inside Higher Ed | February 7, 2022

Value Data Collaborative
Institute for Higher Education Policy

Shifting Focus from Access to Completion
Inside Higher Ed | May 3, 2021

Postsecondary Value Commission—Reports

Postsecondary Value Commission—Equitable Value Explorer tool

One Year In, Momentum Builds from the Postsecondary Value Commission's work
Higher Ed Dive | May 12, 2022

The 101 on the College Completion Fund

College Completion Fund

May 2022 Report from Degrees When Due
​Institute for Higher Education Policy​

Transcript

 Read this episode's transcript

Jon Fansmith: Hello and welcome to dotEDU, the higher education policy podcast from the American Council of Education. I'm your host, Jon Fansmith, with ACE's Government Relations team, and a little bit later in this episode, we're going to be joined by Mamie Voight, who is the CEO and president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, but before we get to Mamie, I am joined by my amazing co-host, Sarah Spreitzer. Sarah, how are you doing today?

Sarah Spreitzer: Good, Jon, just running back and forth to various meetings. It seems like a lot of groups are having their Hill days or at least doing fly-in days right now. We seem to be back into in-person meetings and obviously Congress is getting ready to wrap everything up before the August recess, so just a really busy time.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, all these groups are coming in trying to catch their members of Congress before they leave Washington, which is happening very soon. The House is out at the end of this week; the Senate's out at the end of the next week; and they're gone for four weeks, five weeks, all of August basically, right?

Sarah Spreitzer: Yep.

Jon Fansmith: And so what are they trying to do? Are they doing anything or are they just booking vacation plans at this point?

Sarah Spreitzer: Well, I know in the Senate at least they have a big to-do list and they have a little more time, but a lot of it is dependent on whether or not the House will try and move stuff before they get out of town.

The biggest thing right now on my radar is the CHIPS+ or the CHIPS+ Science bill. I think it actually passed the Senate this morning. I haven't had a chance to look at my email, but this is the skinny version of the US Innovation and Competition Act and the biggest thing is it has $52 billion in funding and subsidies for the semiconductor industry.

I think on the floor, there were a lot of senators talking about it being a $280 billion bill because some of the science provisions that were on there. I know I see your face, but obviously those are authorization dollars. It's made up money. It's just goals for Congress to try and hit as far as funding levels go and so as part of the CHIPS+ Science, there's a nice reauthorization in there for the National Science Foundation. A lot of money for the new innovation directorate or a lot of authorization money for the new innovation directorate at NSF. 

And we've spent a lot of time talking about research security provisions in the USICA bill, the ones that were related to the Department of Education that had to do with Section 117 foreign gift reporting and the new Section 124 were stripped out of this skinny bill. And Senator Schumer has said that they will revisit that in the fall, but there are some security provisions still in the NSF section, including a ban on NSF-funded researchers taking money for malign foreign talent recruitment programs. Those are those talent recruitment programs where a scientist would kind of have a shadow lab in China or would be performing similar research to the research that they were performing for the US research agency. Congress is trying to put a stop to that.

And then also on foreign gifts and contracts, there's a provision in there that would require institutions that receive NSF funding to submit summaries to the NSF director for foreign gifts or contracts over $50,000 to that institution. So not exactly Section 117, but really trying to get at some of those transparency issues. Senator Schumer wanted this bill passed before recess. We have one day left in the House.

Jon Fansmith: One day.

Sarah Spreitzer: I'm not really sure.

Jon Fansmith: Well, one day till they leave town. Technically they're in Friday, right? But they all leave Thursday.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, so I know Senator Schumer is considering it a victory to get it out of the Senate. I don't believe that the House is going to have enough time to do this, but I'm not going to say never where Senator Schumer is involved.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah and one other thing that did get stripped out of that we will be talking to Mamie Voight about a little bit later is the College Transparency Act and the short-term Pell provisions that were other parts of that bill that do not look like they'll make it to the finish line in this process. What about your and my favorite bill in the world, NDAA? Where does that stand?

Sarah Spreitzer: Well, interesting you should bring that up, Jon, because there's a lot of discussion about the provisions that got stripped out of USICA: could they be added to the NDAA? This is the National Defense Authorization Act, which is a must-pass bill, and it is usually the last train out of town. And Senator Portman has an amendment that he really really wanted included in the skinny CHIPS bill called the Safeguarding American Innovation Act that has to do with establishing a federal research council to look at these security concerns, would grant some authority to the Secretary of State to deny visas if they believe that the visa applicants were going to have access to sensitive technologies. That did not make it into this package and so the discussion with Leader Schumer has been whether or not Portman can attach it to the NDAA. And I think same with Section 117 and 124, we've seen those considered as amendments to the NDAA in previous years, so I'll be watching that closely in the fall to see if any of those provisions they try and attach to it.

Jon Fansmith: Thanks, and in terms of the things I'm following, a little bit quieter, but probably the biggest thing is the reconciliation bill.

Sarah Spreitzer: Oh yeah, what's happening with that. That's supposed to be done this week too, right?

Jon Fansmith: That is supposed to be done this week. This is sort of the sad tail end, the finale of what started as a Build Back Better $3 trillion plus investment across multiple sectors of the American economy, including huge investments in higher education. And the process has wound through and wound down primarily tied to what Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has decided he would or would not be willing to accept, and we appear to have reached end game. I feel like we've said this before, we appear to have reached the end game.

Senator Manchin has a bill that from $3 trillion is dwindled down to two basic provisions. One that would allow the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over the prices of drugs that are provided through federal insurance programs and Medicare particularly and using the money saved by allowing the government to do that to pay for Affordable Care Act subsidies to insurers that are set to expire towards the end of this year. And were those who expire, a lot of people who are insured through the health insurance marketplace that the Affordable Care Act set up would start to see their premiums jump up significantly.

So this was a big political priority for Democrats to get that addressed. It's probably why we're seeing just those items left in this bill. They only have until the end of September to do reconciliation, so that's part of the urgency with them being gone for all of August. They want to wrap this up. It does look to be on rails at this point, that this will be finished. Timing, as you pointed out, will be a little tougher. The Senate has more time, but they'll still need the House to pass it. So we'll wait and see, maybe it'll wait until after the break. Obviously, let's get it done now, but we'll keep people posted.

Sarah Spreitzer: And do you want to take a bet on this podcast about whether or not student loan forgiveness is announced during August as we're on break?

Jon Fansmith: Didn't I already make a bet with Mushtaq about that, that I believe I've already lost? Can I double down? Can I do double or nothing?

Sarah Spreitzer: Sure. So loan payments are supposed to restart August 31st and this is the one thing that could derail all of our vacation plans, right? Is giant student loan forgiveness to be announced in August, what's going to happen?

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, well that's a really good point. So the repayment pause is set to end August 31st, as you pointed out. It seems almost certain that they will give another extension to that. That would be the eighth extension since this started in March of 2020. No guarantees, obviously, but at this point, the loan servicers have been told they haven't been given any information about restarting and in fact have been told not to reach out to borrowers about resuming repayment, which, given that that deadline's about a month away, is a pretty clear indicator that there will be another extension of that.

There had long been some thought that when the Department made the announcement or the administration made the announcement about extending the pause again that they would pair it with an announcement on forgiveness. And in fact, we've heard a lot of rumors that the calculation about whether to do broad-based forgiveness, the $10,000 for people earning $125,000 or less, which is what the administration appears to be considering, would be tied to that resumption of repayment in part because of concerns about the possible inflationary impact of forgiving a large amount of student debt, $300 billion or so.

Still not clear exactly where the administration is landed on. They are getting pretty heated advice and advocacy on both sides of this issue, but yeah, as you pointed out, that could be the thing that blows up August because this could be a very big announcement with very big ramifications. It will certainly suck up all the oxygen in the higher ed space if such an announcement is made, which will mean whatever we're doing, Sarah, we'll have to divert back to working on that.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah and I am out of the office on August 31st, just to put that on your calendar, Jon. I think the bigger thing for us is Congress' reaction to whatever happens with loan forgiveness because we know Republicans are already kind of starting to message that they don't believe that the Department has the authority to do this and then they are looking to gain seats in the midterms and then what does that look like for the next Congress? So we're going to have a lot to talk about after our break.

Jon Fansmith: We will and that's a really helpful point, Sarah, because we are going to be taking a break, much like Congress, through the month of August. We'll be resuming in early September. I think people should keep tuned for that and we'll certainly be sending an announcement about when the next podcast is coming. But before we get to our break, we have a great conversation with Mamie Voight coming up right after this break, and please stay tuned with us. I think you'll really enjoy it.

And we are back. As we mentioned at the top of the episode, we are joined by Mamie Voight, who is the president and CEO of the  Institute for Higher Education Policy. Mamie, welcome to our podcast.

Mamie Voight: Great to be here, Jon, nice to see you.

Jon Fansmith: It's great to have you on, and while IHEP, as we like to refer to it, is very widely known here in Washington, DC and I'm sure across the country, on the off chance that some of our listeners aren't familiar with your organization, would you like to just give a little bit of background about what IHEP is and what you do there?

Mamie Voight: Absolutely. So IHEP is the Institute for Higher Education Policy and we are a nonprofit, nonpartisan research policy and advocacy organization. We're based in Washington, DC and we work towards our vision of a world in which all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, background, or circumstance have the opportunity to reach their full potential through access to higher education. We really pride ourselves in being student-centric in our work, in being really data-informed in all of our efforts, and in being equity-focused so that those equity concepts are really at the core of all of the research and policy and advocacy work that we do so that we can work to promote that pathway towards better living and a better life through higher education.

Jon Fansmith: It's such a great organization and not just in terms of the team you have there, but there's so many people across Washington in different positions who started at IHEP, worked at IHEP that are really kind of leading lights in this higher education policy discussion. So an organization we're very happy to have you on and have the opportunity to speak. And sorry, Sarah, I totally cut you off.

Sarah Spreitzer: No, sorry, I'm just excited to have Mamie on the podcast and to talk to her about what IHEP is working on. You talked about data-driven policy decisions and one of the things we find in the policy world is there's a lot of data already out there, right? We have the College Scorecard, we have a lot of data just floating around there. I know Jon is always pulling data on things like "How is this going to impact a bill that's being proposed?" What are we actually missing? What does IHEP do to fill the gaps in?

Mamie Voight: Yeah, that's a great point, Sarah, and this is something that comes up a lot in our conversations, especially as we're advocating for higher quality data and more transparency in higher education. So we actually do have a lot of data in our postsecondary sphere, but we don't have as much information. So we are data rich, but information poor within higher education. And what I mean by that is that we have a number of these disparate data sources that are not connected to each other that are not designed in a way that actually allow us to answer critical questions about college access and affordability and success and outcomes. So students don't have access to the information they need to make good decisions, [olicymakers don't have access to the data they need to design evidence-based policies and then institutions, all of your members, don't have the quality information they need to really be informing their policies and practices on campus as well.

And just to give a couple examples of some of the really tangible data that we're missing within our current system, we often cite the reliance on the first-time full-time graduation rate, so the fact that the most often used graduation rate is limited to less than half of today's collegegoers, students who attend first-time, full-time and that's a huge limitation to be missing the completion rates for the other half of the student body.

Now for those who are really engaged in IPEDs and all of the data conversations, they'll say "But wait a minute, we also have these outcome measures," which were recently added as an improvement to our data collection to be able to measure just what I was saying, those outcomes for part-time and transfer students. The challenge is though, those data, the new part-time and transfer outcome measures, don't allow us to disaggregate by race, ethnicity, by gender to really interrogate the inequities within our higher education system in the same way that first-time full-time graduation rate does. So even just with that one simple example, you can see how we have a variety of different data points, but they don't come together in a way that allow us to answer the questions that we really need to be able to answer to design good policies.

Sarah Spreitzer: And I'm curious, how does that impact populations like veterans, students returning with VA benefits because obviously the Department of Ed and the VA are very separate. Does IHEP look at those types of populations?

Mamie Voight: Absolutely. So with our focus on students who've traditionally been underserved by higher education, we focus on a number of students who have been marginalized by our higher education system and making sure that they have these opportunities for mobility. That includes veterans, that includes students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, first-generation collegegoers, students who are impacted by the criminal justice system, and a whole host of other students. In working with a number of these other student groups and these other constituencies, we recognize how they recognize how important it is to have quality data that is counting all students and counting all outcomes so that we really have representative information.

You mentioned veterans in particular, and that is a challenge for one of our other missing data points. The College Scorecard has information on earnings for students after college. And that's been a huge improvement to our data system to be able to have that data on the College Scorecard. However, the Department of Education, while they've done everything they can with the data they have access to, they don't have sufficient access to data to answer those questions really robustly and so the earnings data that are available through the Scorecard are leaving out about 30% of all college students and those are college students who don't receive Title IV financial aid benefits. So a veteran student who uses their GI benefits but does not access a Pell grant or a student loan, they actually wouldn't be counted in those calculations for how students are faring on the job market after college. And veteran students, many returning adult students in particular, those earnings outcomes are a critical component of their collegegoing decisions because the students are going to college to achieve that type of economic mobility and the limitations in our data systems are simply leaving those students out of the equation.

Jon Fansmith: Mamie, first of all, I love the point about we have a lot of data, but we don't have a lot of information. I totally intend to steal that because I think that's such a great way to frame this discussion. You just mentioned the fact that the Department has the College Scorecard. It is I think a very valuable tool, I think most people recognize that, with this likelihood of completion, possible outcomes, the information it can provide to students, but you also mentioned about a third of the students aren't captured by that data. And that's because currently there is a prohibition on the Department of Education collecting individual student-level data. I know IHEP, ACE also supports this legislation, has been working for a long time on the College Transparency Act. For people who may not be familiar with this bill, can you give a little bit of background on what the College Transparency Act is and how it addresses that problem you just identified?

Mamie Voight: Absolutely and that's what is so exciting right now. We're at this exciting moment where there is this solution on the table to all the challenges that I just laid out about our data systems, and it is the College Transparency Act or CTA. And this is a piece of legislation under consideration in Congress. It's bipartisan, bicameral, and essentially what it would do is create a student-level data network that uses existing data that institutions and the federal government hold and match those data to be able to turn data into information and answer questions so that students have the information that they need to make really critical decisions about where to go to college and what to study and how to pay for it and so that policymakers and institutions have the data and information that they need to make good decisions.

Like you mentioned, right now, there's a statutory ban on developing this type of data system or data network, and the College Transparency Act would overturn that ban, which is now outdated, and implement that type of system within the National Center for Education Statistics or NCES, and it would create this system that could then answer all of those questions that we have been talking about today.

Jon Fansmith: One of the things about the design, I should be clear, actually, not the design of the system, but the way the bill is drafted is there is a lot of flexibility within it that allows the Department, I think, to adjust and adapt as circumstances changes. I know you've worked a lot on the bill, can you just talk a little bit more about maybe what the structure and vision of it is and how it gets at the data in a way that's useful, not just to policy makers or to institutions, but to the students themselves.

Mamie Voight: Sure. Yeah, so it would both replicate the data that we currently have in IPEDS, so those graduation rates and outcome measures that I was talking about earlier, and make it possible to produce these outcome metrics on things like how much students earn after college, students' chances of graduating, the demographics of the student body at each institution and at each program, what a student will need to pay and then what their returns will be depending on what they study at a particular institution. So we'll answer these very particular questions and, importantly, do it in a way that allows us to interrogate inequities within our system. So all the data on outcomes will be disaggregated by race, by income, by gender, by veteran status, by a number of key characteristics to be able to answer those questions.

Now, all this data matching will happen within the National Center for Education Statistics, but then the data will be aggregated up to produce information about individual institutions and individual programs within institutions, and that information, that aggregate information, is what will be communicated to the public, to students on web tools like the College Scorecard that really communicate clearly what students can expect from their investment in education. 

The bill is deeply supported by people on both sides of the aisle in the Senate and in the House and by the field more broadly. You mentioned ACE's support for it, a number of the higher ed associations support the legislation, and 160 organizations across the nation have signed on in support of CTA. These are organizations that represent students, veterans, institutions, the civil rights community, the business community, the US Chamber of Commerce is a huge supporter of the legislation. So it's broadly and deeply supported by folks from a variety of different constituencies because they recognize the value that this additional information could really provide to help our economic competitiveness as a nation and to provide students with the information that they really need.

Jon Fansmith: Thank you. I think that gave a really great rundown of it. It speaks to the importance of this information and the broad support, as we point out, bipartisan, bicameral, large national supporter organizations. So we should safely assume this bill will pass into law anytime now, right?

Mamie Voight: Well, Jonn, you know how Congress works, right?

Jon Fansmith: That was a bit of a joke. It was a joke.

Mamie Voight: Exactly.

Jon Fansmith: I swear, yeah.

Mamie Voight: Yeah. So I mean as we've been talking about, this is a deeply supported bill, and just to give you some stats on that, this bill has 36 cosponsors in the Senate and 74 cosponsors in the House. So very substantial support in this Congress and that's deeply bipartisan. This is a bill that is led in the Senate by Senators Cassidy, Warren, Scott, and Whitehouse, you can see across the political spectrum, and then in the House, it's led by Representatives Krishnamoorthi, Steel, Bonamici, Wilson, Sherill, and Stiver. So again, broad swath of the political spectrum there in terms of support. And actually, most recently, we saw in February that CTA passed the House. It passed the House as part of the America COMPETES Act, and this is because of the recognition of the importance of these quality data to really spur our economic competitiveness as a nation. Our postsecondary system is critical to that economic competitiveness and in order to design really deliberate policies, we need to have the right data to do so, and so that's why it was included in the America COMPETES Act.

Now, to your sort of facetious comment there and question, America COMPETES, the discussions have stalled a bit. And a lot of those conversations have now boiled the legislation down to a more narrow set of priorities, and CTA is at this moment, we hope that it will continue to be included because of this bipartisan support, but we haven't seen that legislation move across the finish line with CTA's inclusion yet.

The other challenge is that the Higher Education Act reauthorization is not underway at the moment and this would be a very clear topic of conversation and discussion and likely movement if we had those open HEA conversations at the moment, but they are not moving right now.

And so I think what's key to keep in mind as these conversations continue is that this would be a huge missed opportunity to not move this legislation forward. Something that has such deep support on both sides of the aisle at a time when it's so difficult to have bipartisan agreement on something. This is something that does and something that has deep support from the field with those 160 organizations signed on in support, and so we would be missing a huge opportunity to serve students and give students what they need by not getting this bill through Congress.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, and that's an excellent point. Obviously of course, I think we were disappointed to see, for a lot of reasons, what happened with the competition bills and how they've narrowed their focus, but also certainly the fact that it diminished the chances of CTA moving forward. So we'll obviously keep track of other opportunities to advance it, but it also raises something that, frankly, I learned about IHEP as I was preparing for this podcast that maybe you can tell me a little bit about this. It seems in some ways a response to the lack of progress we've gotten on data and that's the Value Data Collaborative that you've launched. First, correct me if I'm wrong, but it does sort of seem like a way to reach out and address some of those data gaps in a comprehensive way while we wait for the federal government to act the way certainly we would hope they would. But fill in our listeners a little bit more, and me as well, about what exactly the Value Data Collaborative is.

Mamie Voight: Sure. So you're right that even as we continue to really work for change at the federal level, states and institutions are eager to do everything they can with the data that they have access to and because they recognize the importance and the power of using data to inform their decision-making. And so just this summer, we at IHEP launched the Value Data Collaborative, and this is really part of a broader movement around delivering equitable value to students regardless of race, income, and gender, to ensure that all students do have that real opportunity for economic mobility. And as part of that equitable value movement, we have launched the VDC or the Value Data Collaborative. Through this work, we're working with three states, Arkansas, Indiana, and Kentucky, who will each be linking their education and workforce data together at the state level, so within their state boundaries, to assess the outcomes of postsecondary education within their state.

This is all building on the work of the postsecondary value commission, which brought together 30 experts in education and the workforce across the nation for about two years, Ted Mitchell was actually one of our commissioners on the value commission, and they came together to define postsecondary value, to design a measurement framework, to measure the value that institutions and programs provide to different students, and then to develop an action agenda to really spur change at the institution, state, and federal levels to deliver value more equitably.
And one of the things that came from that work was a deep interest in using data more effectively, more robustly to measure the outcomes of postsecondary education, and that's what this Value Data Collaborative will do with the first three states who are participating. And we do hope that Arkansas, Indiana, and Kentucky will be just the first three states and that we will have future cohorts of states or groups of institutions or systems who want to join in and do the same and really leverage and harness the power of their analytics against this framework, which is really equity-minded and focused on delivering outcomes to students who've traditionally been left behind by higher education and to use those data to really spur economic mobility for students.

Sarah Spreitzer: So Mamie, you talked about outcomes and economic mobility, and I think in postsecondary education, when we talk about outcomes, I think we usually like to say college completion, right? That's the goal, right? To get people into postsecondary education and then complete. So how will this project help those states or institutions address college completion?

Mamie Voight: Yeah, and this value conversation, it sort of represents an evolution in the conversations happening within higher education. Several decades ago, a lot of the higher ed conversations focused on access, getting students into college, and then we shifted, as you note, Sarah, the shift to college completion and focus on getting students through with a credential. And then we are now seeing this shift towards a focus on a credential of value and ensuring that students are getting a degree or certificate that is going to set them up for that economic mobility, for that success in the workforce.

That said, we haven't fixed all of the completion challenges yet. There is still quite a bit of work to do to advance college completion across the nation, and also that completion challenge and the completion initiative ties really closely to the value imperative as well.

One of the really interesting findings from the value commission's work—at that point, we partnered in the first phase of this work with the University of Texas system. And they were able to incorporate their data into this work and assess value across their institutions, and one thing that we found through that University of Texas partnership is that in their system, Black and Hispanic completers, so students who graduated, they earn 59% more and 81% more than their Black and Hispanic classmates who didn't complete. So there is a really strong economic imperative to completing that credential, not just enrolling, but completing.

The interesting aspect of this was that the white students within this analysis, they were far more insulated from the problems of non-completion. So many White students actually earned enough to earn more than what a high school graduate would've earned and recoup their investment in higher education five years after college even if they didn't complete their credential, but the same was not true for Black and Hispanic students. And what that tells us about completion is both that completion matters, it matters an incredible amount, and it especially matters for students of color in order for them to reap the value of higher education. And so we have to be doubling down on our commitment to supporting students into and through college and then into their careers.

And it's been great to see some focus from the federal government on completion as well with lots of discussions around the College Completion Fund. President Biden initially proposed $62 billion into a College Completion Fund as part of Build Back Better and we were thrilled to see that proposal because it would've been a transformative investment for higher education to really support students across the finish line. As you know, as things go through Congress, they get changed and adapted along the way, and so we now have a $5 million allocation that came through in the FY 22 omnibus appropriations bill. So not $62 billion, but $5 million is still something, it's a great start, and we're eager to see how institutions can really leverage this investment to help more students get across that finish line.

Jon Fansmith: And I think maybe there's some hope too that for the fiscal year 23, certainly the bill the House put out had a substantial increase for the College Completion Fund. Hopefully, we haven't seen the Senate's language yet, but hopefully room for some growth there too, funding-wise. Can you talk a little bit more about what some of the approaches that are envisioned that would be funded through the College Completion Fund, what that looks like and how they differ from traditional federal assistance to students?

Mamie Voight: Yes, agreed, and we also hope to see some stronger investment in this program in 2023 and in years to come. This program is very much based on supporting evidence-driven completion practices, so practices that have been shown in the field to have an impact on students and be able to really demonstrably enroll students and get them across that finish line to complete.

One initiative that we led at IHEP is called Degrees When Due, and Degrees When Due brought together 200 institutions to work to reengage students who stopped out of college with some college and no credentials. There are now 39 million students out there with some college, no degree, and all of those students still stand to benefit from higher education. So through Degrees When Due, institutions worked to identify these students who had attended their institutions previously and to reengage them with the college, bring them back to complete their credentials, or, in some cases, award credentials to students who had earned enough credits and just simply not gotten the credential because of some sort of bureaucratic barrier that stood in the way.

And through this work, what the institutions were doing was something called degree auditing. So they were taking a look at all of the transcripts of students who had left the institution and narrowing it down to students who could likely get that credential within just a few more semesters. That degree auditing, it requires capacity. It requires human capacity, financial capacity, technological capacity, and so investment in things like the College Completion Fund can support institutions to do this really important but in some cases labor-intensive work to help to make those practical changes. 

And this ultimately is a matter of equity. The students who are more likely to have to stop out of college are students who are Black, Hispanic, indigenous, underrepresented, Asian, Asian American Pacific Islander students, students from low-income backgrounds, students who are the first in their family to go to college, students who have lots of circumstances that are competing for their time and finances and energy.

And so ensuring that we are delivering these dollars to institutions for the types of evidence-driven reform efforts that can reengage students who've stopped out or support students who are attending for the first time and get across the finish line is just incredibly critical to deliver those outcomes, both the economic outcomes, which we've been talking quite a bit about, but also the non-economic outcomes that really flow from a more educated populace, from making sure that people can reach their full potential, can have increased wellbeing and be contributing back to their communities in ways that the evidence shows happens at higher rates amongst folks who have completed college.

Sarah Spreitzer: That's really great, Mamie, and IHEP is doing so much in these very important areas and we know that our audience for this podcast is folks that are in college leadership, presidents, chancellors, people that are in college administration. What do you want them to take away from this conversation and the work that IHEP is doing?

Mamie Voight: Yes, you all are doing incredibly important work on a day-to-day basis to make sure that students have what they need to complete their degrees and to really realize those economic and non-economic benefits of higher education. I would encourage you in all of that work to be really data-minded. Focus in on what data you do have access to, even if it's not perfect. Use the data at your disposal to inform your decision-making and to inform the ways in which you are seeking to serve your students.

And I'd also encourage you all to keep equity at the center of your work. For too long now, our higher education system has left behind students of color and students from low-income backgrounds and not afforded them the opportunities to really thrive in higher education and go on to reap all of those benefits of college. So focus in, especially as you're examining your data, disaggregate those data and understand the impacts of all of your programs and interventions across race and income and gender lines and make sure that you are really keeping a square eye here on student completion, on student outcomes after college in ways that really center on the students who need that most support to reap the benefits of higher education.

Jon Fansmith: And people who are listening obviously can't see, but Sarah and I are nodding along vigorously as you were talking, and it really is probably a great point to wrap our discussion up on because I think there's a lot there to take away. On the website, we'll have links to some of the materials that were discussed and some of the efforts that IHEP has underway, but, Mamie, I want to thank you again for taking the time. This has been a really great conversation, and I think particularly given the great work that IHEP's doing and that you're leading, it was very helpful to learn a little bit more about that, dig a little bit more deeply into it, and we appreciate you taking the time to do that with us today.

Mamie Voight: Thank you both. It's been great to talk with you today.

Sarah Spreitzer: As always, you can check out earlier episodes and subscribe to dotEDU on Apple, Google Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcast. For show notes and links to the resources mentioned in the episode, you can go to our website at acenet.edu/podcast. While there, please take a short survey to let us know how we're doing. You can also email us at podcast@acenet.edu to give us suggestions on upcoming shows and guests. And finally, a very big thank you to the producers who help pull this podcast together, Laurie Arnston, Audrey Hamilton, Malcolm Moore, Anthony Truehart, Rebecca Morris, Jack Nicholson, and Fatma Ngom. They do an incredible job making this happen and making Jon, Mushtaq, and I sound as good as possible. Finally, thank you so much to all of you for listening.

About the Podcast

​Each episode of dotEDU presents a deep dive into a major public policy issue impacting college campuses and students across the country. Hosts from ACE are joined by guest experts to lead you through thought-provoking conversations on topics such as campus free speech, diversity in admissions, college costs and affordability, and more. Find all episodes of the podcast at the dotEDU page.

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