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CPRS Publications: 2010-2019

December 30, 1899


ACE's Center for Policy Research and Strategy produces papers and issue briefs that provide stakeholders with acute insight, rigorous analysis, and on-the-ground application. 

The Center approaches the study of higher education through the use of varying methodologies and data sources. Analytical frameworks include those found in research on educational equity, education policy, organizational and systems management, and disruptive innovation.​

​This page offers a list of CPRS publications released from 2010 to 2019. Please also visit the CPRS Viewpoints​ page for independent papers from leading social science researchers.

A Look at Five Key Outcomes in Early Adulthood for Associate Degree Earners (2019)​

​​​Research continues to show that college graduates earn more over their lifetimes, contribute more in taxes, are more engaged with their local communities, and live healthier lives than individuals without a college education. In this final brief in a series of four on first-time community college students, the impact of attaining an associate degree on employment status, wages, homeownership rates, voting rates, and volunteerism was tested using data from the Education Longitudinal Study (ELS) of 2002. Results indicate associate degree earners were more likely to be employed, earn higher wages, be homeowners, vote, and volunteer than students who did not enroll in college. The research brief concludes with recommendations for policy and practice. ​

Public and Private Investments and Divestments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2019)​

This issue brief, written by Krystal L. Williams and BreAnna L. Davis and released in partnership with the United Negro College Fund, summarizes the federal, state, and local funding sources of HBCUs and non-HBCUs – in addition to private institutional investments – to illustrate continuing disparities in how colleges and universities secure resources.

Speaking Truth and Acting with Integrity: Confronting Challenges of Campus Racial Climate (2018)​

The University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Missouri System serve as the case site for this report, having experienced a highly visible racial crisis in the 2015–16 academic year. Project co-leads Adrianna Kezar (USC) and Sharon Fries-Britt (University of Maryland) sought three key outcomes from this work: first, to understand what led up to the crisis, second, to understand perceptions of leadership during the crisis in 2015, and third, to understand what it has taken for the University of Missouri to move forward after the crisis. The lessons and insights that they have learned from the initial stages of this case study are the focus of this report.​

Campus Inclusion and Freedom of Expression: Controversial Speakers (2018)​

Part of ACE's To The Point series, this brief provides college leaders with insights and considerations regarding the tension between campus inclusion and freedom of expression, here focused on the institutional reaction to a controversial speaker on campus.

Campus Inclusion and Freedom of Expression: Hateful Incidents (2018)

Part of ACE's To the Point series, this brief provides college leaders with insights and considerations regarding the tension between campus inclusion and freedom of expression, here focused on the institutional reaction to hateful incidents on campus.​​​

Innovative Leadership: Insights from the American College President Study 2017 (2018)

This brief utilizes both data from the American College President Study (ACPS), and reflections from a roundtable of current and former presidents and association leaders, who discussed what ACPS data tell us about their own experiences leading colleges and universities. The discussion provided a better understanding of the qualities that characterize innovative leadership in higher education. Even though their stories are shaped by a unique set of circumstances, innovative leaders at our nation’s higher education institutions share similar abilities and common approaches to building a more successful campus. The brief shares examples of how innovative leaders work collaboratively with campus stakeholders, build and strengthen networks, and turn their challenges into successes.

Leading the Way to Parity: Preparation, Persistence, and the Role of Women Presidents (2018)​

In September 2017, CPRS convened a group of 10 current and former presidents and association leaders for a roundtable to reflect on what ACPS data tell us about women presidents, and to dis​​​​​cuss their own experiences. The discussion provided important qualitative information for the brief, including the need for better understanding around why women presidents report different challenges than men, which may help extrapolate ways to support persistence and patch leaks in the presidential pipeline. This brief offers several recommendations to increase the representation of women among college presidents, and argues that meaningful parity will only be achieved when it is sustained and sustainable—when women not only reach the presidency, but are established in the position in a way that sets them up to succeed and endure.​

Minority Serving Institutions as Engines of Upward Mobility (2018)​

The analysis in this brief utilizes newly released Equality of Opportunity Project​ data to examine the upward income mobility of students who attended MSIs compared to students who did not. Overall, the authors found that MSIs propel their students from the bottom to the top of the income distribution at higher rates than do non- MSIs. These findings shed important light on the value of MSIs as a viable path up the economic ladder for millions of students and reinforce the value proposition of higher education as a path to greater prosperity for individuals, families, and whole communities.​

The Impact of Earning an Associate Degree Prior to Transfer on Bachelor's Degree Completion: A Look at Recent High School Graduates​ (2018)

Community colleges serve as an entry point to postsecondary education for hundreds of thousands of students seeking a bachelor’s degree each year.  Analyzing national data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Longitudinal Study (ELS) of 2002 and accompanying Postsecondary Education Transcript Study, this research brief—the third in a series of four—examined the impact of earning an associate degree prior to transfer on the probability of earning a bachelor’s degree.  The research brief concludes with recomendations for policy and practice.

The Data-Enabled Executive: Using Analytics for Student Success and Sustainability (2017)​

​I​n May 2017, the American Council on Education invited over 40 higher education thought leaders, analytics experts, chief institutional research officers, chief information officers, and presidents from colleges and universities across the nation to participate in a daylong exploration of the data challenges faced by postsecondary leaders as they seek to improve student outcomes, promote equity and inclusion, and create more sustainable organizational models. Ultimately, participants agreed that college and university leaders need to be better equipped to handle the opportunities and challenges that result from efforts to implement data analytics. This paper seeks to highlight what some of those needs are.​​​

The Post-traditional Learners Manifesto Revisited: Aligning Postsecondary Education with Real Life for Adult Student Success (2017)​

Building on ACE’s long history of supporting both post-traditional learners and the higher education institutions that serve them, The Post-traditional Learners Manifesto Revisited explores the distinctive nature of modern undergraduates. Using data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2011-12, the report digs deeper into the needs of this population of college-goers and offers recommendations to help schools, researchers, and policymakers better help thi​​s growing population of postsecondary students complete their degrees. ​

Identifying Predictors of Credential Completion Among Beginning Community College Students (2017)​

This research brief is the second in a series of four, exploring outcomes for recent high school graduates who began their postsecondary education in a community college. Drawing from data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, this report uses probit regression modeling to examine the relationships between student- and institutional-level characteristics and the likelihood students will earn a credit-based sub-baccalaureate certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree. The report concludes with recommendations for policy and practice to increase community college completion rates. 

Pulling Back the Curtain: Enrollment and Outcomes at Minority Serving Institutions (2017)​

Minority serving institutions (MSIs) play a critical role in American society, providing access to postsecondary education for millions of students of color who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. As America’s communities become more diverse, and the number of MSIs increases, it is imperative that the higher education field understands how MSIs serve the students they enroll. The analysis in this first-of-its-kind report uses NSC data to examine how students who started college at an MSI in 2007 moved through higher education.

The American College President Study 2017

The American College President Study 2017 (ACPS) is the eighth edition of the leading and most comprehensive study of the college presidency and the higher education leadership pipeline from all types of institutions, public and private, two- and four-year. The 2017 edition was produced by ACE in partnership with the TIAA Institute​.

The ACPS contains data on presidential demographics, search and selection processes, career trajectories, and the duties and responsibilities of college and university chief executive officers. For the first time, the report also examines the views of presidents in three key areas: diversity and inclusion; state funding and political climate; and areas of importance for the future.​

Improving the Odds: An Empirical Look at the Factors That Influence Upward Transfer (2017)

Community colleges play a vital role in increasing access to higher education. While many students enroll in a community college solely to earn a certificate or associate degree, others, particularly first-time enrollees, do so with the ultimate goal of transferring to a four-year institution and earning a baccalaureate degree. Drawing from the results of a multilevel regression model and supporting literature, this research brief presents five strategies for high school educators, faculty and staff at colleges and universities, and policymakers to consider to increase upward transfer rates. 


In collaboration with ACE Leadership, CPRS released a report sharing select findings from a comprehensive review of the Council’s signature leadership development program. Since its inception in 1965, the ACE Fellows Program has strengthened institutions and leadership in American higher education by identifying and preparing nearly 1,900 faculty, staff and administrators for senior positions in college and university leadership through its distinctive and intensive ​​nominator-driven, cohort-based mentorship model.   

Tribal College and University Funding: Tribal Sovereignty at the Intersection of Federal, State, and Local Funding (2016)

Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) continue to provide a transformative postsecondary experience and education for the Indigenous population and non-Native students from in and around Native communities. This issue brief first contextualizes the important progress TCUs have made in Indian Country, then describes important inequities in federal, state, and local funding that limit these institutions’ ability to further their impact on the tribal communities they are chartered to serve.

Background Papers: Convening on Financial Data in Higher Education (2016)

In this publication, three commissioned issue papers explore fresh insights on how the alignment of financial transparency and leadership can enhance higher education academic and business models. 

Evolving Higher Education Business Models: Leading with Data to Deliver Results (2016)

This report examines a network approach to leadership that creates transparency around institutional financial data using business model analysis.

Military-Connected Undergraduates: Exploring Differences Between National Guard, Reserve, Active Duty, and Veterans in Higher Educati​on​ (2015)

This report uses U.S. Department of Education data from the 2011–12 academic year to disaggregate various military personnel (i.e., members of the National Guard, reservists, and active duty personnel) from veterans to examine points of difference on demographic and economic characteristics, as well as on key factors associated with college enrollment, persistence, and completion. 

State Policy as a Tool for Postsecondary Developmental Education Reform: A Case Study of Connecticut (2015)​

This case study examines state policy activities in Connecticut and the impact of legislation and regulation on the ability of institutions to innovate new delivery models for developmental education. ​

The Architecture of Innovation: System-Level Course Redesign in Tennessee (2015)

This case study examines the ongoing impact of developmental education course redesign as a catalyst for new business and financial model development in the state of Tennessee. 

Government Investment in Public Hispanic-Serving Institutions​ (2015)

This issue brief provides an overview of a pattern of historic inequities in funding that led to federal recognition and support for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), explains the current revenue streams available to these institutions, and examines trends in public investment during the recent recession that could threaten their long-term viability.​

Race, Class, and College Access: Achieving Diversity in a Shifting Legal Landscape​ (2015)

This groundbreaking report examines how legal challenges to race-conscious admissions are influencing contemporary admissions practices at selective colleges and universities around the country. Study findings are based on responses to a first-of-its-kind national survey of undergraduate admissions and enrollment management leaders administered in 2014–15.

The Status of Federal Student Aid Programs​ (2015)

This PDF contains a summary and charts depicting the current status of various Federal Student Aid Programs. ​Some of the federally funded programs in this study include Pell Grants, Stafford Loans (subsidized and unsubsidized), Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOGs), Federal Work Study Awards, and Educational Opportunity Centers (EOCs) among others.

Credit for Prior Learning: Charting Institutional Practice for Sustainability (2015)​

This paper identifies and addresses cultural barriers and successful strategies to viewing Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) as central to institutional mission and an essential component in the continuum of teaching, learning, and assessment. Interviews with leaders and practitioners from a diverse group of seven institutions located across the U.S. offer insights into challenges, strategies, and effective CPL practices.

Readiness for the Learning Economy: Insights from OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills on Workforce Readiness and Preparation (2014)

T​his report describes the methodology of the OECD Survey for Adult Skills on Workforce Readiness and Preparation and ​presents key findings, focusing on skills of adults in the United States. It identifies implications of the survey and its findings for policy and practice.

Rankings, Institutional Behavior, and College and University Choice (2014)

In addition to the research literature on the role of rankings in higher education, this issue brief discusses the role of rankings in how students select an institution. Using newly available data from the University of California, Los Angeles Higher Education Research Institute, this report shows that national rankings are not a driving factor in student decisions, and are even less relevant for students from low-income backgrounds.

Credit for Prior Learning: From the Student, Campus, and Industry Perspectives (2013)

Drawing on survey responses from campus officials, students who participated in ACE-evaluated training programs, and employers, this research brief presents a snapshot of CPL in action and the areas of focus to increase its successful application.

Student Veterans/Service Members’ Engagement in College and University Life and Education (2013)

As part of ACE’s continuing research on veteran students in higher education, this report examines how student veterans/service members and their peers differ in their perception about and their engagement in academic activities and campus life.

Post-traditional Learners and the Transformation of Postsecondary Education: A Manifesto for College Leaders (2013)

This paper includes a brief primer on innovation, a profile of post-traditional learners, a look at the U.S. investment in postsecondary education and training, and concludes with three principles to “catalyze a manifesto for college leaders on how to proceed.”

On the Pathway To The Presidency (2013)

This report is the second in the On the Pathway to the Presidency series. The report examines the demographic and professional backgrounds of senior campus leaders, especially those in positions that can lead to a college or university presidency.

ACE Presidential Roundtable Series Presidents Caught In the Middle (2013)

ACE has taken the lead in studying the pipeline to the presidency and recently completed the inaugural year of the Institute for New Presidents. This monograph offers campus leaders useful guidance as they navigate the challenges of being "caught in the middle," between exogenous forces attacking institutions from the inside and board decisions on the inside.

A Matter of Excellence: A Guide To Strategic Diversity Leadership And Accountability In Higher Education (2013)

This report focuses on leading diversity-themed change in an intentional manner. It provides a framework for strategic leadership on diversity issues in academe, challenging the higher education community to face the imperatives of a new reality i​n which diversity is no longer simply a question of moral and social responsibility, but a matter of achieving excellence and gaining competitive advantages in the world we live in today.

The American College President (2012)

The 2012 edition is the seventh report in the American College President study series, conducted by ACE since 1986. The report provides information on the demographics, career paths, and experiences of college and university presidents, and is the only comprehensive source of data on higher education’s highest office.

With College Degree In Hand: Analysis Of Racial Minority Graduates And Their Lives After College (2012)

With Degree in Hand explores the postgraduate employment and educational experiences of new college graduates across racial/ethnic lines in terms of their demographic and education characteristics, early labor market outcomes, and post-baccalaureate education enrollment approximately one year after graduation.

Raising Voices, Lifting Leaders: Empowering Asian Pacific Islander American Leadership In Higher Education (2012)

This issue brief was created to bring national attention to the scarcity of Asian Pacific Islander American leaders in higher education, highlight the barriers to Asian Pacific Islander American leadership, and present a call to action for increasing representation by the Asian Pacific Islander American community in higher education leadership positions.

Leadership in Times of Crisis (2012)

Leadership in Times of Crisis: “Cool Head, Warm Heart” stems from an ACE Presidential Roundtable convened in June, 2012, where 16 presidents, along with media experts and attorneys, discussed how to approach campus crises.

Minorities in Higher Education: Supplement (2011)

A part of the Minorities in Higher Education series, the 2011 supplement discusses how high school completion rate for young people has not improved much, and college enrollment gaps have widened among racial/ethnic groups during the past two decades.

Implementing the Common Core State Standards: An Action Agenda for Higher Education  (2011)

This issue brief describes key areas that will require active participation from higher education leaders and faculty from a broad array of disciplines to implement the Common Core agenda.

Minorities In Higher Education: 24th Status Report (2010)

This 2010 edition of the Minorities in Higher Education series analyzes the latest racial/ethnic and gender trends in high school completion, college enrollment, persistence, degree completion, faculty, administrators, and presidents. A key finding is that while postsecondary educational attainment continues to flat-line in the United States, attainment rates have dipped for the youngest group (aged 25 to 34).

College Graduation Rates: Behind the Numbers (2010)

This report provides a layperson’s guide to the most common databases used to calculate these rates, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each. In addition, the report suggests several factors for policymakers to consider before using graduation rates from existing databases to assess institutional success.

Gender Equity In Higher Education: 2010 (2010)

This 2010 update to Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2006 reveals that the gender gap in undergraduate enrollment and degrees between men and women has stabilized, yet continues to grow among Hispanic students. This report includes detailed information on the rapidly growing Hispanic student population, as well as questions that campuses should ask about their own students.

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