As president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), I am pleased to present the association’s 2018 Public Policy Agenda. This annual statement of principles and policy positions guides AASCU’s advocacy efforts on current and developing issues at the federal and state levels.
Our policy agenda recommits the association and its members to the national goal of promoting affordability by restoring the proper balance among the federal government, the states and families. For three decades, the financing trendline for public higher education has been the narrative of diminishing state support. America’s public institutions of higher education are gateways to opportunity for millions of students and serve as the nation’s main engines of social and economic mobility. But they need adequate resources to perform these functions well. We are pleased to see that policymakers increasingly recognize public disinvestment as shortsighted and counterproductive to the national interest, and that the broad consensus emerging is that the key to affordability is a carefully configured federal-state partnership to support high-quality, affordable public colleges and universities.
We remain concerned about educational quality and the forces that may chip away at academic freedom, rigor, integrity and, ultimately, the meaning and value of academic credentials. We view academic integrity and the labor market value of credentials as inextricably linked and we strongly support better quality assurance and greater accountability for all institutions.
As always, access and diversity remain cornerstones of our collective mission. This commitment remains only partially fulfilled more than a half-century after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Higher Education Act. But our institutions have made enormous strides during the past 50 years and have helped create a more prosperous and just society. We will continue to advocate for greater inclusion of those historically underrepresented in American higher education and oppose efforts to restrict the ability of institutions to serve all members of our society.
The Public Policy Agenda is the result of robust discussion within the AASCU Council of State Representatives—our policymaking body—and the AASCU membership. I hope it will promote more detailed conversations at both the state and the federal levels, and lead to policies that further expand educational opportunities for all Americans.
Mildred García, Ed.D.
Download 2018 Public Policy Agenda Brochure (pdf)
Download 2018 Public Policy Agenda Book - Full Version (pdf)
America’s public institutions of higher education serve a unique role as the portal through which so many of our citizens and much of our future workforce gain the skills they need to face the economic challenges of the 21st century. Our programs offer more than four million students the opportunity to achieve America’s promise of an affordable, high-quality higher education. And, across the country, our institutions serve as indispensable venues for access and civic engagement. In addition, as institutions are created by and are accountable to the states, they serve as catalysts for economic growth in their communities and as engines of global competitiveness for the nation. In light of the challenges that state colleges and universities face— shrinking budgets, increased demand for accessible and affordable postsecondary education, and onerous regulations, to name a few—we must persevere to create opportunities for all students who would otherwise have few real options for realizing the American Dream.
To this end, AASCU presents its 2018 Public Policy Agenda, which underscores the most compelling policy issues affecting public higher education and promotes policies that help our institutions fulfill their unique role in educating America’s workforce. Each issue has implications at the state, federal or both levels of policy and law. Accordingly, we provide our state and federal policymakers with specific actions to take going forward.
State Colleges and Universities Will Lead on Issues of Affordability, Campus Climate and Quality Assurance Among the many issues impacting our campuses, conversations around the cost and quality of a higher education, fostering a safe and supportive campus environment for all students, and how we measure the success of our schools will be front and center heading into 2018. AASCU has prioritized these three issues in its advocacy plans at the national level, as well as in our work with state-level partners. Our collective voice will be instrumental to our work going forward to ensure that our state colleges and universities are heard and heeded in the policy discussions to come, especially in light of deliberations for a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), the cornerstone legislation of American higher education.
AASCU institutions uniquely provide the three essential ingredients of social and economic mobility in their combination of broad access, greater financial affordability and the best return on investment for the students, the states and the nation. They have rightly been called engines of mobility because of their high impact in moving students from the lowest-income families up the income scale and for propelling their communities and the nation forward. But the very features that made America’ great public higher education infrastructure so effective as gateways to the American Dream are being eroded by lack of adequate support, most notably through state disinvestment, over-regulation and economically regressive policies.
Download 2018 PPA - full version (pdf)
Public institutions have a responsibility to provide open, safe and supportive learning venues for the entire campus community. Given the broad scope of functions that institutions are assigned—as places of research and teaching, but also as landlords, ISPs, telecomm providers, food service managers, athletic venues, event managers, and campus police force, to name a few—the discharge of this responsibility is a complex and difficult task. AASCU institutions are committed to doing all they can to create ideal environments for their students, faculty and staff, and will be particularly focused on the following specific challenges:
AASCU strongly supports calls for transparency and outcomes-based accountability as important guarantors of quality. As the public and the policymakers who represent it are getting more alarmed about costs and outcomes of higher education, colleges and universities need to better articulate their contributions to the lives of their students and value to the nation. Better data, reasonable and adequate oversight, and sufficient resources and autonomy for institutions to act in the best interests of their students are critical ingredients for success.