• Gates Foundation Report Redefines Value of Higher Education

    Postsecondary Value Commission

    The Postsecondary Value Commission—which AASCU President Mildred García co-chaired—just released a report that proposes a new approach for measuring the value of education after high school and recommends actions college and university leaders, state and federal policymakers, and students and families can take to improve those returns and make them more equitable. AASCU produced a series of tweets with quotes from García on the importance of the new research. 

    Formed in 2019, the commission gathered a national panel of leaders from inside and outside higher education to explore the value of post-high school certificates and degrees. The Institute for Higher Education Policy served as the managing partner, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported the work of the commission.

    Here are some of the report’s major findings, as summarized in Higher Ed Dive

    • “At nine in 10 public four-year institutions, median student earnings exceeded those of high school graduates and covered the net price of college 10 years after entry. That’s compared to 77% of private nonprofit four-year schools and 69% of for-profit four-years.”
    • “Students who attended two-year schools tended to fare slightly worse. Eight in 10 public two-year institutions had median student earnings that met those requirements, followed by 58% of private nonprofit two-years and 36% of for-profit two-years.”
    • “The Commission also looked at data from the [University of Texas] System to study differences in earnings at the program level. Its analysis shows that racial, socioeconomic and gender inequities are rampant, especially within higher-paying fields.”

    Eliminating admissions requirements that could disadvantage certain students and improving credit recognition and transfer policies could help eliminate these equity gaps, the report stated in recommendations for campus leaders and state and federal policymakers.  

    Mildred García and Luis Talavera

    AASCU President Mildred García (left), co-chair of the Postsecondary Value Commission, and Luis Talavera (right), a commission member while a student at Arkansas State University, met at a commission meeting in May 2019.

    “There are things we can do—right now—that will help improve the return on the investment that students and their families and we as taxpayers make. Things like creating clearer academic pathways for our students, something my organization and our members are working very hard on,” García said in a media briefing on the report. “It’s also making sure that the students who are most financially vulnerable are prioritized when it comes to allocating aid dollars at the institutional, state, and federal levels.”

    Two students served on the commission, including Luis Talavera, who recently graduated from AASCU member Arkansas State University. He and other recent graduates are wondering if they will be better off in five or 10 years and if they can give back, he said.

    “That’s what’s behind a lot of what’s in this report, especially what’s in the action agenda,” he said in the briefing. “Questions like what do graduates of my program earn, can they pay back their debt, are they on the path to a better living—these are all questions I’m asking, a lot of students are asking. And we should be able to get answers to these questions.”

    Watch these videos produced by the Foundation to learn more about this work:

    The following news articles quote or mention Dr. García:

    Call to Action

    AASCU institutions educate 3.3 million undergraduates, and a large share of them are the “new majority”—the first-generation, low-income, and/or students of color pursuing postsecondary education. Therefore, we are uniquely positioned to further the work of the Postsecondary Value Commission.

    Chuck Welch, AASCU Board of Directors chair and president of the Arkansas State University System, has issued a call to action for AASCU institutions following the release of the Postsecondary Value Report in May 2021.

    President Welch is calling for AASCU’s nearly 400 member presidents and chancellors to:

    • Engage in a coordinated and organized effort to further the work of the report to place a spotlight on AASCU institutions as a collective and on your respective institution.
    • Share with AASCU if you are already doing the equity work outlined in the commission’s report or if you are interested in engaging in a deeper dive of this work and joining this critical effort to remove barriers to equitable access for the millions of students AASCU institutions serve.
    • Participate in a July call with President Welch and Dr. García to learn more about the implementing AASCU’s call to action and the critical role you and your institution can play in making it a reality.

    To answer this call, presidents and chancellors can email José Cabrales, vice president and chief of staff, at cabralesj@aascu.org if they are interested in participating.

    In the words of the late Congressman John Lewis, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”  

    AASCU presidents and chancellors can view a recording of a webinar about the report and its implication for higher education institutions. (Login required)