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McPherson: White House’s College Opportunity Commitment by APLU, AASCU, and AACC will Position Public Colleges and Universities for the Future

By Peter McPherson, President, APLU

I had the great honor of attending the White House College Opportunity Day of Action yesterday. It was great to be with President Obama, the First Lady, Vice President Biden, and higher education leaders from across the country as we all discussed ways to increase college access and success. Leading up to yesterday’s summit, the White House sought pledges and commitments from institutions and organizations on ways they would strengthen postsecondary success.

As part of that effort, APLU and the two other presidential public higher education associations—the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)—formally pledged a new commitment to collaboratively work together to support and accelerate college completion efforts on our member campuses. Our member institutions represent nearly three-quarters of all college students in this country so the impact of our efforts has the potential to be profound.

APLU, AASCU, and AACC have a history of collaboration on initiatives such as the Student Achievement Measure, the Post-Collegiate Outcomes framework, and other public education advocacy efforts. This new commitment reinforces the existing partnerships and provides opportunities for the three associations to work more closely together on critical issues related to educational attainment, particularly for low-income and first generation students – one of the core missions of public institutions.

The focus of our collaboration builds on the great work already being undertaken at our institutions and includes:

  • Creating seamless transitions for students across sectors and institutions through strategies such as proactive, enhanced advising; improved transfer of credits, including more robust articulation agreements; and innovative enrollment and student financial aid policies that support successful transfer and subsequent degree attainment as well as facilitate reverse transfer when appropriate.
  • Improved access and opportunity by building clear educational and career pathways through better alignment among K-12, community colleges, and universities – especially in the STEM fields and in other areas of local/national need. Enhanced engagement with K-12 education will be necessary.
  • More accurate and comprehensive outcomes measures of student progress and success for external accountability and institutional improvement. The work will include whenever possible common public policy positions designed to buttress ongoing voluntary efforts.

I believe this collective commitment by the three associations will more effectively position public colleges and universities to build networks, share ideas, evaluate promising practices, and, most importantly, institute reforms within each of these important areas.

One of the things I heard President Obama say at the College Opportunity summit yesterday is that our higher education system is one of the things that makes America exceptional and that the challenges we face should galvanize us because they are solvable. He’s absolutely right. That’s why this this new commitment builds on the work already underway of APLU and AASCU’s joint Project Degree Completion initiative, to which nearly 500 four-year public institutions committed to doing their part in reaching the goal of 60 percent of the working age population holding postsecondary degrees by 2025.

It also complements AACC’s Reclaiming the American Dream, Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future pledges that community colleges together will produce 50 percent more students with high-quality degrees and certificates by 2020.

Such big goals will help ensure that our commitment and the many other pledges highlighted yesterday all have a bigger purpose and that each of our institutions and organizations feel they are contributing to a bigger national purpose.

I look forward to providing an update on our commitment efforts – and the great work of our institutions — in the weeks and months ahead.

  • College Costs, Tuition & Financial Aid

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