The Private Role in the 2020 Goals

2 groups of independent colleges announce new efforts to identify ways to enroll and graduate more low-income students.
February 1, 2010

WASHINGTON -- Two national organizations -- the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges -- will today announce a new campaign to identify practices at member institutions that contribute to President Obama's goals for increased enrollment and graduation rates by 2020. The organizations plan to collect and publicize the various efforts colleges have that could be tried elsewhere.

In part, the idea is to contribute to the public discussion about how to get more Americans into college. But the campaign is also an explicit effort by private colleges to play a greater role in a discussion that has for the last year focused on community colleges. The private colleges hope that the final version of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which has been passed by the House of Representatives and is currently awaiting introduction by the Senate, will explicitly include their institutions as eligible for grants designed to increase college-going rates and graduation rates (and that this eligibility will not include requirements that the colleges view as intrusive.)

The joint statement from the two associations states their role this way: "Already private, non-profit colleges have the greatest success rate of all the sectors, even when controlling for such risk factors as income, academic preparation or first-in-family to attend college. However, we can and should do more." The statement will be released at NAICU's annual meeting.

Specifically, the two groups pledge to survey all members on both "access" programs (focused on enrollment) and "success" programs (focused on graduation) and then to share information about them so more colleges can learn from one another. Colleges will also be encouraged to adopt plans in which they identify strategies they plan to use to recruit and graduate more students and to issue periodic reports on the success of their strategies. The statement envisions not one single plan, but a shared commitment to doing more, measuring results and reporting those results. More information about the effort may be found here.

In an interview Sunday night, David L. Warren, NAICU's president, said that private colleges want to be on record endorsing and contributing to the Obama administration's 2020 goals. "I think our members clearly see the focus on community colleges and understand why that is so, but believe it is a somewhat narrow perspective."

He added that more private colleges than many may realize are recruiting and graduating large numbers of first generation students, with much higher graduation rates than are the norm elsewhere. As a result, he said, "if you want to move the needle" on degree attainment, these institutions should be involved.

David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, said that the association believed it was appropriate for states to have a major role in distributing funds through the program, given the high share of students who enroll at public institutions. But he said that AACC did not object to private colleges or consortia of private colleges being able to compete for some of the funds to improve graduation rates.

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