Dear Friends of the Center:
As we work on a number of upcoming reports, we are also keeping an eye on the developing presidential campaign, and how higher education and labor policy might change under a new president.
In my memory, this is the first election when K-12 is not the most talked-about education issue. Rather, higher education is, whether it is talk about free college, caps on tuition growth, or placing limits on student indebtedness. We believe that no matter who wins, we are on the brink of some fundamental policy shifts in Washington, brought about by public demand for consumer information, accountability, and transparency.
Policy changes will not be limited to Washington. State governments, still recovering from dramatic drops in receipts during the Great Recession, have a diminished ability to resume their previous funding levels for higher education. Meanwhile, states have gotten more than $700 million in the last five years or so in Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems grants to build out databases that will allow them to match educational records with labor market outcomes.
This convergence of access to new data and financial pressure to be more efficient will lead to states creating finance systems for higher education that will give incentives to universities for producing graduates with degrees that are in demand in their local labor markets.
While this will not preclude college’s role in producing well-rounded and sophisticated citizens, these kinds of incentive-based funding structures are unavoidable, under either a Republican or Democratic administration. The cost structures of higher education are not supportable if we don’t make changes. In addition, colleges and universities must embrace a greater role in resolving the misalignment between labor supply and demand. We all have a stake in assuring that prosperity be spread more widely. The new administration, no matter who leads it, will be looking for policies that encourage that.
We are always looking for ways to make our data and research more useful and easier to find. Please let us know if you have any ideas for improving what we are doing. As always, we appreciate your continued support of our work.
Martin Van Der Werf
Associate Director, Editorial and Postsecondary Policy