OVAE Connection

                                                 OVAE  Connection - Issue 167  - September 12, 2013 

President Obama Outlines Plan to Transform Higher Education Through Value and Affordability

In a recent speech at the University at Buffalo—The State University of New York, President Obama outlined a plan to address the rising cost of higher education in the United States and improve the value of a college education for students and families. The speech was delivered during his two-day bus tour across New York and Pennsylvania as part of a broader initiative to secure “a better bargain for the middle class.” The plan includes three core elements: Connecting students’ and colleges’ access to federal student aid to college performance; promoting innovation and competition at colleges to help cut costs while raising quality; and helping ensure that students can handle their loan debt.

The first set of reforms would change dramatically the way institutions of higher education are able to access federal student aid by connecting the massive federal investment in student aid, currently over $150 billion each year, to student outcomes. To reach this goal, the president called on the Department to develop a college ranking system before the 2015 academic year that would include such measures as access, affordability, and student and institutional outcomes. The first step in developing the system will be to gain substantial input from the general public, experts in the field, college leaders, and others. By 2018, this system would be used to determine institutional eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs as a requirement in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The plan also calls for the creation of institutional bonuses to reward colleges that enroll and graduate high numbers of Pell-eligible students, as well as for increased student accountability for making progress toward completion of postsecondary education and degrees. In addition, President Obama has requested $1 billion in Race to the Top funding to “spur state higher education reforms and reshape the federal-state partnership” so that states continue funding higher education.

In his remarks, the president noted the power of innovation and increased competition to transform the higher education landscape. The administration aims to spur greater innovation and competition by publishing better, more transparent information on college performance, sharing new approaches that have the potential to improve student learning and reduce costs, and offering colleges regulatory flexibility to innovate. The specific innovation-centered reforms highlighted by the president include greater use of competency-based education rather than seat time to award course credits based on student learning, use of technology to redesign courses with online platforms as well as with a blend of live and online approaches to learning, expansion of technology-enhanced student services, regulatory waivers for greater use of “experimental sites” that help lower the cost of quality education, and additional federal funding for seeding and evaluating promising higher education innovations.

Lastly, the president calls for greater use of Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Pay as You Earn plans for holders of federal student loans to ensure more and easier options for repayment. The Pay as You Earn plan provides more flexible payment terms to those who have taken out federal student loans, capping monthly payments at 10 percent of the borrower’s monthly income. The administration aims to increase eligibility for both plans, targeted at the neediest borrowers, and to improve outreach and communication to ensure all students “have the information they need to choose the right loan repayment option for them.”

OVAE Welcomes Jessica Caloza

OVAE is pleased to welcome Jessica Caloza, who joined OVAE in June as a confidential assistant to Deputy Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin. She comes to the Department from a political fundraising firm where she was a finance associate for the campaigns of Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17), Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-34), and Rep. Albio Sires (NJ-8) and for Super PAC, America’s Opportunity Fund. She previously served as a field organizer for President Obama’s re-election campaign in Virginia where she managed the grassroots operation in Fluvanna and Cumberland counties and opened the first field office in Palmyra. Before joining the campaign, Caloza was a management analyst intern at the White House for the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. While at the council, she worked on special projects relating to STEM, small business programs, public-private partnerships, stock market earnings, and other topics.

Caloza received a bachelor’s degree with a double-major in political science and ethnic studies from the University of California, San Diego. During college, Caloza was a case manager for the Teen Court program at Social Advocates for Youth, a non-profit organization that partners with police departments and local community leaders to prevent first-time offenders from entering the juvenile court system. In this role, she mentored teens who were completing the diversion program in offender accountability, community safety, and restorative justice to lower recidivism rates. She also worked at DLA Piper, a multinational law firm, as a conflicts assistant; translated for the Immigration Justice Project at the American Bar Association; and taught English to adult students from various countries. 

Collaboration, Access and Stackable Credentials Are Key to Workforce Development

The Urban Institute recently held a roundtable with experts representing a diverse range of perspectives on U.S. workers. They were charged with informing a broad workforce policy agenda that would reflect our nation’s changing economic and government landscape. The experts set out to explore innovative approaches to meeting employer demand for skilled workers, and to address unemployment. The institute recently released a report on the discussion, Innovations and Future Directions for Workforce Development in the Post-Recession Era, which highlights the workforce innovations and practices that attendees they felt held both the most promise and the most challenges for ensuring a more effective U.S. workforce system.

Employers and workers continue to endure the effects of the recession—job growth is slow and concentrated in lower-wage jobs. Furthermore, many youths and adults continue to see fewer opportunities for postsecondary education and training, a lack of financial support, and relatively high tuition rates. To address these issues, the experts were asked “How can the innovations that prove successful be scaled and replicated when funding for workforce development is being cut?” Their answers focused on three key areas: “1) collaborative efforts that better connect employers with workforce programs and services; 2) approaches that help build the education and work experience of under-skilled and unemployed workers to get them on viable career paths; and, 3) advances in business practices and technology to better serve workforce system customers.”

The first policy agenda area centered on two promising approaches: Designing sector strategies to build collaborative employment and training programs and services and creating industry-recognized credentials that directly address workforce needs. The second area focused on identifying training approaches that offer well-articulated career pathway programs allowing for accelerated classroom time, and yielding a series of “stackable” industry-recognized credentials that are evidence of greater skill levels. The final area emphasized the importance of increasing access for the large numbers of unemployed workers seeking job search assistance and training via modalities such as distance, online, and hybrid instruction. The report notes that online learning is vital because it increases access to training, and exposes students to computers and the Internet, a critical skill base for many jobs.

Many of the practices and innovations discussed during the roundtable focused on workforce development over the next decade—both its possibilities and challenges. The experts concluded that the long-term success of the workforce development strategies, along with documentation of their implementation and effectiveness, have not yet become evident and yet such information will have great weight for making decisions to replicate or expand such strategies.

Webinar Training on Making Successful Career Pathways

The National Center for Innovation in Career and Technical Education (NCICTE) has announced a five-part webinar training, Making Career Pathways Work: Curricular Design and Instructional Practice. This Sept. 20 introductory webinar will feature experts from ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career. They will discuss designing, structuring, and supporting curriculum and instruction for career pathways. They will also discuss shifts that are needed in teaching for career pathways and the role that communities of practice can play in supporting such instruction. Register at http://ctecenter.ed.gov/register. The webinar begins on Sept. 20, 2013 at 9 a.m., PDT and noon, EDT. It will also be archived at the NCICTE training center site.

Your Feedback Is Needed!

Comments on CEDS Version 4 CTE and Adult Education Elements Due by 9/20 

The draft of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) version 4 has been released for public comment. It includes new and revised elements related to CTE and adult education. State data administrators and program specialists contributed to the element development and revision process. When you click on the link provided above, go to “Filter by Domain.” Then select a domain of interest, such as “Career and Technical” or “Adult Education.” You can then choose to view all elements related to your selection, or just those that were new or updated for version 4. Each element has a “Comment on this Element” button that you can use to give feedback. Comments are due by Sept. 20.