Access and Affordability

CSG Director of Education Policy Pam Goins outlines the top five issues in education policy for 2013, including college- and career-readiness, assessment and accountability systems, teacher preparation, college completion, and funding for post-secondary education. 
 

Policymakers know America’s educational system must transform to significantly increase the academic achievement of all students. A high-quality education, including content mastery and real world application, is critical to prepare students for college and careers. In order to ensure student success, leaders must tackle these top 5 issues facing states this year.

MOOC. The name alone sounds strange, almost extraterrestrial, and for anyone not familiar with trends in postsecondary education, the concept might seem equally alien. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses, which can be delivered electronically to tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of students at a time. Actually, there is no limit to the number of students who can take a course through this model. Participants can either be students enrolled at the college or university hosting the MOOC, or the courses can be open to anyone with a computer, free of charge. The latter group – the ‘open’ students – would not receive credit and might receive little or no feedback from the instructor, but they could benefit from accessing and participating in these courses.

Many high school graduates mistakenly believe earning a diploma indicates they are ready to be successful in postsecondary education. That often is not the case. Nearly half of all college students, and 60 percent of students at community colleges, are required to enroll in at least one remedial course because they lack the skills to take credit-bearing coursework.

Many high school graduates mistakenly believe earning a diploma indicates they are ready to be successful in postsecondary education. That often is not the case. Nearly half of all college students, and 60 percent of students at community colleges, are required to enroll in at least one remedial course because they lack the skills to take credit-bearing coursework.

For the past five years, politicians and economists have been keeping a sharp eye on the mortgage default rate as the bellwether for how the nation’s economy is faring. Now there’s a new number experts say legislators should keep an eye on—the student loan default rate—and it’s going up.

Public funding for higher education has dropped off over the past several years but tuition continues to skyrocket, especially at public universities. The fiscal crunch has forced policymakers to make tough choices, and maintaining funding for higher education in many cases has been overshadowed by the short-term need to balance budgets since the Great Recession began. That’s a recipe for higher student debt and fewer options for underprivileged students.

Stateline Midwest

Starting as soon as this fall, the University of Wisconsin plans to begin offering courses through a new model of higher education that leaders say will transform the state’s postsecondary system. Students will be able to take online classes anytime and learn at their own pace — with credits earned based on competency rather than seat time.

With growth rates approaching 20 percent, online learning represents the fastest growing segment of the higher education population.  These statistics are only expected to continue climbing as technology continues to improve. The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, developed jointly by CSG and The Presidents’ Forum, that aims to promote interstate reciprocity in online and distance learning. 

In the world of higher education, invisible borders can become insurmountable financial barriers. Let’s say a student living in Columbus, MS is considering several four-year universities. One in-state option would be the University of Mississippi, roughly two hours away or Mississippi State University, more than three hours’ drive from home. Or, just an hour away in Tuscaloosa, AL, he or she could enroll in the University of Alabama. Because of a law enacted in Alabama, out-of-state residents, like someone living just across the border in Columbus, MS., could receive the same in-state tuition rate as an Alabama resident.

The same rules have not applied, however, to an Alabama resident wanting to enroll at a public university in Mississippi. For example, if someone from Tuscaloosa wanted to enroll at the Mississippi University for Women (which, despite its name, is co-educational) in Columbus, she or he would have to pay the out-of-state tuition rate. That’s more than twice Mississippi's in-state tuition rate.

House Bill 1095, signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant, will level the playing field, allowing public universities in Mississippi to charge out-of-state students the same tuition paid by Mississippi residents. With full time tuition costing less than $5,500 per year, Mississippi can tout one of the least expensive higher education systems in the nation.

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