Monday, January 28, 2008

Balancing Student Privacy, Campus Security, and Public Safety: Issues for Campus Leaders


The complex issues of promoting student mental health, privacy and public safety—and the delicate balance among them—weigh heavily on the minds of institutional leaders, educational policymakers, and local, state and federal officials. American campuses have a proud history of intellectual freedom, openness and public accessibility to their communities. However, the Virginia Tech shootings on April 16, 2007 marked a grim watershed in American campus violence, casting light on wide-ranging areas of concern including:

* The number of students with mental health issues on college campuses and the resources available to campuses to assist them;
* Gaps in mental health treatment nationwide;
* The legal role of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in campus policies and procedures;
* The state of uncertainty on campus regarding the legality of sharing information about students with mental health issues both for students’ own good and that of the campus;
* The role of families and loved ones in students’ mental health treatment and how much information can legally be shared with them by campus officials;
* Gun control laws as they pertain to people with psychiatric treatment histories;
* College and university emergency procedures, including “lock-downs” and communication methods, and;
* College and university administrative procedures regarding disturbing student behavior and the legal ramifications thereof.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Top 10 State Policy Issues for Higher Education in 2008

Along with the continuation of some long overdue attention at the federal level, 2007 witnessed increasing recognition of the link between higher education and state economic competitiveness. These acknowledgements collectively elevated higher education as a public priority in many states. Evidence of the importance of increasing the quality of, and access to, state colleges was abundant across the U.S. Legislators and governors – given plenty of support from the business community – provided increases in state operating revenues (in most cases), as well as proposed and enacted policy recommendations aimed at creating greater economic stimulus via state colleges.

What lies ahead for 2008? Presented here are the top 10 state issues most likely to be at the forefront of discussion and action that will affect public higher education across the 50 states, in the view of the state policy analysis and research staff at AASCU. While numerous topics shape state higher education policy, each affecting the issues of affordability and quality, our focus is on the overarching issue of college access. This synopsis is informed by an environmental scan of state policy activities of the past year, trend analysis, and events that will continue to shape the policy landscape. Some issues are perennial in nature, while others reflect attention to near-term actions in state policy and public discourse. The influence of any given issue across individual states will, of course, vary.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Domestic Partnership Benefits: Equity, Fairness, and Competitive Advantage

As the American public becomes increasingly supportive of equity and fairness in the workplace, employers are discovering that domestic partner benefits programs make good business sense. Evolving social and economic pressures in support of these programs are contributing to their increased use as a competitive lever to attract a diverse, top-caliber workforce.


When the Village Voice newspaper in New York City first offered benefits to non-married domestic partners of its employees in 1982, this represented a radical departure from tradition. Twenty-five years later, some 9,300 employers in the United States, including many of the nation’s largest and most successful companies, have extended their benefits programs to the domestic partners of employees and their dependents. Though such benefits are far from universally available, it is clear that a shift has taken place in American society, moving domestic partner benefits programs from the margins to the mainstream.

This development is consistent with growing public opposition to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It represents a new middle ground in society’s culture wars. At one extreme, there are those who wish to preserve the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and to deny recognition of any legal status for same-sex couples. At the other extreme, there are those fighting for full marriage equality for same-sex couples. Between them, there is a very large group of individuals who support legal recognition through civil unions or domestic partnerships, but who oppose same-sex marriage. While both sides have intensified their efforts to achieve victories in statehouses, courts, ballot boxes, and Congress, domestic partner benefit programs have grown in popularity as a compromise solution that is acceptable to a large proportion of the American public. The term “domestic partner” itself is still in flux, but in general, it refers to an unmarried couple (same- or opposite-sex) who live together and who are committed to each other, certifying through some formal means that they are financially and legally interdependent.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Path to Prosperity: A Policy of Investment

Creating a talented workforce is a key strategy in gaining a competitive advantage for regional economies in the United States and abroad.  With heightened competition for public resources, an invigorated federal-state effort investing in human capital-building enterprises will increase states' capacity while enhancing personal and societal prosperity.

With intense competition at the forefront of the global knowledge-based economy, the United States must embrace a strategy of building a skilled workforce.  In the New Economy, the flow of capital - in all its forms- coalesces around regions that have high concentrations of talent.  Despite evidence that skilled workers are a vital element of regional economic prosperity, access to and the affordability of quality higher education has eroded.  This is due to reduced investment by states and the federal government, as well as heightened cost pressures of college and university operations. More visibility must be raised of the connection between state and regional workforce capacity and economic and social prosperity, and the cycle of growth that is created by public investment in higher education.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Update on Advanced Placement

As Advanced Placement coursework emerges as an instrument of public policy, educators and policymakers need to understand the facts, to set realistic expectations, and to engage in activities that promote positive outcomes.


When the College Board initiated the Advanced Placement (AP) Program in 1955, its potential as a public policy tool was yet to be imagined. For much of its history, the program focused on academically accomplished high school students who were college-bound. It offered these students the opportunity to earn college credit, be placed in advanced-level college courses, or both—if they could demonstrate sufficient knowledge through AP exams.

Though the basic AP approach has remained the same, societal changes have catapulted the program into the public policy arena. The emergence of a global economy and the rapid pace of technological change have beckoned the need for a far greater number of workers with postsecondary credentials in the United States. Among the most critical variables that contribute to postsecondary success is the completion of a rigorous high school curriculum. Growing concerns about the shortcomings of the nation’s K-12 system have led educators and policymakers to implement a variety of strategies to promote academic rigor and success for all high school students.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Tuition Discounting at AASCU Institutions

As states continue the trend of providing postsecondary institutions with smaller shares of state funds, public colleges and universities are forced to rely more heavily on tuition and fees as a source of revenue. While this trend is well documented, little is know about how colleges use institutional aid to provide tuition “discounts” to certain student populations. In 2006, The College Board published Tuition Discounting: Not Just a Private College Practice that examined the extent to which public colleges are using tuition revenue and institutional aid to offset the cost of attendance for some students. Tuition discounting has important policy implications for public colleges and universities primarily because most of the discounts are awarded to students who do not have critical financial need. Colleges often utilize tuition discounts to attract talented students who will help their institutions improve college rankings, athletic programs, and demographic profiles. This policy brief helps answer some basic questions about the extent to which AASCU institutions engage in tuition discounting and how institutional discounting policy can leverage resources for students with the greatest financial need.


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Friday, February 02, 2007

Wrestling Rising Costs with Innovation

Although higher education leaders cannot fully control the price of a college degree, many institutions and policymakers are looking at creative ways to deal with the rising cost of educating students.

While tuition costs are likely the most talked about topic in higher education, focusing on the institutional finance is equally important. The growing expenses associated with educating students is often a catalyst for rising tuition and fees, and they play a large role as educators plan for the future of their institutions.

To assess the overall outlook of higher education costs, economists and education leaders often look at the annual Higher Education Price Index (HEPI), a calculation that measures inflation for college and university goods and services. In 2006, higher education institutions saw prices jump 5.0 percent, compared to the Consumer Price Index that rose just 3.8 percent. The 2006 calculated HEPI included significant price increases in several areas, such as utilities, where prices soared 27.1 percent in one year alone. Also noteworthy are the price increases of supplies and materials, rising more than 8 percent while administrative salaries and fringe benefits both grew 5.0 percent. These high costs often saddle institutions with tough budget decision, like delaying capital projects, canceling classes, laying off staff and faculty and raising tuition and fees.


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