Rating 5 years of progress by access, affordability, and accountability

Spellings Panel Spurred Progress in Some Key Areas but Failed to Remake American Higher Education

Kelly Field

Chronicle of Higher Education, September 23, 2011

“Five years ago from Monday, Secretary Margaret Spellings’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education issued a report that called on colleges to “improve in dramatic ways,” becoming more accessible, more affordable, and more accountable to taxpayers and students.”

“Are our students learning?”

Committing to Quality: Guidelines for Assessment and Accountability in Higher Education

New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability, 2012

The New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability leads and supports voluntary and cooperative efforts to move the higher education community toward gathering, reporting on, and using
evidence to improve student learning in American undergraduate education.
The Alliance envisions a self-directed, professional higher education community that produces an increasing number of college graduates with high-quality degrees in preparation for work, life, and responsible citizenship.
Through the promotion of shared principles, recommended actions, and innovative initiatives, the Alliance aims to:
• Shape attitudes, practices, and policies related to gathering, reporting on, and using evidence to improve student learning.
• Promote the establishment of new professional norms for gathering, reporting on, and using evidence of student learning.
• Increase public confidence in the quality of undergraduate education provided by American colleges and universities.

Learning outcomes to benchmark degrees

The Degree Qualifications Profile

Lumina Foundation, 2011

“Through this document, Lumina Foundation for Education offers a “Degree Qualifications Profile,” a tool that can help transform U.S. higher education. A Degree Profile — or qualifications framework — illustrates clearly what students should be expected to know and be able to do once they earn their degrees — at any level. This Degree Profile thus proposes specific learning outcomes that benchmark the associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees — which constitute the great majority of postsecondary degrees awarded by U.S. colleges and universities — regardless of a student’s field of specialization.                                                 The learning outcomes specified in this Degree Profile are not without precedent. In fact, the Degree Profile draws on more than a decade of widespread debate and effort, across all levels of U.S. higher education, to define expected learning outcomes that graduates need for work, citizenship, global participation and life.
Building from this work, this Degree Profile is deliberately offered as a “beta version” that will be further tested and refined by a variety of stakeholders.The long-term goal is to clearly define quality in American higher education and to develop new capacity throughout postsecondary education to ensure that students
achieve the levels of learning they need and deserve.”

Advisory Committee on eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs

National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity

U.S. Department of Education, 2012

“The Committee advises the Secretary of Education on matters related to postsecondary (or higher education) accreditation and the eligibility and certification process for higher education institutions to participate in the Federal student aid programs. Its primary function is to provide recommendations to the Secretary concerning whether accrediting entities’ standards are sufficiently rigorous and effective in their application to ensure that the entity is a reliable authority regarding the quality of the education or training provided by the institutions or programs it accredits. To meet that high standard, accrediting entities must demonstrate compliance with all the criteria for recognition. (See below for more information about the criteria for recognition.) If an accrediting entity is then recognized by the Secretary, then the postsecondary institutions it accredits may apply to participate in the Federal student aid programs. The Committee’s recommendations help ensure that the students who enroll in those institutions, and who receive an estimated $158 billion in Federal student aid annually, are attending quality postsecondary institutions.”

The Bologna Process Explained

The Bologna Club:What U.S. Higher Education Can Learn from a Decade of European Reconstruction

Clifford Adelman, Senior Associate
Institute for Higher Education Policy, May 2008

“Since 1999, 46 European countries have been engaged in reconstructing their higher education systems to bring about a greater degree of “convergence,” i.e. common reference points and operating procedures to create a European Higher Education Area. This voluntary undertaking, a logical extension of the process of European integration that has been deepening since 1950—as well as a cultivation of seedlings of change in higher education that were planted in the 1990s—affects 4000 institutions and 16 million students, an enterprise comparable to the size and scope of higher education in the United States.

The undertaking is known as The Bologna Process, named for the Italian city that is home to Europe’s oldest university, where the education ministers of 29 countries first agreed to the agenda and “action lines” that would bring down education borders in the same way that economic borders had been dissolved. That means harmonization, not standardization. When these national higher education systems work with the same reference points they produce a “zone of mutual trust” that permits recognition of credentials across borders and significant international mobility for their students. Everyone is singing in the same key, though not necessarily with the same tune. In terms reaching across geography and languages, let alone in terms of turning ancient higher education systems on their heads, the Bologna Process is the most far reaching and ambitious reform of higher education ever undertaken.

What has transpired since 1999 cannot be but lightly acknowledged in the United States. While still a work in progress, parts of the Bologna Process have already been imitated in Latin America, North Africa, and Australia. The core features of the Bologna Process have sufficient momentum to become the dominant global higher education model within the next two decades. We had better listen up.”