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ERIC Number: EJ976719
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 15
ISSN: ISSN-0024-1822
It's Not so Easy: The Completion Agenda and the States
Walters, Garrison
Liberal Education, v98 n1 p34-39 Win 2012
The completion agenda (also referred to as the "reform" movement) is focused mainly on state policy leaders, governors, legislators, and boards of higher education. Complete College America (CCA), a national nonprofit organization established in 2009 to increase educational attainment in the United States, is the standard bearer of the completion agenda. At the core of CCA's strategy is a proposed shift to state-level performance funding: "Funding should shift from simply rewarding enrollment to valuing outcomes, such as credentials awarded or classes successfully completed. Funding is a powerful incentive, and rewarding performance allows states to align their fiscal policies with statewide goals for workforce development and economic prosperity." The strategy would be more accurately described as "pressure-punitive funding," because it is designed to force institutions to change and punish them if they do not. CCA's premise is that colleges and universities will not do the right thing unless they are paid to do so: it's all about the money. The reality is that colleges and universities do not have to teach undergraduates well in order to prosper. Higher education institutions do what all human institutions do: they respond to the incentives and values of the systems and markets in which they exist. They can't be regulated or threatened into improving their service to students. They have to want to change, not just vaguely or to a slight degree, but so much so that they're willing to spend the resources and endure the conflict that change inevitably brings. The results so far show that it's not so easy. They also demonstrate the dangers of being overly optimistic about the power of being data focused--about the so-called "culture of evidence"--to drive significant change. Colleges and universities need to organize nationally--and in a very visible way--to do three things: (1) embrace the positive aspects of the completion agenda, such as the focus on adult education; (2) promote further efforts at continuous improvement, as in Maryland and Virginia, but include radical outsourcing and collaborative strategies; and (3) develop more systematic research and development projects to improve learning and success to graduation. The narcotic appeal of "it's so easy" is not only pointing to foolish actions, it's leading away from the real problems. The author contends that it's time to counter with a coherent and aggressive agenda that is truly based in higher education. (Contains 9 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A