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Making the Case: The Public’s Perspective John Immerwahr, Public Agenda and Villanova University, December 12, 2008 A Unique Collaboration: National Center ( www.highereducation.org ) Public Agenda ( www.publicagenda.org ) Public opinion studies on higher education since 1993

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Making the case the public s perspective l.jpg

Making the Case: The Public’s Perspective

John Immerwahr,

Public Agenda and Villanova University, December 12, 2008


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A Unique Collaboration:

  • National Center (www.highereducation.org)

  • Public Agenda (www.publicagenda.org)

  • Public opinion studies on higher education since 1993

  • Squeeze Play (2007), The Iron Triangle (2008)


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The long-term challenge:

Access

Social justice

Individual success

The new challenge-all of the above plus:

State funding cuts

International competitiveness

Demands for productivity

The evolving challenge


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Topics to be covered

  • Public perspectives on the long-term challenge

  • The emerging dialogue on the new challenge, perspectives of:

    • Legislative and business leaders

    • College presidents and faculty

    • Public


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The long-term challenge: gateway to the middle class

  • Compared to current situation: easier

  • Clark Kerr: first two tidal waves

    • GI bill

    • Baby Boom

  • Third tidal wave

    • A new generation of students

    • Majority-minority


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Making the case for individual well being and social justice

  • GI Bill creates the American middle class

  • Baby boom generation extends American dream

  • Will we close the gate on millions of new aspirants?

  • Problem of social justice, fairness, mobility etc.

  • No disagreements in principle


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Public perspective

  • Public perspective key to legislative support

  • How to read the numbers

  • Data from 2007

  • Read for enduring values

  • Adjust for changing economy


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College is important: H.S. student should go to college rather than take good job now

1993 – 79%

2003 – 87%

Possible to succeed without college education

2000 – 67%

2007 – 49%

Virtual right- 72% strongly agree

Importance of access


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High grades for higher ed rather than take good job now

  • 51% say 4-year colleges excellent or good, compared to 37% for secondary schools

  • 67% -- college worth it despite high costs

  • 66% -- higher ed teaching students what they need to know, up from 53% in 1998


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Higher education Teflon rather than take good job now

  • 86% -- effort matters more than quality of school

  • Blame the consumer, not the provider

  • Drop out rates, whose fault?

    • H.S. -- school’s fault

    • College – student’s fault


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Rising prices, rising anxiety rather than take good job now

  • 59% -- higher ed prices going up as fast or faster than health care

  • The $25 ice pack, and the $200 textbook

  • 78% -- students have to borrow too much


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Access under attack rather than take good job now

  • Many qualified students don’t have opportunity

    • 1993 -- 60% (economic recession)

    • 1998 -- 45%

    • 2003 – 57%

    • 2007 -- 62%

    • 2008 -- ????

  • 60% -- Middle class hardest hit


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2000 rather than take good job now

College essential -- 31%

Many can’t go – 47%

2007

College essential --50%

Many can’t go – 62%

Squeeze play (college misery index):


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Minority groups: really worried rather than take good job now

  • Many qualified people don’t have opportunity

    • 56% -- non-Hispanic white parents

    • 67% -- Hispanic parents

    • 84% -- African-American parents

  • Minorities also much more likely to believe college is necessary


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Why isn’t the public more panicked? rather than take good job now

  • Three factors: importance, quality, access

  • K-12. Importance high, access good, quality problematic

  • Health care. Importance high, quality good, access problematic

  • Higher ed, seems like health care but . . .


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Pressure valves rather than take good job now

  • 67% -- a student who really wants to go can find a way

  • 73% -- student who sacrifices will learn more

  • 72% -- students can learn at 2-year college


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Parents: we’ll find a way rather than take good job now

  • 61% -- very likely oldest kid goes to college

  • 84% --- we’ll find a way to pay for it


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New international reality rather than take good job now

Geography class wrong: world is flat!

US falling behind in global competition in education

New domestic reality

More students requiring more support

Declining state revenues

Greater demands for accountability

The new challenge


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The emerging debate between: rather than take good job now

  • Business and legislative leaders

  • College presidents and faculty

  • Where does the public stand


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College presidents: the problem rather than take good job now

  • Recent speech: UC President Mark Youdof, Iron Triangle report

  • Costs going up because of uncontrollable factors (salaries, health care, security, etc)

  • Decreasing state subsidies

  • Increasingly expensive students

  • Translates to higher fees or decreasing quality


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College presidents: the solution rather than take good job now

  • Inefficiencies mostly squeezed out of the system already

  • Voluntary accountability moving along

  • Need for redefinition – higher education is a public good, not merely a private good

  • Public reinvestment in higher education (as part of economic stimulus and infrastructure spending)


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Business leaders: the problem rather than take good job now

  • (Older surveys, more recent qualitative information)

  • Inefficiency

  • Lack of innovation


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Legislators: the problem rather than take good job now

  • Resistance to accountability

  • Little responsiveness to community needs

  • Arrogance

  • Large number of dropouts

  • Maybe higher education can afford to take some hits


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Legislators and business leader solutions: rather than take good job nowproductivity!

  • Produce more degrees

  • Eliminate wasteful programs

  • Change incentives

  • Eliminate “mission creep”

  • Greater use of community colleges

  • Technology

  • Coordination between K12 and college


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Two problems for higher education: 1) Disagreement on assumptions

  • College presidents: an iron triangle

    • Cost, quality, access locked in a reciprocal relationship

  • Business and legislative leaders

    • Don’t accept iron triangle view

    • Higher education enormously resistant to change!


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2) Presidents caught between external critics and faculty assumptions

  • Preliminary focus group study (funded by Lumina)

  • Importance of faculty

  • College presidents: even if they agreed with critics, they must answer to faculty


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Faculty: perception of problem assumptions

  • Quality is central

  • Quality has deteriorated (mostly due to change in students)

  • Student has become customer

  • Proposed solutions may further reduce quality

  • Reject business models - “productivity” a dirty word


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How about the public? assumptions

  • When leaders disagree, they look to the public for support

  • Public mostly concerned with individual issues, hasn’t focused on macro picture

  • But they do have a hunch


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Higher education: the bloom is off the rose assumptions

  • 52% -- colleges care mostly about bottom line

  • State’s higher education system needs to be completely overhauled

    • 1993 – 54%

    • 1998 – 39%

    • 2007 – 48%

    • 2008?


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Public: reject tradeoff between cost, access, quality: assumptions

  • 58% -- colleges could take more students without hurting quality or price

  • 56% -- colleges could spend less money and still maintain quality

  • Only 48% say students are learning more as a result of increasing prices

  • The high cost of Teflon


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Public: hands off access assumptions

  • 68% -- use more community colleges

  • 67% -- internet, weekend, and evening classes

  • 56% -- take college courses in h.s.

  • 66% -- oppose cutting number of courses

  • 65% -- oppose consolidating programs


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Making the case to the public: the good news assumptions

  • Good news

    • Universal agreement on importance

    • High public support for access

  • Bad news

    • Little public concern about quality (as defined by higher education)

    • Little support for non-access related funding


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Easier: tell the story better assumptions

Marshalling arguments (economic benefits, etc)

Reaching stakeholders

Using tools of communication

Harder: making changes

Not just looking at administration

Softening the iron triangle

Gaining faculty buy-in

Two ways of making the case


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Thanks assumptions


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