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||Major Themes and Core Activities
- The agenda and work plan of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher
Education will be organized around several broad themes. Some of these themes derive
from current external and internal factors influencing higher education; other themes
would be important during any time period. Three themes, in particular, will be of
continuing attention for the Center: the costs and benefits of higher education;
statewide governance of higher education; and the public purposes of higher education.
The Costs and Benefits of Higher Education
The most recent intensive national debate on this issue occurred in the late 1960s
and early 1970s. The Center will revisit the Carnegie Commissionâs classic
formulation of the core finance issues: ãWho pays? Who benefits? Who should
pay?ä13 The late 1990s iteration must go well
beyond the allocation of financial responsibility, however, to give greater attention
to the appropriate costs of higher education and to the mechanisms of support
and public accountability that are most consistent with achieving public purposes.
A national roundtable on the public and private financing of higher education was
convened by the Pew Higher Education Roundtable and the California Higher Education
Policy Center in 1996. Its major purpose was to work out a national policy agenda
on higher education finance, and it posed a number of important questions about higher
education finance policy for the late 1990s, including:14
- The Roles of State and Federal Government. In what ways should the relationship
of government to higher education change in response to changing public needs? What
should be the relationship between federal and state funding of higher education?
- Access to Opportunity. Is there a more cost effective way to provide access
to quality in an era of greater constraints on public funding? To provide continued
access to quality, what funding mechanisms would optimize public and private investments
in higher education?
- Tuition and Student Aid Policy. What objectives should guide policies
for setting tuition÷in state legislatures as well as institutions? What mixture
of tuition and financial aid will assure broad access?
- Technology and Market Forces. How can public policy or public investment
work most effectively in conjunction with market forces to ensure that technological
advances produce real enhancements of learning? Under what circumstances are public
agencies likely to be more equitable than the market in distributing access to, or
funds for, technology?
- Linking Funding to Performance. To what degree should the funding of higher
education be tied to the performance of either institutions or students? Can linking
dollars to outcomes help colleges and universities overcome their seeming inability
to realize productivity gains?
The roundtable also raised issues of privatization of institutions and functions,
and of whether performance outcomes would better assure public authorities of ãfair
value for their investments in higher education.ä
State Governance of Higher Education
Recent reorganization of state higher education systems in several states, including
New Jersey, Minnesota, Alaska, Montana, Kentucky, and Illinois, indicate that the
interest of governors and legislators in higher education governance remains high.
There has, however, been no apparent pattern to these reorganizations. Nationally,
state governing structures appear to be unstable, and there will be a continuing
need for policy frameworks and structural options that can assist state policy leaders
in their search for constructive change.
The California Higher Education Policy Center has recently completed, with support
from the Pew Charitable Trusts, a seven-state study of the organization of higher
education beyond the campus level.15 The study includes
the decision-making roles of governors and legislatures. The project differs from
earlier governance studies in that it focuses on the influence of governance structures
on the achievement of state priorities, as opposed to the traditional emphasis on
institutional autonomy vis-à-vis state authority. A policy commentary
based upon this research will raise key policy questions about state governance,
and offer a conceptual framework for assessing the influence of organizational structure
on the achievement of state priorities. The National Center for Public Policy and
Higher Education will continue to develop and refine a policy framework for addressing
state-level governance, testing it beyond the original seven states and examining
states where major structural changes have occurred.
The Public Purposes of Higher Education
All major public policies contain implicit or explicit assumptions about public purposes.
Many public policy debates over governance and finance are, in part, proxies for
disagreements about purpose. More explicit discussion about public purposes is a
necessary condition for more focused policy. Issues of public purpose are not just
internal to higher education, but encompass the role of higher education in society.
A conversation about purpose, therefore, needs to include the views and perceptions
of many people: the general public; opinion leaders in the civic, business and government
sectors; and higher education leaders, including administrators, faculty and trustees.
As part of its work, the Center will rely on several methods of public opinion research
to understand systematically the diverse views of these groups. By engaging representatives
of these groups in policy deliberation, the Center will seek to gain insight into
the development of what Daniel Yankelovich has termed ãpublic judgmentä
in the area of higher education policy.16
The themes described above will provide pervasive and recurrent guides for the Centerâs
work, though they will not necessarily be the subjects of discrete projects or reports.
In implementing a thematic approach, the Center will identify important issues related
to one or several of its primary themes. It will organize activities around these
issues. Ultimately, it will develop policy products as a result of the various activities.
This approach is similar to the model the California Higher Education Policy Center
utilized to organize its work. (The California Higher Education Policy Center, which
operated from 1992 to 1997, was organized under the Higher Education Policy Institute,
the same independent, nonprofit corporation that serves as the ãumbrellaä
organization for the new national center.)
The following chart portrays an example of how the California Higher Education Policy
Center implemented a thematic approach in exploring the public and private finance
of higher education.
Example of Thematic Approach:
The Public and Private Finance of Higher Education
|Issues Related to Theme Ë
|State Appropriations for California Higher Education Ë
||Tracked 30 Years of State Appropriations Ë
||Financing the Plan: Californiaâs Master Plan for Higher Education,
1960 to 1996
|Student Aid in California Ë
||Analyzed Student Aid Sources and Revenues Ë
||Trends in Student Aid: 1990 to 1996 (by The College Board),
including policy implications
Changes in State Finance of Higher Education Ë
|Changes in State Finance of Higher Education Ë
||Studied Higher Education Finance in Five States Ë
||Background Case Study Publications for National Roundtable
|Overall Changes in Higher Education Finance Ë
||Commissioned Research Ë
||Background Publication for National Roundtable
|Changes in Federal and State Finance Ë
||Commissioned Research Ë
||Background Publication for National Roundtable
|Policy Implications for Federal and State Changes in Higher Education
||Jointly Convened the National Roundtable on the Public and Private
Finance of Higher Education Ë
||ãShaping the Futureä (published in CrossTalk);
ãRumblingä (published in Policy Perspectives); and The Public
and Private Financing of Higher Education (published by Oryx Press)
In fostering constructive change, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher
Education will undertake the following core activities:
- Refine and advance a national agenda for higher education policy, an agenda that
identifies and analyzes crucial national policy issues facing American higher education,
while framing and articulating those issues from a broad, public interest perspective.
- Publish readable and incisive policy studies and commentaries that raise policy
issues, examine alternatives, and analyze choices.
- Convene seminars and symposia on key policy issues to involve higher education,
government, and business and civic leaders÷as well as scholars and experts.
- Stimulate public and media discussion and debate of key policy issues.
- Be an authoritative source of information, commentary and analysis for policy
makers and for the media.
- Develop, through its activities, new professional and lay leadership in higher
- Utilize targeted public opinion surveys and focus groups at national, regional
and state levels to understand public values and perceptions.
- Issue a quarterly policy publication modeled after the California Higher Education
Policy Centerâs CrossTalk to report important policy developments.
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© 1998 The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education