Federal Postsecondary Policy
Postsecondary education policy needs to be modernized to support economic development and to be more in line with the realities of low-income working adults' lives and the needs of employers. CLASP works to align adult education, job training, and higher education policies to create pathways to marketable credentials that support stable employment in jobs that pay family-sustaining wages.
Aug 14, 2015 | PERMALINK »
Reform the HEA to Address the Unmet Needs of Low-Income and Nontraditional Students
While the stereotype of college students being fresh out of high school and dependent on their parents is certainly true for some, the balance has tipped to the point where the majority of postsecondary students today are independent and perhaps have spent time working or raising a family between high school and their attendance in college. This is one of the most critical reasons why the Higher Education Act (HEA), which was last reauthorized in 2008, needs to be updated. In recognition of the many ways that HEA could be improved to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body, CLASP has updated our policy priorities for reforming the HEA. These policy recommendations reflect our goal of boldly improving federal higher education policy to educate and prepare students for economic success, and preparing lower-income individuals for a rapidly shifting labor market. The reauthorization of the HEA offers a significant opportunity to:
- Make financial aid responsive to today’s students by addressing the needs and attendance patterns of non-traditional and low-income students;
- Transform education delivery to support student success by connecting student financial aid with other programs, benefits, and sources of student assistance, establishing robust career pathways, and better integrating competency-based education; and
- Leverage outcome information to support better decision making through data collections that reflect the current student population and measure their success in finding employment.
Fifty-one percent of today’s undergraduates are independent, 40 percent are adults age 25 or older, 27 percent work full time, and 26 percent are parents. These students bring life experience, which enhances their educational experience and, at some institutions, contributes to higher completion rates as compared to their younger peers. However, the temporal and logistical constraints facing these students require access to more flexible schedules and methods of delivering education to accommodate their many responsibilities. Students also need better information to help them make good educational decisions, as these choices carry more consequence when combined with balancing work and/or family.
Today’s postsecondary students not only contend with the current offering of programs and information not meeting their needs, but they have unmet financial need as well. On average, a community college student is estimated to incur $16,325 in education-related expenses annually, with only $3,347 of that comprising tuition and fees. The remaining costs include those for transportation, books, supplies, food, and housing, for which grant aid often – and for low-income students in particular, virtually always – is insufficient to cover. In 2000, the lowest-income students had an average of $5,985 annually in unmet need; in 2012 that figure had nearly doubled to $10,061.
In general, it is clear that student needs are often not met by what many traditional colleges currently offer. CLASP’s recommendations for improvements to the HEA will shift federal policy to better support low-income and non-traditional students. As postsecondary credentials are increasingly necessary to secure good jobs and advance economically, reforms to the HEA are essential to help all individuals obtain the higher education and skills they need to enter and advance in the workforce.
- Lauren Walizer, Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, and Anna Cielinski | Aug 14, 2015 Engaging HEA as a Tool to Address the Needs of Non-Traditional Students: CLASP Recommendations for HEA Reauthorization
- Kisha Bird, Anna Cielinski, Judy Mortrude, and David Socolow | Apr 17, 2015 Promoting Economic and Career Success for Low-Income Youth and Adults: A Preview of Key Provisions in the Proposed WIOA Regulations
- Katherine Saunders and Elizabeth Lower-Basch | Apr 01, 2015 Education Tax Credits: Refundability Critical to Making Credits Helpful to Low-Income Students and Families
- Anna Cielinski and Tim Harmon | Feb 19, 2015 CLASP Comments on the College Ratings System Draft Framework
- Kisha Bird, Marcie Foster, and Evelyn Ganzglass | Sep 29, 2014 New Opportunities to Improve Economic and Career Success for Low-Income Youth and Adults: Key Provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)