Welcome to another academic year! I’m coming back with renewed energy and hope that the lessons we’ve learned over the past year and a half will help us move forward and serve students with flexibility and resilience.
Back to school season sparks a lot of questions about the beginning of a student’s college journey, especially when it comes to equity. The number of colleges and universities (and states) going test-optional for admissions or reconsidering the role of these tests in admissions continues to grow, which is fueling debate about whether that move will really make education after high school more accessible for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. This debate prompted a recent conversation with our co-chair Melinda French Gates, who asked two important questions: “What does this mean for our mission and our work? To the extent we don’t know, what can we find out and share?”
Our growing focus on promoting equitable value in postsecondary education demands that we better understand what the move to test-blind or test-optional admissions means for lowering barriers to opportunity. So we are making investments to build knowledge about the impact of test-optional and related admissions policies on colleges and universities and the students they seek to serve and share that knowledge with institutions as they consider their own admissions policies and practices. Keep reading for more on this work.
We remain firmly committed to the work of transforming colleges and universities to eliminate race, ethnicity, and income as predictors of student success. This includes taking a hard look at the full length of a student’s journey to a certificate or degree – and sharing what we learn.
Director of Partnerships, Learning and Evaluation University Innovation Alliance
Program Manager, University Innovation Alliance
Just before adjourning for the term, Congress passed a spending and COVID relief bill that will simplify the FAFSA, reducing the number of questions from 108 to a maximum of 36. It also restores Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students after a nearly 30-year ban. Read more from our partners at NCAN and IHEP about these important steps forward.
A new survey released by Third Way and conducted by Global Strategy Group found that while the pandemic has slightly dampened perceptions of college value among likely voters, two-thirds still rate return on investment as “excellent” or “good.” Respondents also said that colleges and universities have a role to play in improving value and called for more transparency from institutions.
The National Student Clearinghouse found a 3.5% decline in Fall 2020 undergrad enrollment, driven largely by a 13.1% drop in enrollment of first-time students and a 10% decrease at community colleges. Enrollment at public and private four-year institutions remained essentially flat.