What Lies Ahead for Higher Education in 2010

This month the American Association of State Colleges and Universities released Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2010, a brief that outlines what that group believes will be the state higher education policy issues at the forefront of discussion and legislative activity in 2010. While all of the topics are likely to affect postsecondary CTE, such as state budget shortfalls, tuition, and data, some are specifically related to CTE, such as community colleges.

First, President Obama’s American Graduation Initiative (AGI), if passed into law, will invest billions of dollars into community colleges including the Community College Challenge Fund, would give $9 billion in challenge grant funding to community colleges for innovative programs such as workforce partnerships and $500 million to develop online courses.

Second, enrollment capacity at community colleges is a major concern as more and more people return to school due to unemployment or to upgrade their skills.  According to the American Association of Community Colleges enrollment in credit-bearing classes increased 16.9 percent over the last two years.  As state education budgets dwindle, there is a real concern that these open institutions will have to increase tuition or turn students away.

Third, improved data systems could help community colleges track student achievement and attainment in a more efficient and robust way.  In one such proposal, the National Governors Association (NGA) identified four achievement milestones that all states should track: completion of remedial and core courses, advancement from remedial to credit-bearing courses, transfer from a two-year to a four-year institution, and credential attainment.

Finally, college and career readiness standards will be a key focus for CTE in the year ahead.  In 2009, NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officers developed national college and career readiness standards to be vetted and adopted by the states in the coming years.

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