Leading with Purpose: Committing to a Long-Term Postsecondary Strategy
Building Knowledge and Finding Consensus Key to Reform
State legislatures and governors often have the authority to set policies without the consultation of postsecondary institutions. Unilateral approaches, however, can lead to impulsive policymaking and haphazard implementation. Missouri and Virginia have avoided this pitfall by choosing a collaborative and deliberative model, where they consulted the data, research-based evidence, and out-of-state experts to craft a clear and sustainable strategy for advancing state economic development goals.
Missouri: Leading with Research & Data
Missouri could no longer stomach ineffective remedial education delivery models and inefficient transfer mechanisms. House Bill 1042, authored by Representative Mike Thomson and signed into law this summer, directs the coordinating board to adopt evidence-based remedial approaches and ensure transferability of 25 courses across all institutions. Thomson did not punish the coordinating board or system institutions for failing to meet expectations. Instead, the legislature crafted an authoritative statement, choosing to clarify state goals and offering ways to achieve these objectives.
The data and evidence needed to build consensus and create urgency came from various sources, but Complete College America was instrumental in equipping Missouri’s state team with these resources. By avoiding the urge to be overly punitive, granting flexibility for institutions to innovate, and by supporting the adoption of new student-success models, Missouri has developed the mutual responsibility and accountability needed to sustain long-term reforms.
Virginia: Agenda-Setting from the Top
Almost immediately after being elected, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell pushed the reset button on higher education and workforce development. He created a Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation, and Investment, inviting multiple stakeholders and constituencies to offer their solution for the problems ailing the state. The Governor’s Commission released their findings in 2010, and the recommendations led to the drafting of House Bill 2510 (2011), more commonly known as the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act.
The act created the Higher Education Advisory Committee, which has representation from the legislature and postsecondary institutions. The committee has developed state- and institution-specific economic opportunity metrics to measure progress toward the state goal of producing 100,000 additional undergraduate degrees by 2025. The bill also introduces incentive funding as a way of achieving the 2025 goal. The governor introduced an aggressive initiative but his approach in engaging legislative and postsecondary leaders lessened the resistance to reform.
More Effective Policymaking through Shared Leadership
Both Missouri and Virginia have shifted away from punitive accountability systems, opting for a more consultative approach where the governor, state legislature, and all postsecondary institutions share responsibility for student performance. We should not ignore the reality, however, that policy often is developed unilaterally by state leaders, which can invite resistance from institutions. Missouri and Virginia avoided pushback by recognizing that all stakeholders are mutually responsible for student success and attainment of state goals.
This blog post is the second of three focusing on the Boosting College Completion Legislative Workshop held in Atlanta, Georgia on July 12, 2012. The second session featured Missouri Representative Mike Thomson and Virginia Secretary of Education Laura Fornash.
To view the blog post on workforce data, click here.
To view the blog post on technology game changers in postsecondary education, click here.