What We’re Reading…

HEI staff members share what we’re reading this month. We welcome your recommendations for next month!

books in black wooden book shelf
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tait Kellogg, PhD, Director of Research & Strategic Services
“Understanding Rural Education Inequity” – The Ear (podcast) by Columbia Spectator
KEY TAKEAWAY: “Really enjoyed this Understanding Rural Education Inequity episode of this podcast put out by Columbia University, Teachers College (my alma mater). I find it important to hear about the challenges associated with coming into the Ivory Tower from a rural community.”

Donté  McGuire, Research Analyst
“Tricia Hersey on Rest as Resistance”
– For the Wild (podcast)
KEY TAKEAWAY: “I follow Tricia Hersey’s ‘The Nap Ministry’ on Instagram but recently listened to a podcast where she was interviewed about her work and ideology around rest as resistance. Some things I’m still reflecting on after just a first listen:

1) ‘Grind culture,’ that suggests our bodies are machines runs deep and in ways that I am not even aware. For example, I use the phrase ‘I don’t have the bandwidth for….’ In reality, I am trying to communicate much more than a computing or machine term can capture.

2) How this idea of treating our bodies/minds as machines primarily for production/being productive is directly tied to capitalism and the ways Black bodies were pushed to machine-like pace and disregarded since chattel slavery.

3) My refusal to rest, when I can, is aligning myself with capitalist culture. I get so much joy and fulfillment out of doing things—except resting :)—that I’ve never stopped to ask how much of this is due to being socialized in such a strong capitalist society, at least not recently. Lots of learning and unlearning to do…in time.”

Patricia Steele, PhD, Founder & Principal
The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, MD
KEY TAKEAWAY: “Given the state of trauma that many people are living in—from the isolation effects of the pandemic or illness or loss, or the racial justice challenges of the recent year, this book seems to me to be a good choice. The author talks about how trauma affects the mind, body, and the chemical makeup of the brain. Just a tiny hint of a threat then re-traumatizes individuals and leaves them in a constant state of vigilance. It’s no way to live and can lead to further isolation. Mentally and emotionally, trauma affects how survivors interact with people and the world around them. The author explores some unique and fascinating avenues of treatment to help past trauma subside in its power. It’s a worthy read.”


Staff Spotlight: John Archacki, Project Manager

HEI invites you to get to know our fantastic staff members. Each month, we highlight a different colleague. This month, learn about John Archacki’s expertise and what drives him professionally.

As a Project Manager with HEI, John Archacki specializes in data collection, analysis, and reporting activities. His knowledge of a wide variety of survey techniques, analysis tools, and reporting methods are leveraged across HEI’s portfolio of clients. His project management and support experience are applied to various projects, including market research projects for colleges and universities, as well as program evaluations for grant projects funded by the NSF, USDOE, NYSED, and private foundations. Prior to joining HEI, Mr. Archacki worked as a Research Analyst for Hezel Associates doing a variety of work on program evaluations and planning projects, and prior to that as he worked as a Research Analyst at KS&R, Inc., doing market research for a variety of private sector industries. He was responsible for all aspects of research projects including client communications, research methodologies, data collection, analysis, report design, and presentations. He also consulted with clients to develop solutions to internal and customer-facing process issues such as help desk, training, change recommendations, privacy and disclosure notices, and functional business and design documentation needs.

What first drew you to work in higher education?

I transitioned to program evaluation after over 8 years doing market research. Evaluation gave me an opportunity to continue doing research beyond business and market oriented contexts.

How would you describe your current work?

A growing portion of my work has become in managing operational processes and procedures as our company grows and wrestles with how to assess our productivity and collaboration.

What gives you hope in the work you do?

Seeing the team grow and become more efficient, with each of us developing our own subject matter expertise.

What is your favorite part of working at HEI and with HEI’s clients?

One of the things that drew me to business administration and market research while in college was that helping organizations manage, and just do things better, is an important goal for me. Evaluation is the embodiment of those ideals, helping our clients through careful assessment and formative feedback to make their programs better than they would have been otherwise.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Always keep looking for ways to add value, find efficiencies, and streamline processes in everything you work on.


Making Data Meaningful: Education Design Lab

Making data meaningful: HEI formatted data profiles as Instagram slides to help make the data more widely accessible to local communities.

For any university or college, understanding local economic opportunity and the hopes and goals of community members is imperative for building responsive education programs that meet the needs of employers, learners, and workers. This is especially true for community colleges, who hold a vital community role in bridging offered degrees and certificates with employer demand for jobs. Yet, local economic data are rarely made highly accessible or presented in a creative way that is friendly to a wide audience. Economic projections and local demographic data usually come in the form of dense, hard-to-read reports full of line graphs.

At HEI, one of our favorite endeavors is to make data accessible for a wide audience. We’ve recently partnered with our client, Education Design Lab, to help them accomplish this goal for one cohort of their partner institutions. The Lab is an innovative organization that co-designs and builds equitable, learner-centered approaches with colleges, universities, employers, foundations, regions, and other partners. They kick off each of their design challenges with a series of “gallery walks,” bringing together a wide swath of local community leaders, learners, local media, and others around quantitative and qualitative data that paints a comprehensive picture of the experience of learners and the local community today. For their BRIDGES Rural design challenge, the Lab has brought together a cohort of rural community colleges across the nation to ask: How might we strengthen the capacity of rural community colleges to serve as critical economic growth engines for their learners and communities?

The Power of Infographics

To make economic data accessible to the audiences interested in the above question, HEI put together data profiles, formatted as Instagram slides. This accessible format made the data friendly to a wide audience and helped to inform the community about current demographics and future opportunities in the local area. Community colleges who were offered these data profiles learned more about what local populations they weren’t currently serving and how to tailor programs to meet potential learners where they are. “Our community college partners had never seen data put together in such a digestible, easy-to-understand format,” says Miriam Swords Kalk, Education Designer for BRIDGES, Education Design Lab. “It’s been a real game-changer for them to have access to such rich information about their local communities and surrounding regions to inform the design of new programs.”


Staff Spotlight: Elexus Robinson, Research Assistant

HEI invites you to get to know our fantastic staff members. Each month, we will highlight a different colleague. This month, learn about Elexus Robinson’s expertise and what drives her professionally.

Elexus Robinson is a Research Assistant at Higher Ed Insight. Her previous work experiences include spearheading the national Bonner Leadership program at a public research university, reviewing program educational data to address the socio-emotional needs of military children, and learning to improve community initiatives among the youth and adult interactions at the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence. Elexus’s approach to research is to foster communities and promote social agency that addresses educational and social concerns. As an educator, Elexus has taught courses on the practices of community engagement and civic identity; she encourages students in topics of social justice, evaluating the systemic consequences of community stakeholders and the use of relevant research data to address community concerns. Elexus received her BA in Sociology and Anthropology with a double minor in Human Rights & Conflict Resolutions and Dance from Christopher Newport University and her MA in Public Sociology from George Mason University.

What first drew you to work in higher education?

My sociology professors from my alma mater had a lot to do with my desire to work in higher education. I specifically wanted to be just like them and mentor and teach students while also conducting phenomenal research. I loved the passion they had for their work but also the mutual respect they had for each other. I wanted what they had, and I wanted to be a part of that. One professor, Dr. Johnny Finn, invited me to be a research assistant on a National Park Services research project at the Antietam National Battlefield that the entire department was collaborating on. The experience of writing with them, going out into the field with them, partnering with other students, and speaking/interviewing locals did wonders to this first-gen kid and I was like, oh yeah I want to do this for the rest of my life!

How would you describe your current work/the work you’re most passionate about?

Any work that involves advancing Black culture, art, and history: I am all for it. Currently, I am involved or assist in projects that directly or indirectly advance the culture. For example, I am a part of a participatory action research (PAR) project that examines first-generation women of the African Diaspora’s experiences, and this research has become a space of healing, trust, and vulnerability. This work heavily involves mending the past, present, and the future, where a lot of my theoretical interests lie.  

In addition, I’m all for any work that allows me to apply a critical lens I am passionate about. My current work at HEI pertains to educational attainment, and I was shocked to learn how many resources are available for underserved communities. It was a lot more than I expected. Unfortunately, knowledge about said resources is unheard of in a majority of marginalized communities. For me, I’m motivated to continue the work by asking, how do we help students to be eligible and aware of the additional support available for them to pursue a higher education? How many dreams are deferred or not even cultivated due to guarded in-house knowledge or the lack of engagement by stakeholders? I love helping and interacting with student populations, particularly in higher education and the work I do at HEI reflects that.

What gives you hope in the work you do?

This work at times can be unforgiving or even draining on one’s faculties, so as a woman of faith and believing in and answering to a higher authority keeps me accountable not only to myself but to every person I come in contact with. My hope comes from a source that knows no end, so when I’m tapped out or if even the best of humanity is tapped out, I put my hope in God knowing that the good work we do will not be in vain.

What is your favorite part of working at HEI and with HEI’s clients?

What has been my favorite part so far about working at HEI would have to be the amount of learning I have gained in such a short time! I am a student by nature, and I am adamant about keeping myself mentally engaged and even challenged. HEI has provided me the space to learn a lot of practical and technical skills that is sometimes overlooked when going through the academy. HEI is definitely the home I would say that’s cultivating me to be a more well-rounded scholar and professional.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I really enjoy the work that I do and the opportunity it affords me to be compassionate and critical. It is such a privilege to practice what I love and I am so excited to be a part of the HEI team. I look forward to the awesome work that will come our way!


The Ed Tech Surge: Risks and Invaluable Opportunities

Photo by Junior Teixeira on Pexels.com

Along with many others working in higher education today, I am keenly observing the explosion of education technology solutions. While this growth is not primarily due to the current pandemic, the contrast between the surge in spending on ed tech and the budget cut-backs and layoffs in the academy accelerated by the pandemic is quite stark, as so eloquently explained by Goldie Blumenstyk at the Chronicle. In 2020 alone, ed-tech startup companies obtained over $2 billion in private and venture capital, a half-billion more than the year prior. 

While many ed-tech companies sell products designed for individual consumers (think Coursera to upskill on a topic or explore a curiosity), a number are developing and selling products directly to postsecondary institutions. The largest traditional category is the expanding product offerings for online learning and course solution tools that are used by brick-and-mortar institutions, as well as by growing online providers (e.g., Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire University). Meanwhile, according to Steven Southwick, CEO and founder of Pointful Education, the product categories in ed tech expected to grow and gain wider adoption are emerging technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

With all of this technology comes data. And with data come questions of privacy—as well as opportunities for evaluation and evidence-backed growth and improvement. Here are the areas we’re watching at HEI as this sector continues to evolve:

  • Privacy: Questions of privacy are important aspects of ed tech that will generate growing attention given the flood of technology into higher ed spaces. The more information we track about students, and the more departments engaged with technology tools, the more investments will need to be made to mitigate the risks of private student information being inappropriately accessed. It’s easy to envision a cottage industry of consultants who will soon be arriving (if they’re not already in place) to provide strategic planning around this risk in the same way they once assessed staff professional development needs.
  • Return on Investment: Since launching Higher Ed Insight over 10 years ago, we have worked with and been approached by ed-tech firms eager to obtain third-party evaluation and verification of the impact and value of their products. In some cases, the central questions for the evaluations were ROI—what did the institution spend and save as a result of utilizing the product? Some intended outcomes are easier to measure than others. Consider an ed-tech solution that helps students obtain their financial aid funds digitally rather than through the mail. We could measure the cost associated with the two different approaches (old school snail mail vs. digital) or examine the time-to-deposit for funds.
  • Other Outcomes: How do we measure the impact of products designed for admissions, registration, student verification, remediation, advising, scheduling automation? This task is imminently important given the mass acceptance of these products.

    Some of the ed-tech offerings we’ve come across over the years include tools to optimize financial awards to yield a desired student body, tools to identify at-risk students who are making missteps in their academic progress, and more recently financial forecast tools for predicting spending needs. But what are the other outcomes that are important to measure with respect to ed-tech spending by institutions? And what happens if an institution or K-12 school adopts a tech product but never fully implements it or realizes its full potential to receive any true efficiency or impact? Goldie’s piece sheds light on this point with the poignant quote: “It’s too early to determine the impact of this ed-tech investment bonanza. But it’s not too late to pay attention to something perennially missing from these booms: whether the tools are working.”

    Her point leaves me pondering again the question that has perplexed me for years working in higher ed: why, given all of the intellectual resources of a college or university, don’t we do a better job identifying outcomes for students and making decisions based on those outcomes? Why don’t institutions expect tech firms to demonstrate the effectiveness of their products beyond fancy marketing? Institutions seem content to leave uninterrogated the black box of education experiences and their impacts on students.

    Institutions know the demographics of those who graduate and who don’t. In some cases they emphasize understanding of retention and graduation by critical demographic and academic fields. They know who repays their debt and who doesn’t. They may even know who is working and what they earn, and who successfully obtains licensure or continuing ed in a given field where it’s required. Yet often the people who know this information are not the same people designing and implementing curriculum, developing programs, or advising and serving students. While institutions gather feedback in the form of student surveys, instructional feedback, and required data for accrediting and professional organizations, there is still an enormous gap in the capacity of most institutions to measure and use data about educational experiences themselves: strengths and weaknesses of a program or campus experiences, effectiveness of the course availability for the career pathways, the employability of an individuals in a desired and related job area, the satisfaction of the learning experience. And perhaps towards more lofty outcome aspirations – the role of education in a graduates’ civic life, family and community, intellectual growth and curiosity, and life satisfaction.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: I’ve noticed a big uptick in conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion with a focus on outcomes across stakeholders in higher education, including especially in professional associations like those in student services (NASPA), excellent organizations focused on quality teaching (ACUE), many of the higher education associations in DC (ACE, AAU, APLU, AASCU, NAICU, and AACC), and among institutional researchers (AIR). Alongside these deepening conversations and growth in data collection, we are now adding new ed-tech tools to the mix of an already fuzzy understanding of input-to-outcome understanding in higher education. There is not enough learning transpiring with the data and tools already available, let alone new ones.

Many people working in higher ed deeply care for students and seek to do the best they can educating and serving students. Institutions also continue to grow their resources and invest in student success staff positions and ed-tech products in the student success arena, but these are often black box exercises with little analysis or transparency about whether any of these things make a difference, and if they do, why. As this next wave of ed tech solutions arrive on college and university campuses, these institutions need to make a far greater investment to develop meaningful mechanisms and approaches to understanding the impacts of educational experiences and their outcomes for students.


Client Spotlight: Virginia’s Mellon Pathways Program

Pathways Program logo
Mellon Pathways Program

HEI is proud to shine the spotlight on the impactful and exciting work of our client, the Mellon Pathways Program, a partnership between John Tyler Community College, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The program equips students with the knowledge, support, and resources needed to complete their associate degree at either community college and transfer to VCU to complete their bachelor’s degree. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provides grant support.

Micol Hutchison, Director of the Pathways Program, says that the mission of the program is to “simplify, demystify, and support student transfer starting at the community college level, long before the actual transfer takes place.” She adds that the Pathways Program is also dedicated to “creating community and using the arts and humanities as a vehicle for engaging, exciting, and inspiring students.”

First Transfer Group

This fall, the very first group of Pathways students—20 total—will be transferring to VCU. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, this group of students has demonstrated resilience and built a strong sense of community. Hutchison recalls initially being concerned about the interpersonal connections that might be lost when the group’s meetings were moved from in-person to Zoom. Remarkably, because Zoom has allowed a larger group of students to gather at a given time, an even stronger sense of community has been developed. Students gather for arts and humanities conversations, career exploration, book discussions, and other aspects related to their educational pathways.

HEI has supported the Pathways Program as a grant evaluation consultant since its establishment in 2019. Hutchison shares, “Both Tashera [Gale] and John [Archacki] have been such supporters of the work we’re trying to do. They’ve been helpful and supportive of integrating equity and diversity into the program’s work.”

May 13 @ 6 pm ET: Mellon Research Fellows Colloquium

Pathways students have the opportunity to apply to become a Mellon Research Fellow, through which they receive a stipend to support a research project in the humanities or arts. They work with a VCU faculty member and a community college mentor and present their work at an annual colloquium. This year’s gathering is scheduled for May 13th at 6 pm ET and will be livestreamed on the program’s Facebook page. We encourage you to check out the exciting work from this year’s fellows, which include research papers, a podcast series, documentary films, and visual arts.


What We’re Reading…

HEI staff members share what we’re reading this month. We welcome your recommendations for next month!

books in black wooden book shelf
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tait Kellogg, PhD, Director of Research & Strategic Services
The College Transparency Act – 117th United States Congress, 1st Session
KEY TAKEAWAY: “I am closely following this bipartisan act, which proposes the creation of a national student-level data system—tracking student postsecondary outcomes at institutions nationwide.”

Elexus Robinson, Research Assistant
“The Equality Act and the End of ‘Females'” By Mary Rice Hasson in Newsweek
KEY TAKEAWAY: “Very interesting read that provides a differing stance on the use of the term ‘sex’ within the Equality Act versus the term ‘female.’ It’s an opinion piece published in February 2021, providing a civil critique to how we define the differences between the identities of sex and gender along biological, legal, and moral lines.”

Kate Potterfield, Marketing & Communications Director
“Building Trust: What communicators—and their institutions—needs to prioritize to create a more inclusive campus” by Teresa Valerio Parrot on Inside Higher Ed
KEY TAKEAWAY: “This opinion piece draws on recent studies and best practices to provide insight into ensuring that the voices of students of color are fully heard and valued across college campuses. I’ve always believed that communications work is only as strong as the work it represents—a point that rang true in this piece. Words matter only as much as they reflect real actions to build an environment of trust, inclusion, and equity.”


Staff Spotlight: Donté McGuire, Research Analyst

HEI invites you to get to know our fantastic staff members. Each month, we will highlight a different colleague. This month, learn about Donté McGuire’s expertise and what drives him professionally.

Donté McGuire, MEd, serves as a Research Analyst at Higher Ed Insight. Donté’s approach is characterized by his emphasis on collaboration, genuine curiosity, and deep appreciation for both research scholarship and practitioner knowledge. He has experience in various educational contexts including international education, high school re-entry and completion, college access, residence life and housing, program evaluation, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. He is a doctoral candidate in the University of Maryland’s Higher Education program and is earning a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. Donté’s scholarship focuses on improving educational access and success for marginalized groups, cross-cultural education and understanding, and culturally competent leadership. He earned a MEd in Higher Education Administration from North Carolina State University and a BA in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Wake Forest University.

What first drew you to work in higher education?

Like most things in my career, I kind of “happened upon” higher education. In the first five years after earning my undergraduate degree, I worked in various education fields. For example, I taught in Copiapó, Chile, and Accra, Ghana; led a high-school reentry program in my hometown; and helped to administer a college access program housed at UNC Chapel Hill. 

This work in college access first introduced me to the field of higher education as a profession. Honestly, and looking back a bit funny, I thought working on a college campus meant I would have little-to-no work during the summer months. I soon found out that was the case for most of the people in the office I worked in—however, for my program summer was actually one of our busiest seasons.

How would you describe your current work/the work you’re most passionate about?

In general, I am most passionate about any work that is rooted in expanding opportunities, creating or sustaining just systems, and/or providing equitable resources. With that said, I’m most excited about my work with FORTE House, which provides a path for formerly incarcerated individuals to flourish in society through postsecondary education, housing, technology, and holistic support services. It has been an exciting opportunity for me to learn and grow my own skill set, while contributing to very critical work.

What gives you hope in the work you do?

Related to my previous answer, working with FORTE House founding executive director, Tia Ryans, and two of her colleagues, Hanif Parker and Karen Kaplan, has given me hope. I believe the world needs more Black feminist leadership and more people supporting Black feminist leadership, particularly those who are not Black women—and in my limited experience I have found Tia and her team are a great example of this. I have been deeply inspired by Tia’s vision, innovation, and leadership, and the incredible impact she and her team have within their communities.

What is your favorite part of working at HEI and with HEI’s clients?

The three things I enjoy most are engaging my curiosity, meeting and working with new people, and bringing together scholar and practitioner knowledge. I am an eternally curious person and to me there’s no question too small or too dull to consider. At the core of my work as a researcher are a ton of questions that—while all being connected to higher education—range quite a bit. 

We also have a very collaborative approach to our work, where we seriously consider client feedback to research design and deliverables. I look forward to traveling to meet some of these folks in person once it’s safe to do so again.

Lastly, as a PhD candidate, I appreciate the value of academic theories to understanding the world around me. At the same time, I very much value the things I’ve come to know from my professional experience being in community with, listening to, and learning alongside colleagues—or what some may call “practice.” I realize in some ways the dichotomy between theory and practice is a false one, yet it has real consequences in shaping the work environments I’ve been a part of. So I like that I can bring together both my  “practice” knowledge and “theory” knowledge as I design and implement research projects.


York College’s NASA MAA: Inspiring a Generation of Diverse STEM Professionals

african american scientist preparing for geography workshop sitting behind window with huge palm tree in library
Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

This month, we’re proud to shine the spotlight on our client, York College, for whom we serve as evaluator for its NASA Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Aerospace Academy (MAA) Program. York MAA endeavors to realize the following program goals:

  1. Inspire a diverse student population to pursue continuing education and careers in STEM.
  2. Engage and educate these students using rigorous, fun, hands-on, grade-specific, NASA-designed STEM curricula.
  3. Promote understanding and appreciation of STEM education by actively engaging the greater MAA population, including families, pre- and in-service teachers, and schools through targeted family activities and community partnerships.

The opportunities for STEM exposure and engagement afforded to students by York MAA are transformative, in terms of access to innovative STEM programming, and by extension, the tangibility of educational and professional promise. This potential is of great significance when considering that these STEM and lifelong benefits are disproportionately limited to learners from the demographic backgrounds (e.g., Black and Latinx students, girls) and environmental contexts (i.e., urban neighborhoods) served by York MAA. The achievements of York MAA need to be highlighted and celebrated, as it supports the dismantling of would-be barriers to equitable STEM access and participation, catalyzing a generation of diverse, innovative STEM professionals. Many past York MAA participants have gone on to study STEM, earn degrees in STEM, and/or work in STEM or STEM-adjacent careers. These young professionals often attribute York MAA on some level for their interest in, pursuit of, and/or success in STEM. 

The diversity within the program does not conclude with students—teachers and staff also represent a multitude of backgrounds, contributing to the culture of positive science learning and sense of belonging. Teachers often discuss their passion for this work, sharing how “seeing and supporting children that look like me” within the sciences is rewarding. Teachers and aides aspire to instill a sense of positive science efficacy within students, expanding their perspective of what it means to do science, and more importantly, transforming perceptions regarding who can participate in these disciplines—both of which speaks to the national imperative to broaden representation within STEM.

York MAA’s contributions to inspiring young learners of color from urban communities is not only understood by program staff but also acknowledged by the larger community. Anecdotes from parents and families, coverage by local media, and recognition by STEM professionals and societies—to name a few—demonstrate York MAA’s reputation as a high quality, effective STEM education model that contributes a wealth of value to the community. The success of the program is undoubtedly influenced by the tremendous leadership of Dr. Nazrul Khandaker, Director of CUNY York’s NASA MAA Program. His passion, dedication, and expertise make him an incomparable asset to York MAA, Queens, NY, and the broader STEM and education communities. To learn more about this work, read this article about motivating students in STEM authored by Dr. Khandaker.

Do you have a NASA MUREP project you need to evaluate? Or perhaps one you’d like to develop? We’d love to speak with you! Feel free to schedule a consult here.


The Dawn of the Biden-Harris Higher Ed Agenda

Photo by Baim Hanif on Unsplash
Photo by Baim Hanif on Unsplash

While the country awaits the official White House budget for education, an abundance of pre-election campaigning and post-election positioning help to project what is ahead for higher education policy. The current Democratic Party leadership has an ambitious agenda for higher education. Miguel Cardona, at the helm of the US Department of Education, brings tremendous K-12 experience to his role but sparse, if any, experience in postsecondary education. He will be relying on a fantastic group of known advocates, in particular Michelle Asha Cooper who is serving as acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education.

Here are some of the highlights of what to expect over the next four years:

  • College Access: This priority is front and center for this administration, with talks of doubling the treasured Pell Grant program to a maximum of $13,000—an amount that would be a historically significant increase for low-income students. 
  • Community Colleges: As noted by Secretary Cardona in his confirmation remarks, this administration will be focused on community colleges. It seeks to create a more prosperous nation, with greater outcomes for America’s low- and middle- income students. This could be the beginning of a free-tuition two-year college system in the US.
  • Workforce Development Continued: There will be a heavy focus on workforce training programs and innovative business-to-college partnerships. Like with TAACCCT during the Obama years, this administration will make big investments in workforce development programs in areas of need and likely will provide substantial funding for apprenticeships, other work-based learning programs, and CTE programs at community colleges, perhaps coming out of both the Departments of Education and Labor. 
  • Student Success Focus: We are also likely to see some new grants and spending occurring around evidence-based practices with respect to student success. Perhaps this will further expand the ed-tech boom with technology-based solutions intertwined with programmatic improvements around services, advising, and mentoring. 
  • Emergency Aid: Expanded opportunities and uses for emergency aid programs will likely be on the horizon to better support students with multifaceted lives who need help to address unexpected costs that arise while studying. Specifically, HEERF funding is flowing into institutions to bridge financial aid gaps and help institutions manage costs related to the pandemic.
  • Tech Infrastructure: Grants and funding for big investments in technology infrastructure at community colleges and other lower-resources institutions are expected to roll out.
  • MSI Focus: A strong commitment to Minority-Serving Institutions can be expected, with changes to funding inequities, infrastructure, and talent challenges. Soon after being elected President, Joe Biden met with leaders from HBCUs to solidify his commitment to remedying the challenges in this sector. 
  • Loan Forgiveness: Some policy changes related to student loans will likely be made, but it remains to be seen what it will look like. A great piece by Sandy Baum articulates the clear challenges with the choice of loan forgiveness as a priority, arguing that it is not the most problematic form of debt.

The staff at HEI and our affiliates are gearing up for a big grant season resulting from the Biden-Harris agenda, opportunities for collaboration with colleges and universities, as well as evaluation support and research, strategy, and technical assistance services. 

If you have any projects or upcoming needs you’d like to discuss, please schedule a call