Reorienting the HEA Reauthorization to Reflect What Research-Based Knowledge Says about What Works

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Making the Nation's Investment in Student Access and Success Part II: Reorienting the HEA Reauthorization to Reflect What Research-Based Knowledge Says about What Works


Jacob O. Stampen (BIO)

Professor Emeritus, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis
Emeritus Affiliate, WISCAPE
University of Wisconsin-Madison

W. Lee Hansen (BIO)

Professor Emeritus, Department of Economics
Emeritus Affiliate, WISCAPE
University of Wisconsin-Madison


In this two-part study, the authors asked 203 of the nation's mostactive higher education researchers and policy analysts to respond to86 current ideas for expanding and increasing student success.According to the respondents, the highest priorities for improvingpostsecondary access and success are 

  1. improving academic preparationand 
  2. providing more resources for student need-based financial aidgrants. 

The priorities of the responding groups of analysts andresearchers proved to be surprisingly similar; however, the authorsfound that it is difficult to link these most strongly supportedoptions to a new research-based model (the "Pathways Model") withenough clarity to predict what actions will yield the greatest benefitsfor students. The Pathways Model provides the most complete analysis offactors impacting college student access and academic success and showsthat neither socioeconomic status nor ethnic background areinsurmountable barriers.

The authors found that more researchis needed to determine what solutions will work best for increasingcollege student access and success. Still, matches between whatanalysts think and what research supports are clear enough to indicatethat policies and programs based on research are likely to provide manymore benefits to future students than those based mainly on politicalconsiderations. The authors recommend that four actions be takensimultaneously in order to substantially improve the educationalsystem's effectiveness: 

  1. avoid adopting wasteful and costly policiesthat are unsupported by research and can therefore do little toeliminate barriers to better education; 
  2. focus K-12 instruction onimproving learning overall and especially help at-risk studentsovercome learning obstacles they face as individuals; 
  3. make collegemore affordable for low income students; and 
  4. create bettermechanisms for informing the collective efforts of everyone involved inimproving learning.


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