Roberto Rodriguez: Conference on Student Loans-Opening Plenary Session

October 24, 2013 1:16:19
Kaltura Video

Roberto Rodriguez serves on the White House Domestic Policy Council as Special Assistant to the President for Education. In his talk, he discusses student loan and higher education reforms. October, 2013.


[ Silence ]
>> I'm Sue Dynarski.  I'm Co-Director of the Education Policy Initiative at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.  Nice to see you all here today.  So, this policy talk lecture marks the opening of the conference on student loans which would not have been possible without the general support of our cosponsors.  And I'd like to recognize the Upjohn Institute and the Spencer Foundation for their work and their funds in making this event happen.  So, thank you so much.  So, this conference is going to be bringing together some of the country's--I didn't write this, some of the country's top minds, on an issue that not only interest us but affects many of us in the room.  So, today's speaker is President Obama's Special Assistant for Education Policy, Roberto Rodriguez.  The most important thing to know about Roberto Rodriguez is that he's Wolverine.  So, he's an alumnus of the University of Michigan.  He also got a degree from Harvard in education, but that's OK.  Since then, he's been at this Appointment.  He was Chief Education Counsel to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, assisting in the development of education legislation.  He contributed to the development of the No Child Left Behind Act, and he's worked on various reauthorizations of federal legislation including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Head Start, Child Care, Higher Education, and the America COMPETES Act.  And he'll tell you what that acronym means.  So, before I ask Roberto to the podium, I want to remind you that if you've got a question for him, write on one on of the cards that's getting passed out in the entrance or you can tweet it in using the #policytalks, one word.  And Roberto, the floor is yours.
>> Thank you.  Thanks, Sue.
[ Applause ]
Hi, good afternoon everyone.  It's a real honor to be with you here today for this important conversation.  I really want to begin by thanking Sue and Dean Collins, and the entire faculty here at the Ford School for inviting me to be here.  And of course, special thanks to the Upjohn Institute and to the Spencer Foundation for their generous support of engaging in this really important topic.  It's really great to be back home.  It's really great to be back among my fellow Wolverines, and here at our University of Michigan community to have the conversation here today.  I really want to begin by making the connection that's rather obvious to most of us that are gathered here today, but I think it's nevertheless central to the conference and to the arc of the papers and discussions that you'll explore in the coming two days.  And this is really the simple reminder that perhaps more than at any other time in our nation's history, higher education is really the engine for our economy and the spark that is going to continue to ignite our democracy.  There are countless examples from across the country of how earning a college degree really opens the doors of opportunity.  For families, it places them on a greater pathway toward economic mobility and prosperity, and success.  Examples of how the pursuit of a college degree helped young people find their place in their communities, in their worlds around them, and in their country.  And that will certainly the case for me during my time here at the University of Michigan.  In the mid '90s, as an undergraduate that will still feeling he's way about his academic path, eager to set forth and to change the world.  And in today's economy, as President Obama reminds us, a college degree is the surest rung on the ladder of opportunity into the middle class.  A new global economy brings new challenges, new demands, but it's very clear that gone is that economy of a quarter century ago where a worker with a high school credential could make at least half of what a college graduate would earn across their lifetime.  So, we know that education is the strategy for our 21st century economy.  Our children are competing with the rest of the world for jobs of the future, and our long-term economic security is directly tied to the quality of the public education that we can provide today.  That's why this topic that we're exploring over the course of this conference is so important.  You know, many of you here are esteemed in this field, in this academic discipline.  You're familiar with the statistics.  You know that our economy clearly rewards those with the higher education.  We know that our college graduates have higher earnings that we know also that there's a real imperative here is 8 and 10, new jobs in the US will require some post-secondary education or training.  And the 30 of the 30 fastest growing jobs in our economy today, over half of those require a four-year degree.  But beyond this economic imperative, we also have to at the onset here of our conversations, remind ourselves of the moral imperative that we have, the moral responsibility we have.  And that we're a nation that defines ourselves based on our ability to provide every individual the opportunity to rise as far as their hard work and their initiative will take them.  And so, increasing access to higher education is fundamental to living up to that moral commitment.  And it's one of the best things that we can do for our country.  This is why we've organized our efforts in Washington around the goal that the president laid out when he first arrived at the White House.  And this is a goal to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.  Our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, he calls this goal our North Star.  And that's exactly what it is.  It's a guide post and it's a reminder to us to strengthen education at every level and to deliver on this challenge.  So, in order to reach this goal, we'll need to increase the share of college graduates that we produce in our nation by 50 percent over what produced in 2009.  And by the numbers, this means 8 million more young adults will need to earn associates and bachelors degrees by the end of this decade.  We'll have to outpace our current rate of degree attainment relative to our population growth which has this more or less producing about 3 million more college graduates by the end of the decade.  So, we play such an emphasis on this 2020 goal because we know that higher education is such an important investment worth making.  We know again the median earnings of bachelors degree recipients are markedly higher 21,000 dollars or more than high school graduates.  And we know that it really does provide a true ladder into the middle class.  Of adults who grow up in the middle class, 31 percent of those that have a college degree were operatively mobile into the top income quintile between 2000 and 2008.  Now, this is compared with just about 12 percent of those that did not have a college degree.  So, especially for students that are graduating into weak economies, it's frequently something and can often take time to find the path that ensures that going to college was really worth it.  But those with more education tend to experience larger increases in their earnings as they age and we know that based on current earnings' patterns that if people with bachelors degrees work full-time over their work lives, they'll earn about two-thirds more on average than a high school graduates.  So, we know we have this imperative that it's a backdrop to this 2020 goal.  It's an ambitious goal, the pace of progress for our young Americans and college attainment is very ambitious under this charge.  But one thing is really clear.  We're not going to meet it unless we really embrace a spirit of change in our higher education system.  And that is going to involve a shared responsibility that expands from leadership at our higher education institutions, to state legislators and governors, to public and private stakeholders, parents, and of course ultimately students, to be able to accelerate towards this 2020 challenge.  And reaching the goal will require also a collective will on the part of policy makers and partners, higher education leaders, philanthropy, and others, to really ask the tough questions that are ultimately going to foster change in our higher education system.  Are we doing right by our students?  Do they have the reliable sources of aid and support that they need to be successful and as they pursue their degree?  Do our colleges and universities have the proper capacity to harness innovation?  And are we equipped with the right incentives to drive reform focused on improving the educational experience for students while they're on campus?  Our federal and state policy is well-attuned with a mission, a vision, and a focus that promotes not only higher education access but college completion.  Are we confronting the state of teaching and learning on our college campuses and aligning it with the needs and demands of 21st century learners?
^M00:10:04 Are we prepared to assume the collective responsibility to address the inequities that we have in college attainment?  The college completion gap that's still manifests itself on the basis of socioeconomic status and racial lines, and ultimately is a serious threat to our economic standing in the world.  We still have only about 30 percent of our young African-American students today and 20 percent of our Latino--young Latino population today that holds an associates degree or higher.  And then of course one of the key questions that's post most relevant to just convening today, are we prepared to do what's needed to tackle college affordability as a national imperative?  You know, America's home to the best colleges and universities in the world.  And yet, too many Americans for a variety of reasons feel like pursuing a post-secondary degree or certificate might be out of reach for them.  Some are clearly hindered by the shortcomings that we have in our K-12 education system.  There's no question that we need to do better to measure up to the challenges of graduating each and every one of our young people prepared for college in a successful career.  But for many others, there is still this belief that college costs can be prohibitive.  And whatever the reason, a person's decision not to go to college, not to pursue that higher education, can have a direct impact on his or her long-term economic future and on the collective prosperity of our communities and of our country.  So, for these reasons, our administration has been really clear in our focus.  We want to help more students prepare for and succeed in higher education with a blueprint that is going to dramatically expand, educational opportunity beginning in these early years, make the needed changes we need in our K-12 education system, and commit to putting an affordable, high quality higher education degree within the reach of every American.  Now, this issue of paying for college is something that more than likely has affected everyone here in this room.  And I know while we are here to study this topic in greater depth, we also know that's it's an issue that affects us personally, individually.  I know for me, the cost of college, the affordability of my degree, along with the stellar education of course that Michigan stood to provide me, was a really important factor in the decision in terms of why I chose this school for my undergraduate studies.  But the fact of the matter is while many Americans across the country understand why a post-secondary degree is so valuable, many folks still don't have access to higher education for one big reason.  And that is that too many of our family still feel priced out.  Now, I know you'll hear plenty over the course of this conference on trends and student loan debt for completers and for noncompleters across our country.  We're really fortunate to have wonderful data just released this week by the College Board and I believe Sandy Baum will kick off your day tomorrow with an overview of this new data that really provides the most comprehensive analysis of where we are with respect to our trends and pricing, and in cost.  But is worth noting that at least one trend has remained constant as we look over the course of this data and that's that net price, has continued to take up across our institutions.  And the growth has come at a time when family income has not recovered from the economic downturn.  So, as the President of the State in several times on a bus tour that he took just over the summer in the northeast, you know, he said, "Family incomes are just not going fast enough relative to the price of college."  Tuition and fees at our public four year colleges is now more than three times higher than it was 30 years ago.  And while over this same period, income has only risen 16 percent for middle class families.  So, this has real implications on the family's decision about whether or not to pursue higher education.  All across the country, families are asking themselves this question around college costs.  We hear it.  We get these questions and we get these letters from families across America at the White House everyday.  And, you know, I think the administration has a lot to be proud of in terms of the amount of grant aid and tax benefits in the progress that we've made to try to make sure that we have more of a reliable and affordable source of aid for families to be able to pursue college.  I think is the data that you'll see that Sandy will present shows in many places the uptake intel, the uptake in some of the other grant aid that we've provided has been enabler for net prices to not jump higher than they have.  And in many venues, the bang [phonetic] that we get for our federal student aid is quite high.  You know, at our community colleges in many instances, it covers full rate for tuition and fees with room to spare for other expenses in the student's budget.  So, we've--We have set forth to eliminate ways for subsidies in our higher education student aid system.  Subsidies that were funding banks to the tunes of 68 billion dollars over 10 years, and to be able to recapture and reinvest those dollars over 60 billion of those dollars in college access.  We've increased the maximum Pell Grant for working in for middle class families by more than 900 dollars.  That's now reaching over 9.5 million families.  We've created the American Opportunity Tax Credit which provides a maximum of 2,500 dollars per year and tax credits for college, and it's helping more than over 11 million families to free the cost of college annually.   You know, we've simplified the FAFSA.  We've taken initial steps to have a shorter form and better online format, and a skip logic that imports tax information for individuals who are completing the FAFSA, and for their families.  And studies showed that if we do even more along this front, we can really boost college enrollment rates.  And we've worked at investing college access grant programs to help be partners with states and increasing the number of low income students who are prepared to enter and to succeed in college, and to manage their debt.  But for a majority of students who borrow in order to attend school, the increased price at four year colleges can still be a significant burden.  And it's coupled with a really important factor here which is cost shifting as states/higher education budgets.  As we see those budgets go down, families are being asked to shoulder the increasing cost of attendance and the increasing sums that are needed to finance their child's higher education.  You know, all told looking at data from the College Board and from Tico's [phonetic], the average student loan borrow are now graduates with over 26,000 dollars in debt.  Loan default rates are rising.  At some institution, it is--as we'll discuss over the course of this conference.  Many young adults are burdened with that debt as they graduate college and begin the next chapter in their lives.  This debt also undoubtedly has some level of ripple effect across our economy.  So, the fact that prices have continued to grow is causing some families to beg this fundamental question around, "Can I afford this?  Can I afford college?"  I know we fundamentally all believe that students can.  And we are continuing to try to deliver that message.  But despite the statistics that prove what a great investment college makes, what a strong return of investment that has later in life.  The answer may not be so transparent to students and to families who were evaluating their options and assessing whether or not at this moment in their lives perhaps, they can handle taking on the cost of college.  So, when the president takes to the road and has a conversation with the country around college cost, at the heart of this message that he delivered, this summer was a value proposition.  He was making sure that higher education, what we know as a central pillar to achieving the American dream is available for our students at a high quality, at an affordable price, and with a reasonable expectation that it will prepare them for success after they graduate.  So, at the heart of this new national conversation on college affordability is this value proposition.  And we can't make significant headway in reshaping higher education to serve all students without placing the--this equation of quality of affordability and of outcomes front and center.  You know, each year, our federal government invests over a 150 billion dollars in student financial aid.  At least two-thirds of our undergraduates receive some type of credit to support their education, their higher education from the federal government.  And collectively, States are investing about 70 billion dollars in public colleges and universities.  But as you all know, almost all of the federal student aid that flows to colleges is given based on the number of students that enroll, choose to enroll in that school.  And what's missing from the equation is an important factor which is a focus on outcomes.  So, in order to live up to their international acclaim, our colleges and universities have to explore new ideas to improve learning and outcomes for students.
^M00:20:04 In the spirit of providing the most affordable and highest quality education possible.  It's in this very spirit that we have earned our reputation as a nation that our colleges and universities have collectively earned their reputation as a leader in the world.  And it's again that spirit that the president is seeking to harness to maximize our investment in resources, in time, and energy, and in focus on higher education.  Earlier this year, we put forth the series of reform centered around this aim of demonstrating value in higher education.  It's not good enough to simply enroll students without attending to persistence and completion.  Our institutions should not be judged and thrived based on the amount of money they charge students.  And if some institutions failed to prepare students to graduate and to succeed in the workforce, we are ultimately missing our mark.  So, what we need is to accelerate that innovation to help colleges focus on their fundamental mission which is providing a great education at an affordable cost.  So, our administration will put forth the suite of legislative and executive actions and proposals, a few of which I'd like to discuss today that we hope will not only come back rising college costs, but really encourage innovation and encourage improvement across our higher education sector.  And through this increased focus on value, hopefully we'll achieve a scenario in which students can pursue high quality paths in post-secondary education that will not leave them unduly settled with debt.  Throughout this push through reform, the president is very clear that our colleges and universities will be the actors that will lead the way with respect to this change.  We're looking for the--we're looking at our higher education sector not only to continue the great work that's already underway by many institutions, but also to spear had greater adoption for the innovations that can really lead us toward a greater vision of value for students.  It's only through partnership with institutions that a spirit of reform and change will really take hold and can really deliver a more affordable higher education for more Americans.  And as I mentioned earlier, almost all federal student aid resources are allocated based on the number of students who enrolled, not the number of degrees that are earned or what students learn.  So, at a time when our federal investment is at a 150 billion dollars for federal student aid, and at a time when state investment is actually diminishing relative to need, we must demand greater accountability for our funding.  So, the first piece of this plan that the president's put forward is to connect student aid to outcomes.  We are aiming to in turn drive a better more affordable education by developing and publishing a new rating system for students and families to make use of.  You know, we don't believe that we should be ranking schools based on how expensive they are or how much they spent on capital improvements, or what other elite appear schools think, but instead, on metrics that reflect real value for families and for students.  Metrics that families themselves can understand.  So, you know, right now, we have private rankings, US news and world reports and others that put out each year rankings on academic progress of colleges and universities, encourages a lot of colleges and universities to focus on ways to sometimes actually raise costs for students.  And the president stated clearly in August that he believe we should rate colleges based on opportunity.  How are we helping students from all backgrounds, and particularly, our first generation and our disadvantage students be successful?  And how are we providing that information to students and parents?  You know, we're going to ask questions like how much debt does the average student live with?  How easy is it to pay that debt off?  How many students graduate on time?  How other graduates do in the workforce?  Because we believe these answers will ultimately help parents and students figure out how much a value a college truly offers.  You know, and our ratings will also measure how successful colleges are at enrolling and graduating students who are on Pell Grants.  It will be our firm principle that our ratings have to be carefully designed to increase, not decrease the opportunities for higher education for students who face economic challenges.  So, this is going to take time.  It's not an easy proposition, but we think it can empower students and families to make good choices.  And we will give any college the chance to show that it's making a serious and consistent commitment to improvement.  So, our college may not be where it needs to be right now based on value but there will be the chance to get better.  You know, we're going to develop this rating system through extensive public input sessions across the country to gather inputs from parents, from students, from state leaders, from academia, from college presidents, and others.  And we're going to focus on measures such as access, affordability, and outcomes.  These new ratings will also ensure that colleges are doing their very best to encourage our needy students to be successful.  And the president has charged us with preparing this new system by the 2015, '16 academic year.  But we're looking forward even beyond that and we hope to use this rating system in a much bigger way by calling on Congress to examine this proposition of value and of ratings as it allocates federal financial aid.  Under this proposal, students will still be able to choose the schools that they want.  I want to make that clear.  But, we are proposing a proposition where taxpayer dollars will proportionally go greater towards schools that we know are working the hardest to deliver on this promise on affordability and value in quality.  And in addition, we want to make sure that more states are following in the footsteps of some of the leading states that are looking at performance-based funding and performance-based reforms and outcomes.  States like Ohio, like Indiana, like Tennessee, they're doing great work to move their state higher education systems forward and to focus on attainment and completion alongside enrollment in how they support their state public colleges and universities.  You know, by making competitive funding available, our administration is seeking dispersed state higher education reform and reshape the federal state partnership by also encouraging that states to maintain their funding for public higher education.  This race to the top competition, this is something that was part of our administration's plans last year for higher education, and included again in the president's call this August.  We'll be squarely focused on what we can do to support greater access and affordability particularly at our public colleges and universities where about three quarters of America's undergraduate students are currently enrolled.  Now, if we're going lead the world in the proportion of college graduates, we also need to be sure we are on the cutting edge of innovation on our college campuses.  We need American higher education to do more to really focus on teaching and learning and on reshaping that college experience for our students.  You know, the good news is we know that there are new and often better ways of pursuing teaching and learning at our higher education institutions.  We don't need to look far to find examples of innovation and our pioneers that are looking at new developments in harnessing the power of innovation to lead higher education really toward a new frontier.  You know, we've seen examples from across the country.  We've seen competency-based learning being tried now not just online but at colleges and universities across the country, including colleges like Southern New Hampshire University and the University of Wisconsin System that are doing what a realign and recalibrate their system to actually reward students based on what they learn, not how much time they spend in their lecture hall or in their seat.  Redesigned courses that integrate online platforms are exciting new ways to bring technology in a blended flat fashion into teaching and learning in our college classrooms.  You know, this National Center for Academic Transformations has shown the effectiveness of thoughtful use of technology across a wide range of academic disciplines, improving outcomes for students, and reducing cost by nearly 40 percent on average.  NE [phonetics] advising tools, online learning communities, special cohorts of students, are encouraging persistence in alerting our college faculty when students needed additional help to be able to be successful.
^M00:30:03 You know, colleges can also award prior learning credit, an experience for due enrollment and for opportunities in learning that individuals both young adults, as well as adults bring, as they enroll in college and give them real credit for that toward their degree.  So, this rising type of innovation has the potential to shake up our higher education landscape.  You know, we still have a lot of approaches that under development and too few students are actually reaping the benefits of this innovation today.  But we have a proposal to do more to support a new first in the world fund that will test, evaluate, and help scale innovative approaches to higher education that we hope will lead dramatically better outcomes for students, and to make sure that we are developing and recognizing the leadership across America's higher education institutions, to demonstrate that they are really truly helping their students learn in new and innovative ways.  We're looking at new authority, regulatory, and administrative authority to issue flexibility through an experimental sites authority that we have in the Higher Education Act to promote high quality, low cost innovations in higher education.  And make sure that it's possible for instance for students to get financial aid based on how much they've learned rather than the amount of time they've spent in class.  You know, we're looking at pilot opportunities to offer Pell Grants to high school students who are taking college courses and allowing federal financial aid to be used to pay test fees when students are seeking early academic credit for prior learning, or combining these traditional and competency-based courses into a single program of study.  Another key component of providing--promoting this value proposition in higher education is to provide new tools to help students and families understand their choices in a higher education landscape.  You know, the new college rating system that I discussed here will help advance these efforts.  But we've also made important and significance strives that we want to make sure more American families are aware off to provide data to consumers in a clear and comprehensible way to two new tools that helps students and parents understand what they're doing and why they choose--and what their choices are in terms of higher education investment.  The first is a new Know Before You Owe campaign that includes a Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.  And this shopping sheet is an individualized but standardized across the higher education sector, financial aid award letter that students and families get on the front end to understand the cost of college, as well as what aid is available to them before making the final decision on where to enroll.  The second is a new college scorecard.  As many of saw, this was released earlier this year as a part of our State of the Union message.  And the scorecard is designed to provide clear, concise information on cost, on graduation rate, on loan default rate, on the amount borrowed, and on employment for every degree granting institution in the country.  And we want to make that scorecard available and interactive, easy to read format, for students and families to compare colleges and to make the best decisions for their future.  We also have to make sure we're attending to the high default rates that we have in some of our sectors that we know are impacting the opportunity later for students to be successful and to repay their debt.  You know, we have high default rates for instance in the four profit sector where the highest average two and three-year cohort default rates are at 13.6 percent and 21.8 percent respectively.  Now, here, our administration is trying to do more to make sure that we are bringing greater regulatory attention, to bring greater accountability into this career college sector.  Defining what it means for a program to prepare students for gainful employment, in a recognized occupation, and to construct an accountability system that distinguishes between programs that prepare students for gainful employment and those that do not.  So, we're looking at new matrix for these institutions to measure their success.  And these regulations are aiming to support students in deciding where to pursue a post-secondary education by increasing the transparency of their cost and making sure that those institutions that are not delivering on the gainful employment are not recipients of some of that 150 billion dollars for our federal financial investment.  Now, let us--The other important element that we have to focus on here is also making sure that our borrowers have access to the tools and the resources that will help them to make responsible choices, responsible borrowing decisions, and better management of their debt during repayment.  So, last year, we've looked at new loan counseling tools that are aimed at providing students with an interactive way to get the information they need and key points in their borrowing process.  You know, unless we continue to make improvements to those tools online based on the feedback from our financial aid experts, our students and our families, and our college counselors, we are seeking to do more to make sure that we are helping to support our borrowers at every point in their college experience, at entrance counseling during school, and at exit counseling.  We also have new options through the president's Pay as You Earn Plan which started last year and it enables many of our student loan borrowers to cap their student loan repayments at 10 percent of their income.  And additionally, the administration's budget includes a new Pay as You Earn Plan that would expand that to all student borrowers who need it.  You know, part of our challenge with Pay as You Earn has been to make sure that we are targeting the subgroups of borrowers who are most likely to benefit and most likely to need this assistance.  And so, we are continuing to do more work in that area and implementing new streamlined applications for Pay as You Earn, as well as identifying some of our borrowers that might be at risk of default, those that might be in low income households so that they know that they have opportunities to peg their student loan repayment to a manageable share of their discretionary income every month.  So, I hope you'll see the thrust of the reforms I've discussed here are really squarely aimed at demonstrating value in higher education.  We know that some institutions at present are enabled to do better than others on this prospect.  But it's our hope that with a new national conversation and a continued emphasis on outcomes, on quality, on affordability, we can collectively drive our American higher education sector toward the kind of results that will move our economy forward.  Because, you know, we fiercely believe even with student indebtedness exceeding 26,000 dollars on average, college is worth it.  Just looking academically, we know we have plenty to support that claim, but there are thousands of individuals around the country who are able to attest to that.  And we know we all have a role to play in this vision to again, regain our standing internationally in terms of college completion.  You all know well that the federal government can't take this issue on a loan or should it.  We need partnership across sectors, across the nation, to improve our system of higher education.  We need the States to do their part to prioritize higher education funding.  States simply can't cut their higher education budgets to balance--to balance their broader budgets and expect institutions to just make up the difference or to pass along that difference to parents.  We need the States to do their part to--we need colleges to do their part to act with creativity and urgency to contain costs.  And they must hold themselves accountable for ensuring that students get an education that prepares them for success in the workplace.  And we need our families and our students empowered with the information to make good decisions about where to we attend college.  And they will ultimately walk with their feet.  We know that our students will make decisions based on where value is highest so that they can spur the market into producing more of what's good.  So, ultimately, all of these is in the broader vain of educating our way to a better economy and to a stronger middle class.  That's what we're focused on as an administration.  And we know that education is the surest path to get there.  And higher education is one of the single most important investments that we can make on that path.  So, thanks very much.  I look forward to hearing your comments, your questions, and your input for us as we move this agenda forward.
[ Applause ]
[ Pause ]
>> Thank you very much once again for coming to speak with us.  We have a whole bunch of questions.  I hope you are ready.
>> Yes.
>> All right.  Let's start with this one.  This is from the audience.  Should we be concerned that Lincoln College ratings to outcomes like graduation will provide incentives for schools to manipulate these measures?  For example, by making classes easier or weakening college degree requirements?
>> Yes I think we have to be vigilant about that.  You know--this is, as I mentioned is challenging endeavor to develop a new rating system and we have to be able to look at the interactive effect of the various variables that would be intergraded there.  There is clearly opportunity if we were looking at graduation rates for instance alone to gain that system.  And that's why we also need to be looking at new measures around quality and making sure that we're focus in attending to the rigor of teaching and learning at our institutions.  And we have some measures that we can look toward now there.  Particularly looking at gainful employment as one.  But we need more, we actually, honestly need more innovation in that space, we need better measures of teaching and learning at the postsecondary level.  We have not turned our attention as a country from an education prospective to developing better measures there unlike in our K-12 and early childhood sector where there a lot of measures around quality.
>> Roberto, my name is Mark Weatherspoon [assumed spelling], I am a doctoral student in the higher education program here at Michigan.  This is kind of similar to the question that was just asked, but do you think that there would be any type of influence of this present score on the current accreditation system?  And if there is not what do you think about the occurring accreditation system?  And do you think there's any changes that we should be focusing on?
>> Well, you know--I thank you for the question.  I do think we need to endeavor to improve the current accreditation system.  And, you know, part of the President's message at the beginning of this year in the State of the Union was to take on this challenge of reforming accreditation.  You know, I think at the institution level, you have state level as well as regional and discipline specific accreditors constantly coming and looking at whether that institution's accredited.  Many of those institutions--many of those processes do not focus on outcomes as much as they should.  Many of them focus too much on inputs.  So we believe we need to have a new conversation about accreditation.  We're hoping we can have that as part of the reauthorization that Congress might consider of the Higher Education Act.  And we also believe we need more alternate systems of accreditation.  Because we believe that there are new innovations that are that are taking shape today in our higher education landscape that are not either well suited or willing to go through the more traditional accreditation process.  But that might be producing good outcomes for students.  So we can't lose sight of that and we need an alternate process to be able to recognize that too.
>> Thank you.  Sorry I neglected to introduce myself last time, I'm Danny Christman.  I'm a staff here at the Ford School.  Let me give you one last one about the measures. What are the defining parameters of what the administration considers "called high quality education?"  For example, can you give us some more specifics, the factors that might go into the ratings?
>> Sure.  Well, you know, we're looking at the rating system at measuring issues like access.  You know how many--what is the share of low income eligible students for instance that the institution is enrolling.  We're looking at issues around affordability, what is the change in net price for instance and how does that square with, you know, some of the other data that we have with respect to maybe--if it's a public institution how much the state is investing in that institution?  And we're looking at factors around outcomes.  We're looking default rates.  And we want to look at some measure of gainful employments, some measure of future earnings as an important proxy there.  You know, right now, through the [inaudible] process, the government collects data on about 15 different indicators across our higher education institutions.  So we have quite a bit of data already out there.  I think the challenge here for us is going to be how to distil that in a really thoughtful system that is fair to institutions that compares institutions in a fair manner, because our higher education sector is tremendously diverse.  It's one of its strengths, right.  We have great two-year colleges, great four-year colleges, public, private career colleges, more liberal arts institutions.  So, we want to be able to have a system that's going to recognize the new ones there.  And overtime, we'll be setting for the technical advisory group that will help our Department of Education navigate the development of this type of system.
[ Pause ] 
>> I guess we're going to kind of switch gears a little bit here.  This question is probably a three-hour, it needs a three-hour response, but five minutes will do.  Let's talk about gainful employment.
>> OK, let's talk about it.
>> Yeah.  Can you--just real quickly, where are at on the state of gainful employment?  How big of a factor is this going to be in the higher education system?  And do you think that such a policy will possible deter students from seeking out specific majors or philosophy?
>> That is another three-hour lecture.
>> Yeah.
>> We'll try to tackle it.  You know, our administration had taken the first foray into regulating on the congressional requirement for gainful employment of Career College programs.  These are programs that are vocational in nature that are preparing students to enter a particular field of employment.  You know, we have promulgated a rule earlier in our administration that looked at debt to earnings ratios as an important measure of success, as well default rates in the context of calibrating a new system that looks at gainful employment and that whether individual programs, not whole schools, but individual programs offered within schools are delivering on this commitment and this requirement by statute.  Many of those schools are actually--many of those programs are operated at community colleges.  But many of them are also operated at for-profit institutions.  And many of those for-profit institutions--some of them are wonderful actors.  Others, unfortunately, are not delivering or they're--you know, students are graduating, unable to enter gainful employment or with very high levels of debt or default.  So, the key to making sure that we are not curtailing, a necessarily options for students is to make sure that we have thoughtful system that's measured.  I would point out that we're already beginning to collect data from the sector.  And I think we're seeing a relatively low share, less than modest share of institutions that actually are not able to meet the proposed matrix that we're initially part of our administration's rule.  But there are number of institutions out there that have programs that didn't measure up.  We now are back at the negotiating table, that's where we are right now because there was a part of our rule that was stayed by the court, by the circuit court.  And we are reconvening negotiators to look at redrafting a new rule around gainful employment.  I can't talk too much about the particulars of that rule because those negotiations are actually ongoing into the next--into next month.  And that regulation will continue to take shape.  What I will say is we are going to continue to pursue this because we believe that it's an important function of our government to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.  We do not want taxpayer dollars going to programs that are saddling students with that and that are not resulting in a gainful employment and not enabling them to repay that debt.  And we are going to take a close look at the concentration of programs that are failing those measures on the basis of the disciplines, right?  Right now, I don't think we have data that suggests that there is a particular discipline that would be disproportionately impacted by the administration's original gainful employment rule.  But we'll continue to look at that moving forward because we now have--we'll soon have two years worth of data to be able take a closer look at that question.
>> I majored in philosophy.  I'm not sure how much I would recommend that.  So here's one from the Twitter world.  If you could make one change in the entire education system to improve equity, we had several questions about equity, what would that be?
>> Well that--it's a challenge because there's a whole lot we need to do in equity across the pipeline to create of their career.  But I think the single most important change that can be made in terms of really tackling the impact of poverty on learning is to provide all of our children a high quality education before they reach kindergarten.  And this--the contours of that plan is the President's proposed that is to provide preschool for all low and middle income four-year-olds in the country.  And make sure that that preschool is high quality.  We have had study upon study that had demonstrated the return on investment upwards to seven dollars for every dollar invested, there's individual benefits, there are broader community benefits, economic benefits.  And it's, you know, we've seen this also tried in communities around the country both at the state level and at the local level.  And we've seen tremendous impact here.  I would turn folks to the recent study that was released by the Foundation on Child Development that Deborah Phillips, who was the author of one of the Neurons to Neighborhoods National Science Foundation Studies, helped compiled that shows the benefits of high quality pre-K.  We believe that it's one of the key drivers for equity moving forward.  And if we can do that, we have the opportunity to begin to remediate that achievement gap and that learning gap that already is manifesting itself at 60 points between low income children and their more affluent peers by the time they reach kindergarten.
>> This is another one from the Twitter--not Twitter, from Twitter.  There is no empirical evidence on effective long counseling.  So what is the Department of Ed doing to revise its services and why not fund research?
>> Good idea.  I think we should do more to fund more research on that front.  You know, we do believe that we need to do a better job of reaching borrowers and providing them greater counseling.  You know, we've definitely know that the tools that we're provided previously were not sufficient.  So what we've done has gone back to the drawing board and created a new interface that all students can interact on at--it's at  If you link on student aid, you can interact with the college counseling tool and loan counseling tool that, as I mentioned in the remarks, really reaches borrowers at every point in their college career from entrance through school and then, obviously, accept counseling.  You know, information and transparency around data is one of the most important things that we can do in this sector, in terms of providing a greater focus on outcomes and on quality, in terms of making sure that families and students are well-equipped to make good decisions.  And that's just something that we know to be true.  I think we can probably fund research to better calibrate our loan counseling tools, but we don't, as approach see any harm in trying to provide students better and more targeted assistance and help in understanding the options available to them.
[ Pause ]
>> To meet the President's goal for degree attainment the higher education must engage more nontraditional adult and part time students.
>> Yes.
>> The federal policy seems to be shifting towards tying federal aid to shorter times to degree completion.  How can these two imperatives be reconciled at the national policy level?
>> That's a good question.  You know, I think we have to acknowledge that, you know, four years is no longer a traditional trajectory for college attainment, right?  I mean, I think we have that reality, you know, across our even traditional four-year public colleges and universities, that is certainly the case, if not more so at our community colleges where you have, you know--and increasingly at our public four years where we have more students that are working while they're pursuing their studies, more adults that are returning to pursue their studies and balancing work and family.  And we know that we can't reach the President's charge to us around 2020, if we don't do more to help adult to be successful in the system.  So, you know, we have to keep that in mind as we're shaping policies and moving things forward.  One example is to think about what we can do to support perhaps some changes or modifications to the program particularly for adult students.  Right, and I think we've seen some innovative research coming out of Louisiana, you know, looking at performance-based awards for degree attainment that aren't necessarily pegged to this specific timeframe but where awards are allocated based on the amount of credit that individual cruse almost as a reward or support as they pursue their studies increasing and focusing on persistence.  You know, I also think there are other interventions, smaller learning communities and cohorts of students moving through together particularly for our adult students and our nontraditional students so to speak that we found to be--that research is found to be successful.  So I think we near myriad strategies there to be able to support our adult students and certainly we don't want to have one size fits all policy when it comes to making sure that our students are successful, we have to take them into mind those populations.
>> This one is going to be--I think this might be from a professor.
[ Laughter ]
Sort of--
>> 'Cause it deals with massive open online courses.
>> OK.
>> Did--kind of been viewed as a way to increase access at low cost.  But how do we insure quality?  And what does the administration's role or what is the administration think of the role of massive open online courses in higher education?
>> You know, we believe that technology can be a real driver for innovation in higher education.  When it comes to massive online courses, massive open online courses or books we believe that we have to do more to scale the types of assessments that are needed to know whether they work.  You know, we don't yet have the series of performance-based assessments that enable us to know that students are progressing through a particular online module or MOOC that they'll be successful.  And so, I think those assessments are currently being developed by a number of the various providers.  We hope that--and we believe we have a role at the federal level to help support greater assessment and greater tools that can be used as institutions of higher education and private individuals develop these MOOCs.  So that we have a better sense of what's working in that space.  I think we're still learning a great deal about what's working and what could work when it comes to online learning in higher education.  Our National Science Foundation is doing some studies of that work as well.  So we're going to continue to learn from that.  I'll say the one thing that I think is most exciting in this space is that once we're able to understand what adapted platforms and what online innovations are most successful with our learners we can apply that to the Science of Learning on College Campuses.  And if we can help support a new conversation with our faculty members about how to use technology and embed that in a blended way in their course work that has the potential to reach a far greater number students than--that are currently enrolled and currently pursuing their higher education than just relying on MOOCs as a substitute platform for higher ed.
>> OK.  There are two questions on this, I'm going to amalgamate them here for you.  I'm also going to paraphrase because, one, it needs paraphrasing.  So in essence why create a rating system rather than just provide public information?  The other one says, another know before you know campaign, why is this administration so strongly focused on consumer choice?
>> Well, you know, I'll take the last one first, which is that we believe that the pursuit of higher education for too many students is too opaque, honestly.  We believe that, you know, we have not done enough to help support states in the process of, you know, defining standards and defining learning progressions that will help--that are very clear, that are easy to understand for the public and that help, particularly young people graduating from high school, understand what it will take for them to get their college degree, understand the various pathways they have, you know, to reach their--to reach a four-year degree for instance.  That's not to say that we're not seeing innovation in that space, you know.  We're starting to see, you know, states like Florida and other systems, you know, the Arizona system, for instance that's starting to look at defining learning outcomes and aligning that articulation between two-year and four-year colleges so that students are actually able to more seamlessly finish their associates degree, transfer to a four-year institution and finish that four-year degree in half the cost sometimes of students that might start out at that four-year institution.  So, you know, that's just one example of a place where we don't have enough transparency for families and for students.  We collect a bunch of data, as I mentioned.  We collect 15 different indicators.  We don't provide that data in a really easy to understand reliable format for parents or for families.  So if you think about higher education as one of the most important investments you can make as a family, you're sitting around the college table or you're sitting around the kitchen table.  And thinking about choosing a college, you want to be able to have that data just as you would if were buying a home and you'd be able to go on homes database and be able to print out a comparable format to at least know it's not going to tell you everything about those particular options but it at least provides a level of comparable data.  We believe that's needed.  And that's why we're so focused on providing consumers information.  Now, you know, that's not all we need to do, right.  That is not where this conversation needs to begin in that.  We have a lot more to do to support affordability and innovation to actually make sure that that translates into opportunity for students.  I forgot the first part of your question, I'm so sorry.
>> That's OK, I think that covered most of that--
>> OK.
>> --couple of [inaudible].
>> So, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have income-based loan repayment programs for all students.  Yeah.
>> US limits these options to the lowest income borrowers, why not expand this option for everyone?
>> Well, I think it's a good question and a good issue for us to look at.  You know, we are focused right now on our low income borrowers because we have only a fraction of--we believe we have captured only a fraction of the students who most need and could most benefit from income-based repayment.  And that's why I mentioned we are starting to target some of our subsets of borrowers who we know might need the most help and could really benefit from IBR.  But, ultimately, I think it's a good question, a good debate for us to have.  And something good for Congress to consider in terms of whether we can expand IBR more actively to more students and ultimately tell the students across the country.  You know, we're not there yet, that's an expensive proposition as well so it's something that we would really have to have the funding to be able to support.  But, you know, it's something that we are--that we're eager to talk more about and to explore in Congress.
>> So here's a question from Twitter about loan repayment.  It says, loan repayment is complex and do you anticipate a partnership between the Department of Education and Treasury so repayment can go to the tax system?
>> Yes, I mean, I do think we are going to try to do more to support this.  We are, you know, we've been able to fortunately really forge a strong partnership on the income-based repayment front as well as on the passive front with our friends at Treasury to be able to import tax information in a more seamless way, so that individuals are better able to know whether they qualify for benefits.  You know, we think we should try to do more of that and try to do more of that experimentation with respect to loan repayment as well.  And you know, I think we're not quite there yet.  But you know, I think we're beginning to have conversations that haven't been had before between our Department of Education and the Department of Treasury to explore the possibilities there.
>> This is from Twitter too.  I think their first sentence is written into some sort of Twitter language.  So if I read it--
>> Are there a lot hashtags?
>> Yeah.  21.18 percent cohort default rates and some for profit schools.  I don't know if that's a question or--but, at what point do we shut them down or cut them out of federal aid?
>> Yes, I mean we believe we need to cut them out of some point of federal aid.  You know, that is the whole premise behind again for employment regulation.  And again, I can't speak to the details of that in terms of the thresholds.  You know, we had a rule that we were very proud to promulgate as an administration on this.  And you know, I think fortunately that rule would have not only had the effective of making sure that we were failing to provide the financial aid to the worse programs that clearly are bad actors of the sector.  Because that level of default is just, you know, over 20 percent default rate.  But--and also I think potentially it has the effect of the broader sector of Career College programs improving their performance.  And again, you know, federal regulation sometimes has this impact of if it's crafted in a thoughtful way of raising the bar and helping to improve the performance of other actors that may not be subject to the sanction.  But that--see that coming and know that there's a drive to get better and a need to do better.  We believe that that's needed particularly in this sector for the very issue that I mentioned in my remarks so that the default rates are so high.
>> So I'm encouraging colleges to cut cost.  So one way that colleges will cut cost is to increase the share of faculty or part time low paid adjuncts?  And this seems likely to erode quality.  How will the emphasis on affordability prevent colleges from cutting waiver cost at the potential?  So will it--will this--encouraging them to maybe to hire more part time faculty possibly erode teaching quality and have an adverse effect from what you're going for?
>> Well, you know, I think this is similar to one of the earlier questions as well, which is that we need to keep our eye on quality here.  And this can't be a tradeoff in the name of affordability that compromises the quality of instruction or education at our institutions.  And it's a challenge.  I mean it's really on a--I'll be honest, you know, I mean making sure that we are--we have the right measures to know that our students are receiving a high quality education.  You know, we have our outcome data post graduation, that's the best and most reliable thing that we can look toward right now.  But, you know, we know that there are tremendous benefits to a great higher education including the great liberal arts education that I received here.  So, you know, we don't want to curtail that.  And, you know, we need to keep an eye on making sure that we have good labor practices across our education sector, that's something that this President is very focused on and very supportive of.
>> I believe the percentage of low income students attending to college would and should be much higher than it currently is.  However, how do you convince colleges from a business standpoint that creating programs to recruit these students is a good idea as low income students would be bringing in less money to the school?  And they need more aid in the form of institutional grants and loans?
>> That's a great question.  You know, it gets to the premise of shared responsibility here.  And it's not just around recruitment, it's actually around enrollment and completion.  You know, because we have actually some really good recruitment programs and practices across our institutions, particular in a number of our selective institutions including the University of Michigan does a fine job of recruiting our low income students.  You know, we also need to collectively share our best practice around making sure that we're retaining all the students and that they are completing at our institutions of higher education.  And that is another area where we want to really invest an innovation and bring forth what's working well at our colleges and universities.  It helps scale those types of practices at our institutions.  But, you know, ultimately we believe that we need to have real commitments here from our institutions of higher education to take those students, you know, when you have real honest conversation.  And again, I'm not really advancing new policies in the space today in this conversation.  But I do believe we need a national conversation around admissions, you know, we need national conversation around retention, we need a discussion around those types of tradeoffs around packaging aid.  And, you know, we have right now a situation where if an institution is well and out and it has a real commitment to the diversity, it has the ability and the will to be able to make more pathways available for more low income students.  Then others institutions sometimes do, you know.  And then we have a question of public education for the public good.  And public higher education for the public good, which is something that I think, and I hope we us a country have a conversation about in this higher education reauthorization because, the strength of our public colleges and universities is that it has to be able to serve all our individuals.  And particularly be that pathway for our low income and first generation college course to be successful.  So, you know, I don't have a perfect answer for that.  But, you know, I think there is--it's a question of will, both political will of the institution of its board of regions of its leadership of the state.  And then it also means to implement programs and practices, both recruitment and retention that are successful.
>> I think we have time for one more.  How's the administration looking at the--into the quality of K-12 preparation in terms of college success?
>> So, you know, we have forged ambitious agenda to really improve the quality of our elementary and secondary education system over the course of the first terms.  This is another lecture which could be another couple hours.  But, you know, ultimately we've really launched a new national effort to helps support state in a new partnership around racing standards, so that they actually prepare students for college and career level work.  I don't think the public fully appreciates where we were with respect to college and career readiness as a system.  We had standards that, you know, were defined by 50 states and, you know, curriculum, obviously, that's define by, you know, over 15,000 school board.  So, we have a very desperate system.  But we need--if are to be successful in preparing our students for college, we need to begin with the expectation that they must graduate, each and everyone of them college ready.  And that's college ready at a level of learning that prepares them for entrance into a four year college without the need for remediation.  So, we had states that were setting standards, let's take seventh grade math for instance, at levels that were 70--of mastery, levels of mastery that were 70 points below neighboring states.  All right, that's over two grade levels worth of learning in terms of what's expected first students to be successful, just illustrative in middle school math.  We are not going to be competitive as a country if we are having that level of variation and that a student zip code determines the level of mastery, at which here she is expected to attain.  So, we have launched a raise to the top and we've supported a new reform and redesign of the No Child Left Behind Act with new flexibility agreements with our states, to be able to recalibrate these systems--these state systems to college and career readiness.  And I think once we're able to really raise those expectations for all of our students.  So, that they are competing in earnest with student across the globe rather than learning at a level that--of mastery that is really substandard.  Only then will we really be able to get were we need to go with respective preparing all of our students for college.
>> It's told we have time for one more.
>> OK.
>> So there's the last one here.  In rating systems we'd like long run measure--we would like long run measures like earnings because we think that the short one measures might not accurately reflect the quality of the school.  It doesn't look like we will have those in our rating system when it starts.  How will the system get around something like that?
>> Well, you know, I think we're going to need to look at the measures that are at our avail.  I don't want to predetermine what specific metrics will be in the system nor how they will interact because that is something that is still under development, careful development by our administration.  And it is something that we're going to be seeking public comment on and advice some technical experts about--I will say that, you know, I think we need to look at as reliable data as we can find with respect to earnings and postgraduate outcomes.  And we're hopeful that we will have some good long term data to be able to look at.  I don't know whether it's going to be reliable and comparable across every institution.  But we're going to keep our eye on that and, you know, we're going to look to the support and help of experts to grant how that might be calibrated into a broader system.
>> Thank you very much.
>> Thank you.
>> Thank you Roberto.
[ Applause ]