Stanford University, 1-2 December 2011
Mitchell L. Stevens
It is essential for higher education leaders, researchers, and policy makers to cooperate to support the nation's broad-access colleges under very challenging fiscal circumstances. Our project is charged with facilitating the growth of shared knowledge to nurture the effectiveness of these institutions, whose guiding mission of college accessibility is a worthy point of national pride.
On 1-2 December 2011 our effort reached its second milestone with a conference at Stanford University titled "Mapping Broad-Access Higher Education." The specific goals of the conference were:
- to present detailed empirical pictures of current governance structures, market dynamics, and career trajectories (of students, instructors, and administrators) in the access sector, and use those pictures to suggest tractable program and policy recommendations in the short term.
- to specify more precisely what empirical research on broad-access governance, market dynamics, and careers is necessary to inform improved organizational performance in the short, middle, and long term.
- to specify investments required in data collection, basic research, student training, and professional mentoring if a policy-relevant social science of access higher education is to be sustained into the future.
In the service of these goals we commissioned eleven papers from researchers, policy makers, and entrepreneurs on a wide range of topics including faculty labor markets, higher education finance, performance incentives, and student outcome measurement. These papers served as the starting points for conference discussions, which were organized in four sessions: conceptualization of the broad-access sector; careers in broad-access schools; incentives and measurement in broad-access schools; and policy implications. The convening generated rich discussion and a sense of optimism despite the large challenges currently facing schools in the broad-access sector.
One purpose of this report is to synthesize the convening's varied exchanges as a catalyst and encouragement for colleagues to carry this important conversation forward. Much of that synthesis is in Appendix D. A second purpose is to specify priorities for our own work for the duration of this project's three-year term. These priorities have grown organically from our now countless exchanges with scores of researchers, broad-access college leaders, foundation officers, and higher education entrepreneurs. We summarize our priorities as three ideas that we believe have great promise for encouraging creative destruction and cumulative improvement in how broad-access higher education is understood, assessed, managed, and experienced.
Idea 1: Pay explicit attention to the organizational aspects of broad-access higher education.
Idea 2: Re-imagine the relationship between college and life course.
Idea 3: Build research capacity and useful new knowledge through institutional partnerships.