God, I love having smart people in the administration!
This morning I listened as Bob Shireman and Ceci Rouse unveiled an ambitious, thoughtful plan to increase college completion rates among low-income students. DOE is on the right track-- the story is completion, rather than access, and to make advances requires some serious restructuring of incentives.
The part of the plan to Restore America's Leadership in Higher Education that I'm most excited about is the creation of reliable Pell Grant -- making its funding mandatory rather than discretionary, and indexing the maximum grant to grow at CPI + 1%.
What's more, they're proposing a five-year $2.5 bil incentive fund to stimulate state-federal partnerships to increase degree completion. The best part? These folks actually get that we DO NOT KNOW what will work, and therefore whatever states try out needs to be rigorously evaluated. Build the knowledge base and we'll improve policy and practice. Exactly the shot in the arm higher ed needs, if only they hold true to a good definition of rigor and require states to contract out those evaluations. I'd also suggest that evals of ongoing, rather than simply new, programs be allowed -- why waste time when we can start learning now?
Lastly: one thing I didn't hear that I'd like to -- let the financial aid experiments continue. The last administration called a halt to institutional efforts to try out innovations, and this was a mistake. We need to know more about how aid can better be distributed, not less. Let 'em go on.