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Event Summary

How might education reformers improve their dialogue surrounding America’s college completion agenda? At AEI on Monday, an elite panel of higher education observers concluded that comprehensive colleges and universities are not receiving the attention they deserve from policymakers and the public, which has serious consequences for the future of higher education in the United States.

The panel began by establishing a working definition of a comprehensive institution. Alisa Hicklin Fryar of the University of Oklahoma concluded that they are regional, public, four-year institutions that tend to be lower-cost and educate a mix of traditional and nontraditional students. They are important, argued KC Deane of the Aspen Institute, because almost 70 percent of all students who are enrolled in a public four-year school attend a comprehensive institution.

And yet the panel was equally quick to admit that the public, media, and policymakers tend to overlook comprehensives. This is unfortunate, argued Will Doyle of Vanderbilt University, because comprehensives are likely the best place to increase degree completion in many states.

Jeff Selingo of The Chronicle of Higher Education profiled several innovations comprehensives should pursue in this vein, including greater course advising and mentoring, the use of open (free) courseware, and flexible degree programs. Panelists ultimately concluded that with greater attention and funding, comprehensives can go a long way in increasing the number of US adults with a college degree.
–Daniel Lautzenheiser

Event Description

Much of the conversation surrounding higher education policy tends to focus on student experiences at well-known, name-brand private universities or state flagships — the Harvards, University of Michigans, and University of Virginias. We pay far less attention to the hundreds of “comprehensive” colleges — four-year regional state institutions that educate the bulk of America’s students seeking a postsecondary degree. As policymakers focus on dramatically increasing the number of Americans with a college degree, a better understanding of comprehensive schools is needed.

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


3:45 PM

4:00 PM
Kim Clark, Money Magazine
KC Deane, Aspen Institute
Will Doyle
, Vanderbilt University
Alisa Hicklin Fryar, University of Oklahoma
Jeff Selingo, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Mark Schneider, AEI

5:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Daniel Lautzenheiser at [email protected], 202.862.5843.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Kim Clark is a senior writer for Money magazine. She is a veteran journalist who previously covered higher education for US News & World Report and created, which posts real financial aid letters sent out by colleges and shows how confusing and misleading they can be. Clark also worked as a staff writer for Fortune magazine and the Baltimore Sun.

KC Deane is a program manager at the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. Previously, she was a research associate at AEI’s Center on Higher Education Reform. Her research focuses on workforce readiness and financial aid and admission practices in higher education. Deane previously worked for two years as an assistant dean of admissions at Reed College.

William Doyle is an associate professor of higher education and coordinator of the Higher Education Leadership Program in the department of leadership, policy, and organizations at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. His research includes evaluating the impact of higher education policy, the antecedents and outcomes of higher education policy at the state level, and the study of political behavior as it affects higher education. Doyle’s work has appeared in outlets such as The Journal of Higher Education, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and Economics of Education Review. Before joining the faculty at Vanderbilt, he was senior policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Alisa Hicklin Fryar is an associate professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma. Her research and teaching focus on higher education policy, issues of accountability for public universities, bureaucratic politics, and public management. Her work has appeared in various journals, including the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Public Administration Review, Journal of Politics, and Higher Education Handbook of Theory and Research.

Mark Schneider is a visiting scholar at the AEI and vice president at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Before joining AIR, he served as the US Commissioner of Education Statistics from 2005 to 2008. He is also a distinguished professor emeritus of political science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Schneider is the author and editor of numerous articles and books on education policy, including “Getting to Graduation: The Completion Agenda in Higher Education” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), “Higher Education Accountability” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), “Charter Schools: Hope or Hype?” (Princeton University Press, 2007), and “Choosing Schools” (Princeton University Press, 2000), which won the Policy Study Organization’s Aaron Wildavsky Best Book Award. Schneider has been working to increase accountability by making data on college productivity more publicly available. To that end, he is one of the creators of and serves as the president of College Measures LLC, a joint venture of AIR and Matrix Knowledge Group.

Jeffrey Selingo, an author, reporter, and columnist, has spent his journalism career covering colleges and universities worldwide. His first book, “College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students” (New Harvest, 2013), explores how, in the future, families will pay for college, what campuses will look like, and how students will learn and prove their value in the job market. He is currently working on his second book, “MOOC U,” an inside look at the debate over massive open online courses. Selingo is a professor of practice at Arizona State University. He also blogs for LinkedIn. From 2007 to 2011, Selingo was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, where he worked for 15 years in a variety of reporting and editing roles. His work has been honored with awards from the Education Writers Association, Society of Professional Journalists, and the Associated Press, and he was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Before coming to The Chronicle of Higher Education, he covered environmental issues as a reporter for the Wilmington Star–News in North Carolina (1995–97) and worked for The Ithaca Journal in New York (1994–95). As a recipient of a Pulliam Journalism Fellowship, he covered business technology for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix.

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