Earlier this month, Educational Testing Service (ETS) hosted an event featuring Darryl Greer, Senior Fellow at the Center for Higher Education Strategic Information and Governance (HESIG) at Stockton University, and Daniel Douglas, Director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy and previous Director of Communications for Stockton University, at its headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey.
The speaking event, titled “Finding Solutions, Building Public Trust in an Era of Change,” focused on a report that explores higher education policy reforms and comprehensive recommendations to improve college access, affordability and completion. It brought together many ETS employees as well as leaders from local colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations. The report was underwritten in part by a grant from the ETS Center for Advocacy and Philanthropy. The presentation also included the results of Stockton’s most recent research on income inequality in the state of New Jersey and the impact of geography on economic opportunity in the state. That research shows a strong correlation between median household incomes in New Jersey and high school and college graduation rates.
Watch a portion of the event here:
During the presentation, Greer highlighted the key findings from the College Value Poll, in which roundtable participants — including college and university presidents, business executives and citizens — shared consistent views. Overall, around 87 percent of participants agreed that significant changes are needed to increase the value of higher education.
Ultimately, in order for colleges and universities to have higher completion rates and to increase college value, universities must give students the skills needed to succeed in college and at work, and provide more practical experiences, such as internships, in the college curriculum. When asked what students can do to increase the value of college, many roundtable participants agreed that in addition to working at internships, students should work hard to master effective writing, speaking and problem-solving skills, as well as workplace skills such as teamwork, punctuality and appreciation of diversity. Furthermore, in order to complete college sooner, participants suggested that schools make it easier for students to transfer credit.
One important finding was that citizens believe that New Jersey’s colleges exhibit excellent/good quality (87 percent); and high value (90 percent) for the cost. Yet, 87 percent of citizens polled think that colleges need to change educational and business practices to increase value, and see jobs and careers as an important expected outcome of college. Only 50 percent see college as affordable. Furthermore, 90 percent of those who attended college found that the value of college was worth the cost. Some of the top reasons for going to college included getting a better job (37 percent) and gaining specific skills (26 percent).
Douglas and Greer, along with Lenora Green, Senior Director of ETS’s Center for Advocacy and Philanthropy, believe that having access to higher education will lead to higher-paying jobs and, ultimately, better lives. Douglas said, “Higher education and civic engagement are tied together,” meaning that if one has access to higher education, he or she will be more involved in civic engagement.
Greer also believes that college access, affordability and completion are critical. “It is the key to the American dream,” he said. “Everywhere in the world, individuals who pursue their education do better in life. It’s just one of the best investments anyone can make in their future.”
Greer, Douglas and Green also agree that in order to make colleges and universities more accessible and affordable, policy reforms must be identified and changes must be made. Green encouraged the public to influence policymakers, legislators and institutions of higher education to execute these changes.
Green also encouraged individuals to do their research when considering the pursuit of higher education against its perceived worth. Green said, “I would ask those individuals to get all of the information they can in order to make the decision. I would recommend they talk to trusted individuals about their aspirations in order to seek advice and guidance, and encourage them to continue the conversation.”
To download and view the complete reports and presentation, visit these sites: