The College Puzzle Blog
Prior PostingsAbout
Dr. Michael W. Kirst

Michael W. Kirst is Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University since 1969.
Dr. Kirst received his Ph.D. in political economy and government from Harvard. Before joining the Stanford University faculty, Dr. Kirst held several positions with the federal government, including Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty. He was a former president of the California State Board of Education. His book From High School to College with Andrea Venezia was published by Jossey Bass in 2004.

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My blog discusses the important and complex subjects of college completion, college success, student risk factors (for failing), college readiness, and academic preparation. I will explore the pieces of the college puzzle that heavily influence, if not determine, college success rates.

Indiana's Policies Improve College Access and Success

>Study Reveals How Policymakers, Education
>Officials, Interest Group Leaders Adopted
>Bipartisan Policies to Improve Postsecondary
>Opportunities for Hoosier Students
>Washington, D.C., September 17, 2008 ­ When it
>comes to improving access and success in higher
>education to the benefit of the whole state,
>Indiana is at the nation's forefront. This
>achievement can be credited to bipartisan
>efforts by key decision makers-policymakers,
>business leaders, and education officials-who
>continue to address some of the state's major
>educational issues through a process of
>evolutionary change that gave a seat at the
>table to all interested parties. Due in large
>part to those efforts, more than two-thirds (68
>percent) of Hoosier high school students
>completed a college preparatory curriculum in
>2006, compared with only 12 percent in 1994, and
>more than 65,000 additional students have
>enrolled in college in the state since 2001.
>According to a new report by the Institute for
>Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Indiana has made
>considerable progress in increasing college
>access over the last several decades. The study,
>Creating Change One Step at a Time: Efforts to
>Improve College Access and Success in Indiana,
>offers a glimpse at the interventions Indiana
>has undertaken in the areas of academic
>preparation, higher education affordability, and
>a diversified system of higher education.
> * The Core 40 diploma-which requires
> students to take four years of English, three
> years of math through at least Algebra II, and
> three years of science-was created to improve
> academic preparation for high school graduates
> and is now required for nearly all students.
> * As a part of a commitment to provide
> need-based grant aid, Indiana awards
> approximately 86 percent of all undergraduate
> student aid based on financial need alone
> (rather than on academic merit or a combination
> of need and merit), compared with a national average of 49 percent.
> * The establishment of a statewide community
> college system, Ivy Tech Community College of
> Indiana, offers more affordable postsecondary
> options, especially for working adults and for
> underserved groups such as low-income and minority students.
>"By focusing its efforts on a clear policy
>goal-increasing college access and
>success-Indiana has been able to achieve a
>series of significant postsecondary policy
>changes that we hope will lead to a myriad of
>successful outcomes," said IHEP President
>Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D. "We applaud the
>state and its efforts to aggressively push
>through bureaucratic policy mazes to embrace
>bipartisan amendments resulting in the creation
>of a college-going culture among Hoosier residents."
>report highlights several key practices that
>have enabled Indiana to create substantial
>changes in the educational policy arena. These include:
> * Recognizing the need for change and
> expressing that need to all stakeholders.
> * Moving forward incrementally without
> letting initial setbacks stop the process of change.
> * Using data to inform policy decisions. The
> work of experts inside and outside the state
> can provide a range of options to address identified problems.
> * Connecting to national organizations
> working in the same areas. These connections
> offer support in developing new policies and
> links to other states that may have similar concerns or experiences.
> * Seeking financial support for new policy
> initiatives from nonprofit organizations,
> foundations, and the federal government.
> * Building public support through
> transparency and aggressive communication efforts.
> * Making sure all stakeholders have a seat
> at the table so problems and policy solutions
> can be thoroughly discussed before implementation.
> * Cultivating strong, sustained, and
> bipartisan state leadership. A few key
> individuals can make or break policy initiatives.
>Despite its progress in creating change and
>building a college-going culture, the report
>notes that Indiana still has to address a number
>of specific concerns, such as increasing
>postsecondary completion rates and doing more to
>assist low-income, minority, and adult students.
>The state also faces a number of ongoing
>challenges, including finding funding for
>need-based aid and other programs in the face of
>budget pressures as well as sustaining momentum
>for change through the election cycle and into
>the future. Nonetheless, the study points out
>that the factors helping Indiana be successful
>in promoting policy change thus far are likely
>to persist, and the state will continue to create change one step at a time.
>The full report,Creating Change One Step at a
>Time: Efforts to Improve College Access and
>Success in Indian, is available for download on
>IHEP's Web site at

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