Becoming Intentional About College Retention
Career College Central Summary:
Let’s clear the air about the default crisis. In doing so, we’ll set aside the debates about for-profit default problems, institutions that serve “high risk” populations being unfairly targeted, and studies that “prove the theory” in support of the new federal policies.
The federal government continually runs the risk of overstepping its boundary on regulations affecting higher education in profoundly negative ways. Federal support, especially at private institutions, brings the government into the funding of higher education as a minority partner. Direct subsidies to public institutions are in aggregate historically state-government-supported. Excluding research support, federal government policies have always been directed more toward support of students.
When the dust clears, however, it is reasonable for the federal government to use its funding and regulatory authority to improve default rates on loans and grants on which it is the principal funder. The federal actions on student loan defaults pass the test of what is reasonable and do not exceed the limits that often precipitate long, debilitating fights over federal intrusion.
There are caveats.
First, it will be important for federal officials to understand how American higher education works. “One size fits all” solutions never succeed in dealing with a decentralized system of colleges and universities, mixed as public and private. Further, solving the student loan default problem is not theory. It’s better to move beyond academic educational policy debates. It’s time for educational think tanks and federal policy wonks to remember that acting as futurists does not mean that they should attempt to live only in a world that they wish existed. Let’s agree to deal with the messy reality that collectively produced the greatest higher education system in the world, warts and all.
Second, the new plans should link the student loan default plan directly to the college’s strategic plan, counseling strategies, academic programming, assessment protocol, and admission and retention practices. Each plan must be different because every institution has context and subtlety. Good default plans will professionalize “Mom and Pop” operations, build from the experiences of other institutions, and improve retention.
Third, the default plan should recast improvement to student loan defaults as a retention issue. Simply put, the default crisis will then translate more effectively into an opportunity for a college or university to improve its bottom line, adhere to its mission, and comply with federal partnership agreements on grants and loans.
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