State-Federal Partnerships in Postsecondary Education

Source: Education Commission of the States, 2016

The responsibility for providing a high-quality, cohesive postsecondary education is split between different levels of government. Both the federal government and state governments have distinct roles in higher education. Policymakers need to marry federal and state higher education policies to provide a cohesive policy playbook that supports student success and moves the nation toward meeting aggressive attainment goals.

Education Commission of the States coordinated the creation and dissemination of a series of policy briefs focused on the interaction between state- and federal-level policies pertaining to higher education. These issue briefs are composed by a diverse collection of notable educational policy and thought leaders representing state and federal perspectives from both a public and private sector viewpoint. Topics include, but are not limited to, financial aid, data policies, the “triad” and workforce needs.

Wiping the Slate Clean: A new federalism for the 21st century student
Authors: Dr. James L. Applegate, Executive Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education and Mary Fulton, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Commission of the States.
This brief outlines the current structure of federal and state higher education policies and funding that emerged consequently. Included in the brief are policy and practice changes that address meeting college attainment goals and ensuring affordability for low and middle income students.

Leveraging Community Colleges in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: A blueprint for state policymakers
Authors: Colleen Campbell, Senior Policy Analyst, Association of Community College Trustees and Ivy Love, Policy Analyst, Association of Community College Trustees.
This brief looks at how to increase coordination between institutions and regional workforce needs, specifically how states can capitalize on federal investments to improve this alignment.

Rethinking the Federal-State Partnership for Free Community College: Early indicators from Oregon
Authors: Ben Cannon, Executive Director, Higher Education Coordinating Commission and Jennifer Joyalle, Doctoral Student, Portland State University.
This brief details aspects of the Oregon Promise Program including funding, program limitations, examine costs and opportunities associated with a more intentional state/federal partnership.

Rowing Together: Aligning state and federal investments in talent to common outcomes
Authors: Kristin D. Conklin, Partner, HCM, Martha Snyder, Director, HCM, Jeff Stanley, Chief of Staff, HCM and Scott Boelscher, Senior-Level Associate, HCM.
Thirteen states have outcomes-based funding policies that work to align sought-after outcomes with state funding. This brief argues that it is desirable to align federal financial aid policies with metrics in state outcomes-based funding policies.

Fixing Affordability: An approach for advancing federalism in the modern era
Author: Michelle Asha Cooper, President, Institute for Higher Education Policy.
There is a constant push and pull between state and the federal governments to find the right balance of federalism. By applying this “push-pull” framework to higher education, this brief looks at past policy interventions and how this framework can help to understand the free college movement.

Better Together? State and Federal Funding for Student Financial Aid
Authors: William R. Doyle, Associate Professor of Higher Education, Vanderbilt University and Sarah Pingel, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Commission of the States.
This brief focuses on three aspects of state financial aid: (1) how states use financial aid programs to make college more affordable; (2) how federalist solutions can assist state-only efforts to make college more affordable; and (3) how federal funds can help to level out state volatility in tighter economic times.

Enhancing State Authorization: The need for action by states as stewards of higher education performance
Authors: Thomas Harnisch, Director of State Relations and Policy Analysis, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Barmak Nassirian, Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Amber Saddler, Policy Assistant, EducationCounsel LLC and Art Coleman, Managing Partner and Co-founder, EducationCounsel LLC.
This brief examines the “triad” of state governments, the federal government and accrediting agencies and, by shining light on the unique role that state governments play in this partnership, the authors propose reforms that will strengthen the role of state governments, without neglecting the two other legs of the higher education stool.

Role Clarity: The interplay of entities funding higher education
Author: Dr. Christopher M. Mullin, Executive Vice Chancellor, Florida College System.
This brief outlines the appropriate interplay between federal, state and institutional actions to ensure a coordinated higher education system including four options for future action: (1) a stacked approach; (2) a centralized approach; (3) a sequential approach; and (4) a segmented approach.

Fast Track to College Success
Author: Mary Nguyen Barry, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Reform Now.
This brief focuses on 12th grade students who are ready for postsecondary work, but are spending unnecessary time in high school. The brief discusses options for paying for the transition, including K-12 funds reimbursing families for tuition or 12th graders being eligible for Pell.

Creating an Ideal State-Federal Data Partnership to Improve Policymaking Related to College Affordability
Authors: Brian Prescott, Associate Vice President, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Demaree Michelau, Vice President, Policy Analysis and Research, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and Patrick Lane, Project Manager, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
This brief explores how federal data policies are intertwined with states’ and argues that a more effective partnership could equip states with information they can use to more precisely target policies on the barriers to postsecondary access and success.