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Legislation backing evidence-based practices that support student retention, completion, and success in postsecondary education


Postsecondary Student Success Act
Postsecondary Student Success Act

On March 20, 2024, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M) and Lori Chavez-Deremer (R-Ore.) introduced the Postsecondary Student Success Act, legislation backing evidence-based practices that support student retention, completion, and success in postsecondary education. This week's insights summarize the bill and offer critique on a few characteristics regarding the allocation of the funds.


“Award grants to create evidence-based student success programs designed to increase participation, retention, and completion rates of high-need students.”


According to Senator Heinrich’s summary, the bill authorizes funding to colleges and universities for evidence-based retention programs, such as:  


  • Providing faculty and peer counseling services. 

  • Incentivizing students to re-enroll and stay on track. 

  • Collecting real-time data on student progress.  

  • Providing direct student support services, including tutoring and academic support. 

  • Preparing students for a career by providing career coaching and counseling: 

  • Lowering student-to-advisor ratios. 

  • Recruiting and lowering faculty and other instructional staff; and 

  • Reform developmental education, including utilizing career pathways and improving transfer student success. 

 

Evidence-based funding is preferred over performance-based funding, as performance-based funding yields punitive undertones and suggests colleges would, in some proposals, lose funding if they do not meet stated criteria for student outcomes. Evidence-based funding encourages progression and innovation and rewards institutions for the increased tethering to the college student experience and, more specifically, college student completion.

 

This bill suggests that programs aimed at student support and completion should be permanently solidified, and I agree here. In such a polarized higher education environment, students are more prone to stop or drop out, given the volatility of their personal needs, lack of financial funding, and competing priorities in our post-pandemic economy. Funding directly allocated for the retention and success of high-need students could drastically improve rates and overall institutional outcomes.


The bill defines “completion” as the percentage of students from an initial cohort enrolled at a 2-year institution who have graduated from the institution or transferred to a 4-year institution of higher education or the percentage of students from an initial cohort enrolled at an entity in the State that is a 4-year institution who have graduated from the institution.

The other important sections of the bill are the evidence-based tiers:


Evidence tier 1 reform or practice: a reform or practice that prior research suggests has promise to improve student achievement or attainment for high-need students successfully.


Evidence tier 2 reform or practice: means a reform or practice meeting similar criteria as tier 1, that measures the pact and cost-effectiveness of student success activities and, through rigorous evaluation (including by existing administrative data, as applicable), is successfully implemented.


Evidence tier 3 reform or practice: means a reform or practice meeting similar criteria as tier 1 and 2, and that has been found to produce sizable, essential impacts on student success...

a. They determine whether such impacts can be reproduced and sustained over time.

b. Identifying the conditions in which such reform or practice is most effective.


The areas of critique that I believe should be reconsidered or amended are directly linked to the allocation of the funding:


“Reserve 2 percent for grants to eligible Indian entities to increase participation, retention, and completion rates of high-need students.” – This allocation of holding/reserving a percentage or quota for any demographic would be considered discrimination against other demographically adjacent entities such as HBCUs, PWIs, and HSIs under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. Thus, no quotas or percentages should be held. As noted in the bill, competition should be amended to create equality among the allocations based on institutional size and enrollment characteristics (2-year/4-year).


“Grant Limit” An eligible entity with a branch campus may only receive a grant under this Act for one campus at a time. This should be reconsidered in the allocation to disburse funds equally to each campus that has submitted plans for the funding, noting there is a shared effort among the campuses to collaborate and create a more synergistic approach to the student retention initiatives.


Overall, the bill seems straightforward and intentional about student success and college completion, which we can never have enough of in our current landscape. If the bill passes both the house and the senate, the bill will likely be signed into law as the Biden-Harris Administration has made proposals for student success with the new guidelines around the recent affirmative action decision. This bill will be a tremendous step in the continued direction of advocating for college student retention and completion.

 

Reference: (2021). United States : Heinrich Announces New Legislation to Help Students Complete College. MENA Report, (), .


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Rebuttals are always welcome,


Jade M. Felder

@felderofficial - X

 

 

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