CHEA President Judith Eaton Discusses
Policy Framework for College Success
(Washington, DC) – A solid policy framework that examines the commitments and practices used by higher education to support student achievement is vital to determining whether or not efforts aimed to enhance "college success" are working, according to Judith Eaton, President of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
"In addition to financial challenges – including budget cuts and endowment loss, coupled with money coming from the stimulus package and from the 2010 federal budget – colleges and universities now exist in a climate with a heightened sense of ‘public ownership' of higher education," Eaton said. "Along with an ever-greater emphasis on accountability, higher education increasingly is seen at the national and state level as the province of government as well as the province of the academic community."
Eaton's "Capstone" address was delivered at a luncheon session held on March 18 as part of the Pennsylvania Governor's Conference on Higher Education. The conference – whose theme was "Pathways to College Success" – was attended by more than 200 higher education leaders.
"Who decides what success looks like?" Eaton asked. "At present, the four major actors who decide are 1) higher education and accreditation 2) state governments 3) the federal government and 4) the private sector."
"For the higher education community and accreditation, success historically has been measured in terms of intellectual development, skills for life as well as work and education as an experience beyond earning a credential," Eaton pointed out. "For state governments, success means greater participation in higher education, more graduates and graduates who meet state workforce needs and contribute to the state's economic development. For the federal government – particularly in the past 3-5 years – success means enhanced student achievement and performance by colleges and universities, both nationally and internationally, more efficient institutional operations and greater transparency. For the private sector, success is measured by more graduates with better test scores and both technical and generic workplace skills."
"It is not enough to simply claim success," Eaton said. "The climate today in which higher education operates strongly suggests that centralizing expectations of performance, whether at the state or national level, is at least under consideration. For higher education, any consideration of centralization must come from the grassroots level, led by faculty and institutions. Accreditation plays a vital role here, underscoring the importance of assuring that the academic community, not government, is responsible for overseeing issues related to academic quality."
Eaton concluded "With the heightened sense of public urgency about higher education, we will continue to see a focus on student achievement as the sine qua non for college success. I am quite confident that our higher education enterprise will meet this challenge. As with other challenges we have faced, higher education will not be found wanting."
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A national advocate and institutional voice for self-regulation of academic quality through accreditation, CHEA is an association of 3,000 degree-granting colleges and universities and recognizes 60 institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations. For more information, visit CHEA’s Website at www.chea.org.