National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education

National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education

The Miller Center created the non-partisan National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education to recommend policy and funding changes to help the nation attain the goal of 60 percent of the labor force with a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025. With support from Lumina Foundation, the commission was tasked with developing policy proposals aimed at providing long-term sustainable finance models for U.S. higher education.

“Higher education needs new financing options to increase educational attainment for all students, but particularly for low income students and students of color and to encourage innovative, high-quality, lower-cost forms of teaching and instruction,” stated Raymond Scheppach, project director. Essentially the members of the commission believe that the United States public post-secondary system must become:

  • More affordable and more innovative
  • With equal access for all but particularly for low-income individuals and students of color.
  • With significantly higher graduation rates and enhanced learning

White Papers

To encourage “blue-sky thinking,” and further dialogue, in 2016 the Commission released a 10-paper series on new approaches to how colleges and universities are financed. The 10 papers, which were all written by outside authors, and the final report will focus on answering three primary questions related to reaching the 60 percent goal. First, how do we realign incentives and retarget existing public funding to make the entire system more cost effective and to increase graduation rates for students generally and students of color and from low-income families in particular? Second, what are the new, innovative models to deliver postsecondary education that can both lower costs and enhance learning and how do we stimulate their development? Third, what options do federal and state governments and the private sector have for increasing funding for higher education? It is important to stress here that the interest is in the “value proposition” that underlies these three primary questions. The” value proposition “ focuses on the national imperative of building a more highly skilled and educated work force not merely a more credentialed one. All of the white papers represent the views of the authors not the commission. That said all of the papers provide a foundation for the Commission’s ultimate report of findings, conclusions, and recommendations. The first four papers were released in May, 2016 while the other six were released in August, 2016.

“Crowded Out: The Outlook for State Higher Education Spending” (PDF) by Dan White and Sarah Crane, Moody’s Analytics

“Transformations Affecting Postsecondary Education” (PDF) by Jeffrey J. Selingo, author and columnist

“State Higher Education Finance: Best Practices” (PDF) by Martha Snyder, Brian Fox, and Cristen Moore, HCM Strategists

“Financing American Higher Education in the 21st Century: What Can the United States Learn From Other Countries?” (PDF) by D. Bruce Johnstone, professor, Higher and Comparative Education, University at Buffalo

“State Strategies for Leveraging Employer Investments in Postsecondary Education” (PDF) by Robert Sheets and Stephen Crawford, George Washington Institute of Public Policy, The George Washington University

“Understanding State and Local Higher Education Resources” (PDF) by Sandy Baum and Kim S. Rueben, Urban Institute

“New Directions in Private Financing” (PDF) by Andrew P. Kelly, American Enterprise Institute

“Higher Education: Social Impact Bonds and Income Share Agreements” (PDF) by Carlo Salerno, higher education economist and analyst

“State Support for Higher Education: How Changing the Distribution of Funds Could Improve College Completion Rates” (PDF) by Bridget Terry Long, Harvard Graduate School of Education

“The Federal Role in Financing 21st-Century Higher Education: Effectiveness, Issues, and Alternatives” (PDF) by Gabriel R. Serna, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The Commission

The 14-member National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education was led by two former governors and included two state legislators, five university presidents, and five private sector CEOs.

The Project Director

The project director was Raymond Scheppach, Economic Fellow at the Miller Center of Public Affairs and Professor of Public Policy at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.