Second Missive to the White House!

I never got a reply to my February 8 letter from President Obama or anyone at the White House (see my previous blog).  Last week I sent the letter below to Ms. Zakiya Smith, Senior Advisor for Education on the White House Domestic Policy Council.  I share with all of you so that you might be aware of what is happening nationally, and so that you might provide feedback, too.

Ms. Zakiya Smith
Senior Advisor for Education
White House Domestic Policy Council
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington,DC 20500

February 21, 2012

Dear Ms. Smith,

I sent the enclosed letter to President Obama two weeks ago.  I never expected an answer, of course, but now want to send it to you for your consideration especially regarding the part of the letter that addresses the President’s “Blueprint for Making College Affordable.”  As you will read, I was in attendance at the NAICU meeting and was pleased that you were so interested in the feedback you received there.  I didn’t get a chance to comment then, and I hope it’s not too late for you to consider the points I raise.

 Too often, it seems, the media and the Department of Education focus on the highest priced universities (primarily on the coasts), and ignore the great mid-section of our country.  I hope that you will consider what this small (2,200) Kansas private university is doing to set responsible tuition policies, provide good value to students and their families, and serve low income students.  The story is similar for the other 17 independent colleges and universities of Kansas.  Together, we provided 21% of bachelor’s degrees and 29% of Master’s degrees in the state in 2010.  The only investment made by the state in our institutions is in the form of need-based grants direct to students – a total of 1% of the state’s higher education budget!  Now, that’s a return on investment! 

So, please let me underscore my great disappointment that, as written in the “Blueprint,” only public institutions can compete for the $1 billion investment proposed by the President.  

Last Friday, NAICU alerted us to the proposed “College Scorecard” on the White House website.  I went to it immediately, and provided some feedback, and have received no response.   I have no quarrel with the “costs,” “graduation,” and “student loan debt” items, as these data already exist and are available through NCES.  I cannot make sense of the “student loan repayment” category, and would suggest you use student loan default rates which are also available. 

The “earnings potential” item would be impossible to calculate for universities like ours that have 40+ majors.  Earnings vary greatly even with one major.  The example I used on the website is a History major – one might go to graduate school and become a professor; another may go to law school and become a defense attorney or prosecutor (where earnings vary greatly!), and a third might become a historical museum curator.  I simply don’t see how one would calculate “earnings potential” for the major based on such very different possible career directions.  Moreover, I wonder how and when we would collect data.  In a one-year post-graduate survey, many alumni haven’t settled into job or graduate school yet.  Response rates to 5 and 10 year surveys tend to be relatively low.  Would we need to hire another person to conduct such surveys, thereby driving up costs?  Finally, I would say we have excellent data available to us on earning potentials already – the U.S. Department of Labor’s annual Occupational Outlook Handbookand through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

I mean no disrespect when I say that this College Scorecard would pose an unnecessary burden on our colleges and universities.  It seems to me that families are getting used to using tools such as the College Navigator through theNationalCenterfor Education Statistics and NAICU’s U-CAN service.  And, of course, each institution has a net price calculator on its website.  All of these are excellent efforts at transparency.

I would welcome the opportunity to share more with you of my perspective and private higher education experience of 32 years. Thank you for your openness to receiving feedback and for all your work on behalf of U.S.students.

Sincerely yours,

Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D.
Newman University
3100 McCormick Street
Wichita,KS 67213
Phone:  316-942-4291 X2135

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4 Responses to Second Missive to the White House!

  1. Angeline Barretta Herman, PhD. says:

    Dear President Carrocci:

    I admire your continuing efforts to bring some sanity to the discussions on the affordability and the value of a liberal arts education. Please continue to advocate–it is critical that your voice is heard.

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