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How to Assure Quality in Higher Education?
Focus on Innovation, Minimum Standards, and Continuous Improvement

The U.S. quality assurance system—focused mainly on accreditation as a threshold for federal financial aid eligibility—has done a poor job of assuring quality. Barely 60 percent of first-time students complete a bachelor’s degree and 40 percent complete an associate’s degree at the institution where they started. These overall results mask a wide range of outcomes across institutions. As a result, many students, parents, and policymakers question the value of their…

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Quality Assurance in U.S. Higher Education
The Current Landscape and Principles for Reform

The American higher education sector is diverse and creative. In 2014-15, the sector produced over 1 million associate’s degrees, nearly 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees, over 758,000 master’s degrees, and over 178,000 doctoral degrees.[1] The world leader in innovation for decades, the sector continues to produce cutting edge research and contributes mightily to the American economy. Recent estimates concluded …


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Leading Innovation: A Seminar for Department Chairs

Department chairs play a critical role in their institutions, helping to make important hiring and budget decisions and increasingly playing a crucial role in innovations around teaching, learning, and technology. Yet, while the department chair is typically the first rung on the ladder to senior leadership in academia, many take on the role without the necessary training or mentorship. The Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership and Ithaka S+R have…


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Developing a Policy for Technology-Mediated Content

As colleges and universities continue to develop and invest in online courses, have their policies kept pace? In An Academic Policy Framework for Technology-Mediated Content, published today, authors Randal C. Picker, Lawrence S. Bacow, and Nancy Kopans argue that clear policies—on governance, conflicts of interest, and intellectual property—are critical to promoting innovation in the development of new educational technologies. As the authors caution “without adequate policies, the development of potentially…

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An Academic Policy Framework for Technology-Mediated Content

I. Introduction In this report, we recommend a set of policies regarding governance, conflicts of interest, conflicts of commitment, and intellectual property to guide academic institutions in developing ways to create and promote technologically-mediated content. These policies are intended to encourage innovation in the development of new educational technologies by creating incentives for both institutions and their faculty …


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The Three Greatest Obstacles to Improving Student Success?
Higher Ed Insiders Cite State Funding, Faculty Incentives, and Administrative Silos

A diverse group of 85 higher education leaders and experts identified insufficient state funding of public institutions of higher education as the most significant obstacle to improving American students’ postsecondary outcomes. But aside from the shortfall in that critical public investment, respondents to the Spring 2016 Ithaka S+R Higher Ed Insights Survey flagged institutional policies, practices, and culture as the greatest impediments to improving student success. The most promising solutions…

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Higher Ed Insights: Results of the Spring 2016 Survey

Introduction In fall 2015, Ithaka S+R invited a select group of higher education administrators and experts to join a panel of advisors. One activity of the panel, which currently consists of 111 members with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, is to take part in semi-annual surveys on issues of national importance in higher education. The first of these surveys was …


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Optimizing for the Adult Learner

Roughly 70 percent of today’s college students are “nontraditional students,” meaning that they are over the age of 24, commute to campus, work part or full-time, are financially independent, or have children. Some enter college with only a GED, while others are reentry students with previously earned credits from multiple institutions. Many of these students are low-income, the first in their families to attend college, or come from underrepresented racial…

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Serving the Adult Student at University of Maryland University College

Conventional conceptualizations of the “typical” college student as an eighteen-year old, full-time, residential student poorly match reality. Roughly 70 percent of today’s college students are “nontraditional students,” meaning that they are over the age of 24, commute to campus, work part or full-time, are financially independent, or have children. Some enter college with only a GED, while others are reentry …


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How Should Higher Education be Regulated?
The Case for Management-Based Regulation

For much of the 20th Century, the government relied on a command-and-control form of regulation in their oversight of organizations across many sectors. In other words, the government mandated that these regulated entities undertake specific activities and then monitored their compliance. In the late 20th Century, reaction to the burdens and inefficacy of command and control led to a shift in some areas to performance-based regulation. Under this model,  the…

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