Roundtable Discussion with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

2012 Meeting with the Secretary of Education

White House meeting with Secretary Duncan. From left: Bill Hynes, President, Holy Names University; David Fike, President, Marygrove College; Gloria Nemorowicz, Founder and President of Yes We Must Coalition; Zakyia Smith, Senior Advisor for Education, White House Domestic Policy Council; Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to Pres. Obama for Education; Vinton Thompson, President, Metropolitan College; Jennifer Braaten, President, Ferrum College; and David Olive, President, Bluefield College.

Roundtable Discussion with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
April 2, 2012, Washington, DC

The White HouseA quick sense of our meeting at the White House earlier this month with Secretary Duncan. Also present were present were Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement; Cecilia Munoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council; Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education; Zakiya Smith, Senior Advisor for Education, White House Domestic Policy Council. Seated around the perimeter of the room were several more individuals, including Michael Dannenberg, senior policy advisor and counsel, US Department of Education. There were 10 YWM presidents and Gloria Nemerowicz at the meeting.

We made the following points:

  • We are a distinct and essential sector of higher education working with lower income students in a small, private college learning environment;
  • We are not wealthy and, of necessity, have learned to be cost effective in our operations;
  • We have some knowledge of how to facilitate the successful education of our students that we want to share with others;
  • We are concerned with college affordability as an access issue and all of us have taken measures to reduce/control/limit our tuition prices while spending considerable institutional resources on financial aid;
  • We urged consideration of a “value-added” approach to measuring our graduation rates using actual vs. predicted measures. We shared sources for obtaining predicted rates. Yes We Must members are beating the predicted rates by 9% and our overall sector is beating them by an average of 5%;
  • Peer institution comparisons must take into account percent of Pell eligible enrolled;
  • Funding opportunities should be open to Coalitions as well as individual institutions and partnerships;
  • Paper work should be simplified as it is a drain on thin resources for us.

The Yes We Must Coalition is supportive of the following proposals now being debated in Washington:

  • Increase in Pell grants, knowing that even more needs to be done and that increased economic inequality is a huge factor in the pressure we feel on higher education today. Also hope that saving the higher level of Pells does not involve making any more students ineligible.
  • the call for states to restore state support for both public and private education;
  • efforts to keep subsidized Stafford interest rates stable;
  • the consideration of the importance of measuring the value added of an institution by looking at actual vs. predicted grad rates;
  • a continuing shared attention to college affordability;
  • the Innovation grants that can be used to strengthen our sector through the Yes We Must Coalition.

We also reacted positively to recent movement in expansion of the definition of graduation rates by consideration of transfers and part-time students.