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Meeting of the Board of Regents | May 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - 11:20pm

sed seal                                                                                                 







Higher Education Committee


Johanna Duncan-Poitier



Use of Data in Formulating Higher Education Policy



May 6, 2009



Goals 2 and 4





Issue for Discussion


              What new trend data is important to the Board of Regents in the formulation of higher education policy?


Reason(s) for Consideration


              For Information


Proposed Handling


This item will come before the Regents Higher Education Committee for discussion at its May 2009 meeting.


Background Information


The Board of Regents has authority over higher education programs and related activities at the 270 colleges and universities in New York State.  This authority has existed since the Board’s establishment in 1784.   The Regents:


  • Charter independent colleges and universities;


  • Authorize degree powers for CUNY and SUNY colleges and for proprietary colleges;


  • Register academic and professional programs of study at public, independent, and proprietary higher education institutions;


  • Serve as a nationally recognized  institutional accrediting agency for institutions that want to be eligible for Title IV funds;




  • Accredit teacher education programs to help ensure educational quality and effectiveness of teacher candidates;


  • Establish academic standards of eligibility for institutions and students participating in the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and other State student financial aid programs;


  • Administer specific State and federal grant and scholarship programs, including the State opportunity programs, totaling $135 million; and


  • Carry out long-range planning for higher education (in areas including assuring quality, articulation, affordability, preparation for college, and creation of new knowledge through research, among others areas), including the Statewide Plan for Higher Education and amendments to all institutions’ master plans.


The Department gathers and assesses data relating to both P-12 education and higher education in order to inform the Board’s policy decisions.  Much of the data is collected from higher education institutions through the Higher Education Data System (HEDS).  Other sources include the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and information from other agencies, such as the U.S. Labor Department and the New York State Department of Labor, the Higher Education Services Corporation, and the National Science Foundation.  In addition, CUNY, SUNY, independent and proprietary higher education institutions maintain data on their operations, finances, facilities, students, and other topics that are also available to the Department.


              New York is changing in ways that affect higher education and its students.  The current job market is resulting in more adults  going to college for the first time or returning to college, to improve their employability. At the same time, larger numbers of students are entering college right from high school, although the demographics indicate that those numbers will decline.  The combination has resulted in enrollment increases in all sectors and across most types of institutions.


The present economy has jeopardized the financial health of some independent and proprietary higher education institutions at the very time that enrollment demand is high.  Higher education institutions are adapting their teaching methods to meet the learning styles and preferences of a generation raised on the Internet simultaneously with the preferences of older adults returning to college.  The combination of increased enrollment demand, which causes demands for more faculty, demand for improved student services, and general cost increases, continue to drive institutions’ costs, which must be met by tuition, gifts and grants, and other sources of revenue.  When State and federal student aid programs (like TAP and Pell) lag, the price students and their families must pay increases, often leading to high levels of debt to finance the gaps.


In this environment, data is very important to assist the Board as they consider policies related to such areas as urban education, transitions from high school to college, transfers between two- and four-year institutions, and improved preparation of teachers and school leaders.  The data helps to inform the Regents policy decisions and the Department’s work in the following ways:


Environmental/Demographic Factors


  • Data on demographic changes are used to model enrollment projections.  Actual or projected institutional enrollment changes of significance trigger reviews of institutional ability to operate and to offer programs meeting the quality standards in the Commissioner’s Regulations.


  • Data on changes in the economy are considered in the annual reviews of the audited financial statements of independent and proprietary higher education institutions to assess whether they may be at financial risk.


  • Data on demographic changes, fiscal resources, costs of attendance, and other environmental factors – including trends in appropriations per student, the share of total revenues derived from tuition, and the net price of higher education for low-income families -- are shared with the Division of the Budget and the Higher Education Services Corporation to assist in formulation of the Executive Budget’s proposals relating to higher education and are used to advocate for sound State and federal policies relating to the financing of higher education.


  • Data on changes in employment and employment projections by State, federal, and private agencies are used in assessing the need for new degree programs that require Regents approval.      


Performance Factors


  • Data on percentage of college applicants accepted and enrolled, remediation activities, student retention, graduation rates, student-related expenditures, and full-time and part-time faculty are used in the annual risk analysis review of the quality of programs offered at all institutions, which may result in decisions to send peer review teams on visits to evaluate academic quality and compliance with the standards in the Commissioner’s Regulations.


  • Data on performance gaps for different types of students are used to work with institutions, the sectors, and the Legislature to support programs that reduce the gaps.


Student Characteristics


  • Data on student characteristics, including full- and part-time enrollment, prior educational preparation and test scores, cost of attendance and student aid, are used to inform Regents policies and advocacy on State and federal student aid programs.


  • Data on student transfers between institutions are used in identifying barriers to the flow of students from entry to baccalaureate degree and in formulating policies to reduce them.


              It is also important to note that the Department’s data are used widely by the field and other policy makers including: Executive and legislative offices and committees, the Division of the Budget, the Office of the State Comptroller, other State agencies, colleges and universities, K-12 schools, parents, students, professional associations, advocacy groups, the media, and businesses.  The Department’s data are widely cited in publications, reports, marketing information and hearing testimony.  In addition, many Department offices use the higher education data to inform monitoring visits and grant applications.  


              This month, the Regents will receive a summary of information on changes in student enrollment, persistence rates, and student performance in two- and four-year institutions; and will discuss important policy questions related to recent trends in these areas.   In future discussions, we will provide a similar update on other key data points.   






Timetable for Implementation