On the day after the 2016 Presidential election, four faculty members from Penn GSE's top-ranked Higher Education division offer insight.
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The election results show that millions of Americans feel excluded from economic progress. Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising at a time when most jobs that pay family-sustaining wages require at least some higher education, which is unaffordable for many families earning less than $75,000 a year.
Dr. Joni Finney
We've heard from voters. Now it's time for state and institutional leaders — who make many of the choices that affect the real cost of college — to listen. The states must address the long term funding policies to ensure that higher education is affordable for all hard-working and motivated students. Institutions must do their part too. It is imperative that they find ways to lower the real costs of education. Only the renewal of a public compact based on principles of shared responsibility can guarantee opportunity – and hope – for millions of young people who should be served by educational and training opportunities beyond high school.
— Dr. Joni Finney
The next president needs to ensure educational equity for our growing diverse nation. Our school systems and colleges and universities need to be revamped and overhauled to educate the students of today rather than the students of the past. We are continually doing a disservice to students and nothing will change if we use a plan and approach rooted in the past.
Dr. Marybeth Gasman
— Dr. Marybeth Gasman
- Director of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.
- A historian of higher education, Gasman works with MSIs — Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges, and Asian-American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions — on educational leadership, philanthropy, and recruitment.
Acrimony in politics isn’t new, but this election has brought a level of rancor that is. Where the Statue of Liberty offers promise to people arriving at our shores, there has been talk of erecting walls and barring people from entering our land of religious freedom on the basis of their Muslim faith. It was a campaign marked by pronouncements decoupled from fact: People are less safe from violent crime! The electoral process is rigged!
Dr. Matthew Hartley
Colleges and universities pride themselves in being places of rationality and ideals. The historic mission of our colleges and universities is building a better society and a stronger democracy. We provide experiences in and out of the classroom that allow our students to grapple with the difficult issues facing society. We offer our graduates the promise of a better tomorrow because of what they have learned. But there are communities not far away where people feel left behind. The fault line of this election emerged between those who feel like they have a future and those who feel like they don’t. Colleges and universities need to continue to find ways to reach out to neighboring communities and work in solidarity with them to address the challenges they face. We need to be a part of a wider effort to bring possibilities to more people as we work together to create a better and more-just society.
— Dr. Matthew Hartley
During his campaign, Donald Trump gave few clues to his potential higher education policy. He didn't advocate for the kind of deep changes that could allow the U.S. to achieve the education attainment required for workforce readiness and international competitiveness. Simply put, we can’t meet those needs without reducing the barriers that limit college enrollment and completion for students from low-income families, who are first-generation college students, and who are of racial/ethnic groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education.
Dr. Laura Perna
As Trump prepares to take office, policymakers and institutional leaders from around the country should push a Trump administration to:
- Use federal policy to incentivize state governments to provide financial support to their public higher education institutions, so as to improve college affordability and increase access and completion, while also maintaining quality.
- Reduce the financial barriers to college enrollment and completion for students from low-income families. Target financial aid and other financial resources to reducing the costs of college for students who would not otherwise attend. Recognize that the costs of college include more than tuition and fees but also books and supplies, living expenses, transportation, childcare, foregone earnings, and more.
- Reduce the riskiness of student loans by expanding access to and use of income-based repayment, but without encouraging students to over-borrow or institutions to raise prices.
— Dr. Laura Perna