Will on the Hill: Shared Responsibility for Student Success

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Will on the Hill: Shared Responsibility for Student Success 

Overcoming questions of value in higher education may require expanding accountability for student achievement.

In prior editions of Will on the Hill, my intent has been to inform the reader of the congressional discussions related to higher education. The takeaway, clearly, is that members of Congress and other policymakers, including those at the U.S. Department of Education, are laser-focused on the increasing cost of higher education. In the past, health professions education was frequently disassociated from this focus. This was in large part due to the fact that even with the high debt burden associated with health professions education, initial and certainly life-time earnings were sufficient to overcome this burden within an acceptable period of time. Institutional research from AACP members in 2013 now indicates that our graduates have, on average, a debt burden of $133,000. Higher education policymakers frequently use a metric that compares the average debt burden to a graduate’s first year income to determine the value of that education. If the ratio of cost-to-salary is one or less than one, it can be assumed that there is value in the education. Now the 2013 debt burden information indicates that for some graduates, that ratio is greater than one.

Measuring Value

In the last edition of Academic Pharmacy Now, readers were asked to think about how they would respond to questions from members of Congress regarding affordability and innovation. Regardless of how you, or how think tanks and educational organizations, determine the value of higher education, the ready assumption is that tuition costs drive debt burden. This places the responsibility for demonstrating value on the back of the institution of higher education. Institutions are seeking opportunities to improve measures of student success such as student learning and graduation rates.

Fostering Engagement

Assessment of student learning throughout the curriculum provides a continuous quality improvement approach. This approach, while important, could indicate that the institution is solely responsible for student success. Another approach is to place greater responsibility on the student to be an engaged learner. “Facilitated learning” is a term now in vogue that includes strategies focused on increased student engagement. Facilitated learning strategies include approaches that require the student to engage in some learning activity prior to class. During class, the faculty member facilitates a discussion that offers the student the opportunity to synthesize, interpret and integrate information gained from that pre-class learning.

What facilitated learning strategies are you using in your classroom? Is your scholarly work demonstrating the value of facilitated learning to improving student success?

These are important questions that can guide and support AACP advocacy on higher education issues.

William G. Lang is Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at AACP; wlang@aacp.org.

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