New Higher Ed Advocacy Group: “Higher Learning Advocates”

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A new higher education advocacy group made its public debut in 2017 with a new federal policy framework and a focus on nontraditional students. “Overall, our policy framework is governed by the idea that our federal policies are out of date,” said Julie Peller, executive director of the new organization, Higher Learning Advocates based here in the district.

“We want make sure students are first, that we are not leading necessarily with our policies but that our policies are led by the needs of students,” Peller said.

The Higher Learning Advocates group describes themselves as “Today’s students come from all walks of life. They are parents, working adults, veterans, online students and first-generation college-goers, following many pathways through higher education. They need a system that is flexible, affordable and responsive to their needs. Federal policy must reflect who today’s students are.”

Cost is one of the key focal areas for Higher Learning Advocates. In its new framework, the organization argues that higher learning must be “affordable and responsive” and recommends a federal “college affordability benchmark.”

The Higher Learning Advocates have done one thing unique to other committees in Washington, a focus on Diversity among decision-makers. For instance, the board is made up of what the insider described as a “decent mix” of individuals that range from Margaret Spellings, president of the University of North Carolina System and former Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush, to Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and former deputy education undersecretary under President Barack Obama — a post in which she led postsecondary diversity and inclusion work as well as the White House Initiative on HBCUs Office.

One recent step that the Washington Group has made is Endorsing an act brought by Congressman Colin Allred, called “The Helping Student Parents Succeed Act”.

The Helping Student Parents Succeed Act would require institutions to develop and publicize a statement of policies for expectant and parenting students. This statement must address policies such as information on financial aid, parental leave, student housing, and student support services. Providing student parents with clearer information moves us in the right direction and update support systems for today’s students. Higher Learning Advocates commends Congressman Allred on his commitment to student parents.”

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