Public Policy Agenda 

Our agenda addresses policy issues impacting  regional public colleges and universities, promotes policies that help educate America’s workforce and strengthen communities, and provides federal policymakers with specific actions to take going forward.

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State colleges and universities are engines of mobility for the American Dream. 

Effective public policy is vital to sustaining a high-quality, affordable and accessible American public higher education system. AASCU serves as a valued resource to its members and stakeholders throughout the nation by providing both federal and state policy research, analysis and advocacy for sound public policy that advances higher education across the United States.  

AASCU’s Public Policy Agenda underscores the most compelling policy issues affecting regional comprehensive universities and promotes policies that help our institutions fulfill their unique role in educating America’s workforce and strengthening communities. Each issue has implications at the state, federal, or both levels of policy and law. Accordingly, we provide our state and federal policymakers with specific actions to take going forward. 

Access, Affordability, and Value Policy Actions.

  • Support the authorization of a permanent federal/state matching grant program that promotes increased affordability, greater access, increased retention, and improved quality in public higher education by incentivizing increased state funding for public institutions.
  • Support federal/state policies that direct greater operating subsidies to institutions that enroll, educate, and graduate underserved populations and serve as engines of socioeconomic mobility.
  • Support all federal policies that promote adequate state support for all public institutions.
  • Support collaborations with community colleges to contain costs and promote greater affordability.
  • Support federal policies that improve postsecondary value and make higher education more equitable, especially for underrepresented and low-income students.
  • Expand and support dual enrollment programs that are both tuition free and high quality. Simplify access to aid and revise need analysis to provide greater help to the lowest-income students.
  • Preserve and increase federal grant aid.
  • Support efforts to double the value of the maximum Pell Grant award to $13,000.
  • Focus grant aid on baccalaureate programs.
  • Keep student debt manageable.
  • Provide appropriate debt relief to victims of fraud and to overburdened borrowers.
  • Protect income-based repayment and loan forgiveness options.
  • Maintain tax provisions that support higher education.
  • Eliminate tax liability on loan forgiveness programs.
  • Expand funding for low-resource institutions that serve large numbers of low-income and underserved students to decrease and eliminate the opportunity gap.
  • Preserve and expand student loan tax deductions.
  • Expand employer-provided educational assistance benefits.
  • Provide public institutions with direct federal funding through supplemental appropriations with reasonable and affordable state co-pays during an economic recession. Such support should require the states to maintain a fixed and significant percentage of their pre-pandemic per-capita operating subsidies for public institutions and require them to restore funding to at least the pre-pandemic levels one year after an economic expansion has been documented.
  • Advocate for increased investment in public higher education and promote policies that align federal and state practices with greater affordability and improved access.
  • Encourage and promote AASCU’s proposed federal matching program and other strategies for leveraging federal resources to incentivize state public higher education funding, including the proposed stewardship grants program.
  • Support proposals that promote federal-state affordability partnerships by providing federal incentives for increased state funding of operating costs at public colleges and universities.
  • Ensure that any tuition-free or tuition reduction proposals are sector-neutral within the public system.
  • Advocate for any higher education infrastructure funding package to include public four-year regional comprehensive institutions.
  • Prioritize funding for public institutions that serve low-income students.
  • Require states and U.S. territories to create plans to demonstrate how they would meet program criteria and administer the funding to institutions.
  • Include a state matching component to ensure federal funding supplements existing state investment in higher education facilities.
  • Place an emphasis on infrastructure support for public educational facilities.
  • Support ongoing regulatory review to streamline compliance burdens whenever possible.
  • Encourage more targeted, risk-based regulations.
  • Support meaningful analysis of the benefits and costs associated with new regulations.
  • Support evidence-based regulations, oversight, and enforcement initiatives to target problem institutions.
  • Work with Congress and the administration on devising reasonable financial aid policies to reward institutional accountability and effectiveness.
  • Ensure any risk-sharing policies enacted by Congress are properly configured to account for student demographics and institutional missions.
  • Promote and support completion and graduation initiatives that further reasonable access and academic quality.
  • Engage stakeholders and policymakers on the economic, academic, or competitiveness impact of recent changes to name, image, and likeness policies for student-athletes in collegiate sports.

Campus Climate: Supportive Learning Environments Policy Actions.

  • Support policies and programs emphasizing a renewed and sustained commitment to the prevention of all forms of sexual violence and misconduct.
  • Continue AASCU’s engagement with the Department of Education and Congress to consult with higher education institutions in devising policies against sexual violence on campus.
  • Ensure that federal action pertaining to campus disciplinary processes maintains a standard that is fair and equitable to all parties.
  • Oppose federal intrusions on academic practices, including transcription.
  • Harmonize the Clery Act’s data reporting requirements with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting standards.
  • Oppose legislation that prevents campuses from exercising discretion regarding events and scheduling choices that may lead to violence.
  • Promote free exchange of ideas to the maximum extent possible in a manner that is consistent with constitutional principles.
  • Sponsor and support activities that educate the campus community about the value and central importance of academic freedom and open discourse.
  • Ensure, promote, and protect broad intellectual engagement.
  • Oppose micromanagement of constitutional campus operations through new “free speech” laws.
  • Support and promote difficult dialogues and civil debate.
  • Highlight the role of education in restoring and promoting the practice of civil discourse as essential to the health of our democracy.
  • Sponsor and support civic learning and engagement initiatives.
  • Support programs that provide public service opportunities and learning for students and graduates.
  • Support programs that build student civic and information literacy in online spaces through broad, cross-institutional projects that enable students to fact-check, annotate, and provide context for emergent news stories promulgated by social media.
  • Educate students to critically analyze information and act as informed citizens.
  • Encourage regional comprehensive universities to facilitate their students’ participation in the election process to the maximum extent possible.
  • Oppose state legislative interventions that unnecessarily and inappropriately limit college students’ ability to vote.
  • Defend the independence of university admissions, financial aid, and faculty appointment policies intended to promote diversity.
  • Support all minority-serving institutions.
  • Promote policies that maximize an inclusive campus environment for all students, faculty, and staff.
  • Support and promote policies that assist underserved students in fully participating in and continuing their postsecondary education.
  • Promote access not only to high-quality certificates but also to full-fledged academic credentials for all students seeking higher education.
  • “Ban the box” on admissions applications and engage in any preventative due diligence and threat assessment based on past criminal convictions only after an academic judgment about applicants has been made.
  • Support the continuation and proper funding of the DOD Tuition Assistance Program.
  • Ensure active-duty service members and veterans continue to have access to educational programs and credentials that are broadly recognized and have value within the civilian sector.
  • Support the maintenance and improvement of GI Bill educational benefits.
  • Support less restrictive policies governing active-duty and veteran benefits—policies that hamstring students and put up barriers to degree completion.
  • Improve institutional accountability and oversight for institutional participation in GI Bill educational benefits.
  • Support and improve the VA’s efforts to improve efficient delivery of GI Bill educational benefits to veterans.
  • Provide active-duty and veteran students with specific support services to meet their unique needs.
  • Improve coordination among federal agencies regarding the unique needs of service members and veterans.
  • Support Executive Order 13607—Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members.
  • Support the enactment of the Dream Act.
  • Protect work authorization for DACA recipients.
  • Support legislation that allows “Dreamers” to be eligible for federal student aid and other financial support programs.
  • Support legislation to create a pathway for legalization and citizenship for eligible individuals brought to the United States as children.
  • Advocate for international exchange programs and reasonable international student and scholar visa policies.
  • Oppose inappropriate restrictions on travel to the United States by international students and scholars.
  • Oppose disruptive and unnecessary restrictions on legitimate international engagements by colleges and universities.
  • Support federal grant programs, including the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program and the Educational and Training Vouchers Program for Youths Aging Out of Foster Care, that help current and former foster care youths achieve self-sufficiency and provide resources to meet the education and training needs of youth aging out of foster care.
  • Support legislation that would focus assistance for the educational needs of foster care youth and their transition to higher education.

Quality, Accountability, and Outcomes Policy Actions.

  • Preserve and protect academic freedom and institutional autonomy at public institutions.
  • Oppose federal efforts to politically micromanage academic decisions regarding admissions criteria, faculty, curriculum, instruction, and transfer of academic credit at public institutions.
  • Oppose political interference with research and the academic peer-review process.
  • Oppose arbitrary restrictions on international exchange and collaborative research activities of public institutions.
  • Support the collection of targeted, actionable data for accountability and program management purposes in compliance with fair information practices and in a manner that does not impose unreasonable burdens on participating institutions.
  • Encourage policymakers to recognize issues of institutional/system governance, equity, and academic quality in all policies associated with the state role in higher education financing.
  • Work with all stakeholders in reviewing and revisiting accreditation’s role within the triad: the federal government, states, and accrediting bodies.
  • Preserve the American tradition of political noninterference in academic judgments about programmatic quality.
  • Reduce unnecessary costs by more tightly defining the accreditation process and its expected outcomes.
  • Continue to work with Congress and the administration to chart a practicable federal policy that seeks to strengthen the educator preparation pipeline and diversify the teacher corps.
  • Urge policymakers to align educator preparation requirements with the 2015 reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
  • Support the Teacher/Educator Quality Partnership Program.
  • Encourage state efforts to develop appropriate licensure standards based on valid, reliable, and objective data, and align assessment of educator preparation programs with those standards.
  • Ensure states evaluate all educator preparation venues using the same standards.
  • Support improved teacher salaries to enable states to recruit and retain qualified teachers.

Economic and Workforce Development for Rural Institutions 

  • Provide appropriations for the Rural Development Grants for Rural Colleges and Universities program. These grants encourage partnerships between rural colleges and universities and local entities that promote greater access to college for rural high school students, increase the number of adults in rural communities with a bachelor’s degree or higher, enhance training opportunities, and stimulate technological innovation.
  • Support continued funding for rural broadband enhancements that provide greater access to postsecondary education.

Urban Institutions 

  • Support efforts to reauthorize, authorize, and fund programs that encourage research and partnerships between urban and metropolitan anchor institutions and their communities. These efforts promote economic and workforce development, community revitalization, teacher recruitment, and greater access to college for urban high school students.

STEM Research and Workforce Preparation 

  • Recognize the contributions of each higher education sector in strengthening STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. The entire community’s resources must be tapped when creating, funding, and implementing STEM programs that educate future scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.
  • Create research opportunities for students studying in the STEM fields within all sectors of higher education.
  • Advocate for increased funding support for basic and applied scientific research and education activities for undergraduate programs to complement established graduate and research programming.
  • Advocate for programs that recruit traditionally underrepresented populations, such as students of color, low-income students, and women, into STEM fields and provide them with support.
  • Support the creation of institutional incentives for graduate students in fields associated with high-need jobs identified by state workforce service agencies.

Federal Research and Development 

  • Continue support for undergraduate research and mentoring in STEM fields and for STEM pipeline programs promoting P–20 partnerships and articulation agreements.
  • Support programs that meaningfully engage students in applied research that addresses the nation’s innovation plans for health care, energy, and national security.
  • Support technology transfer and workforce training programs that link higher education institutions with the manufacturing sector and incentivize corporate and private sector investment in these partnerships.
  • Fund the development and renovation of laboratory facilities and support equipment acquisition that will promote innovative and collaborative scientific and technical research at all higher education institutions.

Sustainability and Energy Efficiency 

  • Expand federal efforts to support higher education institutions in improving efficiency in the physical plant, campus transportation, and other institutional operations.
  • Advocate for funding at the U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies that support university research in sustainability, renewable energy, and green technology.
  • Support efforts to mitigate the impact climate change is having on institutions, students, and communities.
  • Support new and emerging forms of instructional and program delivery.
  • Support net neutrality to ensure institutions and students continue to have access to an open internet.
  • Support campus adoption of new and emerging technologies, particularly for students with special needs.
  • Support and promote efforts to connect all college graduates to career paths upon completion of their programs.

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