Public Agenda Alert -- Thursday, March 20, 2014
This Week's Headlines
Higher Ed Regulation: What's Missing
Using Open Dialogue to Ease College Transfer
PA in the News
Quick Links

Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Find us on Pinterest
Click here to subscribe to this newsletter
Join Our Mailing List

Higher Ed Regulation: What's Missing 

Last week, the federal government announced new regulations on career education programs. Known as the gainful-employment rule, the regulations deny federal financial aid from substandard or unscrupulous institutions.


As our president Will Friedman notes in The Chronicle of Higher Education, gainful employment is an important first step in protecting the financial and professional future of students. But higher education leaders and policymakers should also pursue a complementary approach that empowers students to become better consumers of higher education.


As things stand, students searching for a college lack key information and aren't accessing resources that would help them with their decision. These students aren't willfully ignorant. The information may be out there, but many prospective students don't know it exists, don't understand it, or don't think it's important.


Read more about why this is the case, and what we can do about it, on our blog.

Using Open Dialogue to Ease College Transfer

We've heard about and have been troubled by the hurdles college students face when continuing their education at a new institution, especially when it comes to making sure previously-earned credits transfer over. In addition to sorting out those administrative details and adjusting to a new program of study, students also face a challenge in adapting to an unfamiliar school culture.


In partnership with Baruch College, Public Agenda is experimenting with how dialogue on divisive and politicized social issues can engage transfer students and help them build community with classmates at their new academic home, while also conveying to them the mission of the institution they are joining. 


On Tuesday, a group of transfer students gathered in room 3-190 at Baruch to read and discuss approaches to creating, consuming and conserving energy sources. First, students read through a short discussion guide, which outlined the debates about energy production and consumption. They then immediately dove into a lively conversation about their visions to address energy issues in the future.


These group discussions are part of a semester-long seminar to help transfer students acclimate to student life at Baruch. Over the course of ten weeks, students learn about and discuss the culture of Baruch and topics including writing skills, academic integrity and leadership. They also spend six sessions sharing their perspectives with fellow students about three social issues that may hit close to home: jobs and the economy, immigration and energy.


Baruch students who received training from the Public Agenda team moderate the discussions, fostering open, inclusive dialogue with no predetermined conclusions. The discussion guides, which include three different approaches to the issue at hand, help students break out of a for or against debate and keep the conversation moving.


"I think people really wanted to find a solution. They really wanted to know how this thing can be solved," said Viral Shah, a 22-year-old student moderator majoring in finance. 


"I liked that we were able to pivot in the discussion and focus on how seemingly terrible one idea is, and then add in things that could get people to think. It was nice to have the room for provocation of some thought," said Ian Wildman, 42, a student moderator and political science and philosophy double major.


"There were a couple of dominant voices, but everyone talked to one another, not just the assistant fellows," said another moderator.


These deliberative sessions can get students interested and engaged in a fresh way on social issues that relate to their lives. We also hope they help students build rapport, ease and ultimately community with each other.


If you're interested in developing a similar curriculum with your own students, contact Allison Rizzolo.

PA in the News

Recent press coverage of Pubic Agenda's work.  
By Carolin Hagelskamp, The Chronicle of Higher Education
Our director of research argues that, while traditional students may be making more discerning college decisions, nontraditional students are not.

By Tom Loveless, Brookings Institution
This report looks at how a student's homework load has changed and cites a Public Agenda report on the subject.

by Roshan Bliss, NCDD Community Blog
The National Issues Forums Institute and the Kettering Foundation announce a collaboration to build on a public engagement initiative that included a series of 150 forums across the country.  

By 24/7 Moms
Spring is here, which means parents are beginning to think about enrolling their children in summer programs. In a 2009 Public Agenda study, we found that 87 percent of parents who sent their child to a summer program that included academic and enrichment activities said it helped prepare them for the school year. 

The Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN)
Public Agenda is designing and facilitating a new effort to help colleges collaborate on competency-based education.

20 Colleges Are Picked for Effort on Competency Based Education by Nick DeSantis, The Chronicle of Higher Education

New Group Picks 20 Colleges for Competency-Based Education Effort AACRAO: Amercian Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers

eCampus News
About Us
Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate complex, divisive issues. Through nonpartisan research and engagement, it provides people with the insights and support they need to arrive at workable solutions on critical issues, regardless of their differences. Since 1975, Public Agenda has helped foster progress on K-12 and higher education reform, health care, federal and local budgets, energy and immigration. Find Public Agenda online at

Help our nation make progress on its toughest challenges. Donate today.