September 10, 2015


Higher Ed Happenings

This fall is a busy one for us and higher education. We hope you can join us at one or more of the following events!

Thursday, September 17th
9:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Washington, D.C.

Did you know?
  • 41 percent of students said they did not find enough helpful information to make their college decision.
  • Just 37 percent of community college students say they seriously looked into other schools before enrolling.
  • Less than 1 in 5 adult prospective students has used an interactive website like the College Scorecard when considering college choices.
  • 48 percent of students from families making less than $50,000 were unfamiliar with the Pell Grant, the cornerstone of federal financial aid for low-income students.
These insights come from recent survey findings by Public Agenda and New America about the needs, priorities and behavior of prospective students, especially nontraditional prospective students. We will jointly present these findings next Thursday in Washington, D.C., and we hope you're able to join us! This event will be particularly relevant to those interested in higher education policy and research around college access, decision making and financing.

As Congress looks toward the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, how can we craft policy that better addresses students' needs and helps them become savvier about choosing the college that's right for them? A panel discussion, moderated by Libby Nelson of Vox, and audience Q&A will follow a presentation of the findings. This event will be livestreamed and available online afterward. 

Monday, September 21st
6:30 PM - 8:15 PM
New York City
Centered on the same research, this discussion will focus on how we can adjust recruitment, admissions and counseling practices to better support prospective students as they search for the college that fits them.

We will be joined by a panel of experts working on the ground to connect prospective students, many of whom are nontraditional, with two-year and four-year colleges. What are we doing right in New York City? What could we be doing better? Kim Clark of Money Magazine will lead the discussion.

This event will challenge our assumptions about who the average college student is and how they make college decisions. It is an excellent opportunity for practitioners and policymakers involved in recruiting, counseling and admissions to share their own stories and gain practical insight.

September 30th - October 1st
Phoenix, Arizona

Do you work at a college, university or other higher education institution? Are you interested in or already developing a competency-based education program at your school? Are you in the midst of managing a CBE program that hasn't grown to full-scale? Are you looking to connect with others developing or managing a CBE program? Or do you want to get your hands on the latest research and tools to help you with your work? This conference is perfect for you.

Designed as an interactive workshop, CBExchange is exclusively dedicated to helping you understand, plan or enhance competency-based education through facilitated sessions, focused on listening, learning and leading. At CBExchange, you will:
  • Share experiences, questions and lessons with event organizers, funders and researchers who want to hear from you.
  • Learn from thought leaders and peers about the latest CBE research, design models and materials.
  • Return with new resources and contacts to help you lead CBE at the programmatic, institutional or state-system level.
Due to capacity, attendance is limited to those individuals from higher education institutions only. 

Evaluating Participatory Budgeting

For those of us pursuing ways to deepen and expand public participation in democracy, we know how essential evaluation is to our cause. Time, energy and resources of both local officials and the public are limited. We need to be able to demonstrate to them and to others -- including funders and community partners -- that their investment in new public engagement methods will be worth it.

At the same time, we as public engagement practitioners are also busy. Furthermore, evaluation can be time consuming and complicated, especially when dealing with measuring something amorphous like deeper public participation. As such, it often gets lost among everything else we're doing.

We're trying to make evaluation easier for one potential avenue for deeper public participation and engagement: participatory budgeting.

Together with the North American Research Board and the Participatory Budgeting Network (PBP), we've developed 15 key metrics for capturing important elements of each community-based PB process and the PB movement in North America overall. To help ease the evaluation process, these metrics are paired with customizable instruments -- two surveys and a questionnaire -- for researchers to use at their disposal.

We hope these tools will take some of the guesswork out of measurement and make time for other things like constituent outreach and engagement so that projects best match the needs of the community. If you're interested in hearing more about evaluation and our work with PB researchers, you can join our listserv for the participatory budgeting community by sending an email to

Have you voted in a PB process and want to get more involved? Or are you curious about PB and looking to introduce it to your community? The website and people of Participatory Budgeting Project are a great resource for those who are new to PB and want to know more. Introduce yourself to the Participatory Budgeting Project.

PA in the News

Coverage of some of our higher education work.

(American Association of Community Colleges)
AACC president Walter G. Bumphus calls this project a "game changer" that "will allow AACC and our partners to develop modeling, training, and materials based upon successful programs that will serve as an implementation guide for our colleges." We're excited to partner with AACC for this project.

(Inside Higher Ed)
This story provides an overview of the competency-based education landscape and Public Agenda's work in this world, with a mention of CBExchange, the meeting mentioned above.

On Tuesday night, the tennis star earned her bachelor's degree from Indiana University East. This story covers our 2013 survey of how employers perceive job candidates with online degrees. Check out the report here

Coverage of our recent report on health care, "How Much Will It Cost?"

(RevCycle Intelligence)
An in-depth look at the data from our recent report on how people think of and use prices in health care with Senior Researcher David Schleifer. 

(Burlington County News)
One patient compares costs for a CT scan across state lines.

Coverage of the Public Agenda/WNYC survey which aims to discover the most pressing public issues in the NYC region. This survey is the inaugural project of the Deborah Wadsworth Fund.

(The Brian Lehrer Show)
In this segment, callers share their stories of how much they think hard work and opportunity played a role in their own successes and failures. 


Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate divisive, complex 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

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