STATE Policy Priorities

To provide NCAN members, particularly those in networks or coalitions, interested in state level advocacy with a guide to develop their own policy goals and agenda. This work is still underdevelopment and the below is a draft NCAN is sharing with the field for feedback. For more information or to share your thoughts, please contact Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy. 

NCAN Model State Policy Agenda _ DRAFT

State should provide robust, comprehensive higher education funding and financial aid that expands access to college for students, particularly those historically underrepresented in higher education, by making it more affordable to attend and graduate. Further, states should review their systems so that students have every opportunity to be prepared, access higher education, progress through their studies and graduate. 

Affordability

States should aim to provide an affordable higher education for their residents, especially those who are low-income. NCAN recommends that the cost of attendance at a public, four-year institution should not exceed the combined amount of a full Pell Grant, Stafford loan, and state grant aid for students with an expected family contribution of $0. 

Focus on Need-Based Aid. Given that low-income students, students of color, and students who are first in their family are least likely to go to college, states should set the expectation and provide the opportunity for all students to continue their education after high school. States should:
1. Establish a minimum threshold for need-based state aid and not dip below it. 
2. Design state aid programs that align with the economic needs of the state, encouraging students to pursue opportunities that align college and career.
3. Use early awareness strategies to set expectations and provide financial resources.
e.g.: early commitment scholarships, place-based promise scholarships, awareness campaigns, and children’s savings accounts or college savings accounts that are tailored to low-income families.

Establish a State Higher Education Funding Strategy. State funding for higher education is still recovering to pre-Great Recession levels. States should develop a predictable, goal-oriented strategy for funding higher education. States should:
1. Set a state attainment goal for the population, including both traditional and nontraditional students in the goal, and align that goal with state workforce needs
2. Prioritize efforts to assist underrepresented students in overcoming barriers to access and completing postsecondary education.
e.g., public-private partnerships, student supports, bridge programs, institution incentives to increase degree attainment for adults lacking a few credits,  and student-friendly financial aid deadlines and procedures
3. Develop a tuition-setting policy that is affordable and predictable, including passing a state budget without undue delay and announcing tuition increases on a timeline that allows institutions to respond.
4. Consider an incentive system for institutions that rewards student success.
i.e., completion, is backed by transparent performance data, and is crafted in a manner that does not discourage enrollment of students with the greatest challenges to achieving postsecondary success.  

Talent Development

Beyond financing higher education, states and statewide systems of higher education should provide opportunities for all students to prepare and succeed in higher education, particularly those who are first in their family to go to college. These changes include breaking down barriers within the system and building up students through opportunities.

Preparation. Students do not enter higher education from a vacuum; they need support and opportunities. States should:
1. Ensure all students have access to rigorous, credit-bearing coursework (dual/concurrent enrollment, AP, or IB) in high school. 
2. Provide free PSA/SAT/ACT during the school day to all students.
3. Provide school counselors with relevant, ongoing professional development in college and career readiness.
Integrated college and career readiness into graduate school counselor programs.

Access. Applying to college is a daunting process, but states can break down unnecessary barriers and provide students with the information they need. States should:
1. Allow all high school graduates of that state to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges
2. Build a statewide longitudinal data system links postsecondary outcomes to K-12 education, including the college-going and graduation rates by high school.
Consider using the National Student Clearinghouse to report on all students, not just those attending in-state institutions. 
3. Establish state application deadlines and processes that are sensitive to the needs of first-generation and low-income students.
4. Align high school graduation requirements to college acceptance requirements.

Success. Starting college is not a guarantee of finishing a degree. States can support students through to the degree or certificate. States should:
1. Provide multiple pathways to success including 2- and 4-year degrees, certificates, and apprenticeships. 
2. Create and then manage a clear and accessible public database of transfer pathways among public institutions. 
Establish pathway programs to guide students from two year colleges through to four year degrees.