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Running head: HIGHER EDUCATION POLICY

Higher Education Policy: A Brief Overview


Crystal Gay
Georgia Southern University

HIGHER EDUCATION POLICY

What is Higher Education Policy?


Higher education policy affects everyone involved in the higher education arena,
including administrators, staff, faculty, and students. This paper will examine the key terms of
higher education policy, the concepts behind policy, and the current issues in higher education.
Defining Key Terms
To understand higher education policy higher education and policy must be defined.
Afterwards, the different considerations and issues of higher education policy will be examined
and discussed.
Higher Education
The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines institutions of higher education using five key
points. These points will be used to craft a working definition of higher education for this paper.
A higher education institution, admits only students who have completed a secondary education
or equivalent and provides an educational program for which the institution awards a
bachelor's degree or provides not less than a 2-year program that is acceptable for full credit
toward such a degree, or awards a degree that is acceptable for admission to a graduate or
professional degree program (Higher Education Act, 2011).
Policy
Torjman (2005) defines policy as representing a decision, made by a publicly elected or
designated body, which is deemed to be in the public interest (p. 18). The development of
policy should take into account who benefits, who might be negatively affected, time required
to implement the solution, associated cost and financing and political complexities of federated
government structure (Torjman, 2005, p. 18). The common steps in policy development include
selection of the desired objective, identifying the target of the objective, determining the

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pathway to reach that objective, designing the specific program or measure in respect of that goal
and implementing the measure and assessing its impact (Torjman, 2005, p. 7).
Higher Education Policy
Policy can focus on multiple areas such as business, healthcare and education. Education
can refer to primary, secondary or postsecondary education. Higher education policy examines
policies that directly relate to postsecondary education. The basic makeup of policy holds true
regardless of the realm in which it is pertaining.
Concepts Behind Policy
There are multiple concepts to consider in regards to policy including design,
implementation, and evaluation. Before a policy can be implemented it must first be created.
NASA (2000) created a flowchart for policy formation. The first step was assessing the need for
a new policy and the last step was distribution (NASA, 2000). These beginning and end steps are
needed for any policy created. There are several approaches to planning. Starling (2011) states,
the most popular are the rational planning model, logical incrementalism, urban and regional
planning, contingency planning and crisis management planning (p. 231). The approach chosen
may vary depending on the situation (Starling, 2011).
Sometimes there is a policy already in place in need of revision or updating. There are
multiple theories for how policy change occurs. Stachowiak (2009) cites six theories from varied
disciplines. Stachowiak notes understanding different theories about policy change can help
organizations more effectively choose advocacy strategies, focus evaluation efforts on the right
outcomes, and avoid kitchen sink syndrome (2009, p. 14). The type of theory or approach
used in the policy formation or change may vary depending on the type of policy and the
constituency involved. After formulation and implementation a policy should be evaluated.

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Schmid, OReilly, & Schmann (1996) states, the evaluation process itself comprises at
least four steps (p.5). These four steps can be summarized as (a) defining the target; (b)
monitoring implementation; (c) monitoring performance and assessing impact; and (d)
estimating the costs and benefits (Schmid et al., 1996). They go on to say that policy analysis
commonly distinguishes between types of policy (Schmid et al., 1996, p.10). Schouwstra and
Ellman (2006) wrote regarding the importance of evaluation as an integral part of the
continuous and dynamic cycle of policy making (p.3). This statement refers to a specific model
of evaluation presented in the paper. The writers cited that an evaluation is only as useful as the
model that has been used for that evaluation and that many models have a too narrow scope
(Schouwstra & Ellman, 2006, p.2). The type of evaluation used may vary. The federal
government uses four types of evaluation: process evaluation, cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness
analyses, impact evaluation and outcome evaluation (Starling, 2011).
Ultimately, formulating and evaluating a policy is not one size fits all. Those involved in
policymaking need to have an understanding of the background and be knowledgeable of
different methods and theories in order to properly and efficiently create, implement and assess a
policy. Paul Sabatier (1991) sums it up very well, Any theory of the manner in which
governmental policies get formulated and implemented, as well as the effects of those actions on
the world, requires an understanding of the behavior of major types of governmental institutions
(p. 147). When looking at higher education policy the institution is higher education. To
understand higher education policy an understanding of the current issues is needed.
Current Issues in Higher Education Policy
There are numerous current issues in higher education at the state level as well as the
national level. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (2012) lists ten

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issues in higher education policy for 2012 including college completion, tuition, college
readiness, and immigration policy. The American Association of University Professors (n.d.)
also notes issues such as distance education, discrimination, diversity, and governance. These are
just a few of the issues in the current climate of higher education policy.
Conclusion
Higher education policy ultimately pertains to all the issues or concerns affecting higher
education. Recently, retention and graduation rates have been concerns in higher education and
policies are being put into place. Complete College Georgia (2011) states college completion is
an imperative for a prosperous future in Georgia, but will require significant intervention (p. 2).
The plan includes an articulation agreement between the University System of Georgia and the
Technical College System, improving college readiness and access, and a redesign that will
create a more effective system (Complete College Georgia, 2011, p.17).
Another current issue in higher education is diversity. The University of Georgia has
instituted a plan to sustain and enhance learning and work environment that is diverse and
inclusive where individual differences are valued and serve as a source for collective
empowerment (The University of Georgia, 2011, p. 5). Retention is also a current issue. The
University System of Georgia Strategic Plan states, The USG will improve graduation and
retention rates by institution and sector (University System of Georgia, 2011). The plan also
lists activities for implementation such as first-year experience programs, course availability and
improving retention in each major (USG, 2011).
These are just three examples of policies put into place to help improve higher education.
Policies exist at the national, state, system, and institutional level. Policy helps keep the higher
education system running.

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References

American Association of State Colleges and Universities. (2012). Top 10 higher education state
policy issues for 2012. AASCU Policy Matters. Retrieved from:
http://www.aascu.org/policy/publications/policy-matters/
American Association of University Professors. (n.d.). Issues in higher education. Retrieved
from: http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/issues/
Complete College Georgia. (2011). Georgias higher education completion plan 2012. Retrieved
from: http://www.usg.edu/educational_access/complete_college_georgia
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2000). Policy formulation process. Office of
Management Systems. Retrieved from GeorgiaView course materials
Sabatier, P.A. (1991). Toward better theories of the policy process. PS: Political Science and
Politics, 24(2), 1147-1156.
Schouwstra, M., & Ellman, M. (2006). A new explanatory model for policy analysis and
evaluation. Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper.
Schmid, G., OReilly, J., & Schmann, K. (1996). International handbook of labour market
policy and evaluation. Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar Publishing Company.
Stachowiak, S. (2009). Pathways for change: 6 theories about how policy change happens.
Organizational Research Services. Retrieved from:
http://www.organizationalresearch.com/publications_and_resources_theory_of_change.a
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Starling, G. (2011). Managing the public sector. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
The Higher Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C. 1001 (2011).
Torjman, S. (2005). What is policy? Caledon Institute of Social Policy.

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The University of Georgia. (2011). Embracing diversity and inclusion at UGA. Retrieved from
http://diversity.uga.edu/pdf/UGA_Diversity_Plan.pdf
University System of Georgia.. (2011). University system of georgia strategic plan. Retrieved
from http://www.usg.edu/strategicplan/one/grad_rates.phtml