The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has identified issues of priority interest to the NACE membership and the position NACE will take relative to those issues. This allows the association to more effectively initiate discussions with key government representatives; identify potential alliances with other associations to promote our positions; and respond more quickly and decisively to requests for sign-ons to positions advocated by other associations and organizations.
Two primary factors drive NACE’s focus for 2021-22 advocacy efforts: One is our expressed commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The other is the changing demographics of high school graduates, which will have outsized impacts on higher education enrollments through the next decade.
These factors are informed by the following:
In 2020, the United States had a Gini Index—a measure of equality/inequality—of .48. In this scale, 0 equals perfect equality, and 1 equals perfect inequality. The U.S. score was the highest among industrialized nations and the highest for the United States since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Increasing the participation and degree completion of marginalized populations and first-generation students will significantly contribute to increasing equality in the United States. The high school graduation profile for the 2020s will contain more students of color and be increasingly low income.
Consequently, concerns for equity, social mobility, and institutional viability suggest public policies supporting workforce development and higher education opportunities aimed at low-income, underrepresented, or historically marginalized students should be one of our major priorities as well as opportunities that create equity in higher education and the workplace.
Below are the issues that the NACE Advocacy Advisory Committee has identified as priorities for 2021-22.
Pell Grants: Pell grants are the backbone of federal student aid. These grants go to students with a clear financial need (75% of the grants go to students whose annual family income is $30,000 or less). While the level of the grant was increased in the latest COVID-19 stimulus package, students from low-income families still face substantial real costs in attending college. In 2019, the net price of attending an in-state, public institution was more than $9,000 for students from families earning $30,999 or less. It was more than $10,000 for students from families earning between $30,000 - $48,000, and $12,000 for those from families whose incomes fell between $48,000 and $75,000. These remain burdensome costs that prevent potentially qualified individuals from enrolling and completing a college degree, thereby perpetuating inequality. Pell grants need to be increased to levels to cover the approximate full net cost of attending an in-state, public institution.
Increased Institutional Support for Public, Two-Year Colleges: There is a great need to help offset the financial costs of institutions that provide educational pathways for marginalized populations. Public two-year colleges are a prime example and perhaps the most deserving of immediate action. These schools suffered the greatest drop in enrollments in fall 2020. Data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) shows that enrollments at public, two-year institutions decreased by nearly 11% in 2020. This sector is a vital avenue for the advancement of people of color both in terms of direct entry into the economy and in moving on to more advanced levels of education. Just over 2.3 million students of color attended public two-year schools in the fall of 2020, and, in fact, the majority of students who attend public, two-year institutions are students of color. Given our DEI commitment, advocating on behalf of increased institutional support for two-year institutions is vital.
Classroom to Careers Act: NACE has supported this act for the past two years. The legislation adjusts current federal work/study regulations to allow schools to allocate federal work/study funds to eligible students engaged with private employers. We support the legislation as it provides for a more effective work/study experience for many students. It does not require a school to change its current allocation formula. It simply provides individual institutions with the flexibility to use their funds in a manner they feel is most effective.
College Transparency Act: This legislation would allow the federal government to link database information about individual college students with employment/income data housed in federal databases, such as the databases of the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration. The government is currently forbidden to do so except for students receiving federally subsidized student loans. We support this legislation to the extent that it will result in more complete and more accurate outcomes information for college graduates. We urge that the legislation include provisions for tracking outcomes beyond the first year after graduation in order to provide a more accurate assessment of the economic impacts of a college degree. We also request that data be reported in aggregate form on the correlation between demographics (gender, race/ethnicity, family income levels) and outcomes.
DACA Legislative Solution: The individuals who were brought to this country illegally as children have been in a legal limbo for nearly a decade. Presidential executive orders have provided them with some protection, but subsequent executive orders have taken that protection away. We have argued on behalf of and continue to support finding a permanent legislative solution that would give these individuals secure status that would allow them to remain in the United States.
Improving International Student Status and Processing: International students are an important component of American higher education. Their presence boosts the reputation of American higher education institutions, provides intellectual capital by attracting some of the brightest minds from around the world, and helps defray costs to American students and to American taxpayers. After receiving their degrees, international students provide American employers with skills and knowledge that improve the operations of American businesses and contribute to the growth of the American economy. Consequently, NACE supports actions that will facilitate international students studying in the United States and increasing their prospects for remaining in the United States to work. These actions include the reversal of Trump administration executive orders restricting travel to the United States from selected countries; streamlining the processing of visa and OPT applications; and reversing H-1B regulations designed to deter employers from hiring international students or making it unreasonably burdensome to do so.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): WIOA was passed with the intent of facilitating the development of skills and credentials of vulnerable populations to provide them with the competencies employers need. The program is focused on linking education and labor. As such, it falls directly in line with our mission and consistent with our strategic goal of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion. NACE is to work with the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education along with regional workforce development agencies to ensure the communication of employer needs to educational providers, and to facilitate the employment of individuals that graduate from the “training/educational” programs provided by colleges and universities.
Pay Equity: Equal pay for equal work has been the law, technically, for nearly 60 years. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, signed into law by President John F. Kennedy, made it illegal to pay men and women working in the same place different salaries for the same or similar work. Nevertheless, women still earn considerably less than men. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that women earn approximately 82% of what men earn. This differential is often attributed to voluntary choices women make to maintain a preferred work-life balance. These choices are assumed to be mid-career decisions. However, NACE research on the graduating Class of 2020 shows virtually the same differential for those just entering the workforce. Given NACE’s commitment to equity, it is imperative that we call out this continuing inequitable situation and advocate for ways to correct this pay gap.