The AACRAO Public Policy Agenda outlines major issues impacting AACRAO members and presents a framework for AACRAO's involvement in the public policy arena.
I. Federal Funding of Higher Education
AACRAO supports federal funding for financial aid to ensure that all qualified students have access to higher education, and for research to advance knowledge and innovation. In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, a higher education infrastructure and a well-educated population are more important than ever to ensure economic innovation and competitiveness and a better quality of life for all.
II. Accountability and Program Integrity
Maintaining the nation's system of top quality higher education relies upon ensuring the integrity of participating institutions as well as the integrity and accountability of the Higher Education Act's gatekeeping system of federal recognition, accreditation and state licensure policies. At their own institutions, AACRAO members protect academic integrity by serving as admissions gatekeepers and as codifiers and enforcers of institutional academic policies that govern the awarding of credits and credentials. They also monitor threats to academic integrity across the spectrum of educational institutions, since they must make decisions based upon credits and credentials given to students by their high schools and previously attended colleges and universities. AACRAO is alarmed by threats to the reputation and integrity of all academic institutions posed by the rise of "diploma mills" and instances of uneven and lax standards for accreditation and state licensure.
III. Curricular Alignment between Higher Education and K-12
Academic alignment between K-12 programs and the colleges and universities that their graduates will attend is an important and desirable goal. In achieving this alignment, however, it is critical that efforts to reform high school core curricula for college-bound students are pursued with the clear understanding that the faculty members of each college or university are responsible for setting its academic policies. Thus, the development of "college ready" high school curricula must be done in close consultation with college faculty and admission officers. Otherwise, these high school curricula may not, in fact, meet the academic policies set by varying institutions.
IV. Privacy and Data
AACRAO is deeply committed to promotion of privacy policies that maintain the confidentiality of the highly sensitive data that students willingly entrust to educational institutions. In 1974, the passage of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) ushered in a new era for educational privacy rights through its application of fair information practices to educational records. The culture of privacy is so deep-rooted within the education community that there have been few violations of FERPA over the past four decades.
V. Access and Equal Opportunity
AACRAO firmly supports the principle that the doors of higher education must be open to all qualified students regardless of their financial resources and that, in fact, access and equal opportunity for all are the bulwarks of a thriving democracy.
AACRAO members represent the most diverse educational system in the world, from open-access community colleges to large research universities. Yet, all are united by a commitment to expand the number of qualified students who attend college, to increase completion and graduation rates for all students, and to support at-risk students so that they may have the tools and skills to succeed.
VI. Veterans' Issues
AACRAO recognizes and honors the sacrifices these men and women have made and its members are proud to assist them and meet their educational needs.
Veterans and students on active military duty and their families face special circumstances and challenges. Active-duty students, who may be reassigned or activated with little notice, benefit from maximum administrative flexibility, such as providing full tuition refunds and accommodate re-enrollment upon the student's return. Veterans receive administrative support to navigate VA eligibility and reporting issues, which can be both cumbersome and confusing.
Because veterans and those on active duty have often been the targets of unscrupulous providers who enroll them in sub-par programs and consume their hard-earned benefits, AACRAO is strongly supportive of improved efforts to safeguard these students. These include improved gatekeeping by the agencies of jurisdiction, consistency in language across legislation and branches of service, better counseling by competent advisors, and stepped-up disclosure requirements to ensure that veterans and active military can make well-informed choices. Agency oversight and enforcement should place primary emphasis on areas where military students and tax dollars are now disproportionately concentrated.
VII. Immigration Policy
AACRAO urges the passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2011. Commonly referred to as the DREAM Act, the legislation would provide a path to legal status for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children by their parents and are pursuing college degrees or serving in the military. It would remove barriers to higher education for students who have grown up in the United States, attended school here, and consider themselves American.