Research on Higher Ed Gets a Boost

At a time of great fulmination about the future of American higher education
and colleges' ability to successfully educate the country's growing numbers
of low-income and academically underprepared citizens, the U.S. Education
Department is establishing a new national research center to study just
those topics.

The National Research and Development Center on Postsecondary Education,
which will be housed at the Community College Research Center at Columbia
<>  University's Teachers College, will be the
nation's only federally funded research center on higher education. It is
sponsored by the Institute for Education Sciences, which is providing $9.8
million over five years to establish the new center, one of several it is
creating. (The others deal with early childhood education and development,
gifted and talented education, and local and state policy.) The Columbia
center's partners are MDRC, the Curry School of Education at the University
of Virginia, and professors at Harvard University and Princeton University.

The institute's predecessor, the Office for Educational Research and
Improvement, had its own research center, the National Center for
<>  Postsecondary Improvement at Stanford
University, which shut its doors in 2004.

The new center will focus on efforts by two- and four-year institutions to
bolster students' access to higher education and improve the rates at which
they earn a degree. "There is a gap in what we know and don't know about the
policies and programs that postsecondary institutions are implementing to
improve student access and success in higher education," said Thomas Brock,
director of MDRC. "This grant will give the center the opportunity to do the
research that will help us say with more certainty what works and what

Thomas Bailey, who directs the Community College Research Center and will
head the new national center, said it was noteworthy that the department
chose to house its new center in a research program with a "very strong
focus on community colleges," since traditionally "the large majority of
research on higher education has focused on four-year institutions. Bailey
said the choice recognized the growing importance and status of two-year

Bailey said the new center will examine a range of topics, including dual
enrollment programs, which enroll high school students in college courses;
remediation; learning communities for low-skill students; and financial aid
policies and state incentives or sanctions to promote low-income,
low-skilled students.

- Doug Lederman <mailto:[log in to unmask]> 


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