Gates Foundation Commission to Study the Value of Higher Education

Gates Foundation Commission to Study the Value of Higher Education

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the Institute for Higher Education Policy, has convened a national commission to study the value of postsecondary education.

The Commission on the Value of Postsecondary Education (Postsecondary Value Commission) will evaluate the economic returns of higher education, especially for low-income students and students of color. Co-chaired by Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and American Association of State Colleges and Universities president Mildred Garcia, the thirty-person commission is tasked with helping colleges and universities take a critical look at how and how well they are supporting economic opportunity as well as how they can improve their policies and practices.

To that end, the commission will examine economic outcomes for students earning undergraduate certificates and degrees using a variety of measures, including but not limited to post-graduation earnings in relation to students' ability to repay their college loan debt; earnings premia for those who pursue postsecondary education compared with those who do not; and post-college economic mobility. The commission expects to wrap up its work and share its findings by mid-2020, including a definition of postsecondary value that can guide efforts around institutional and policy reforms designed to increase post-college economic success and mobility; a measurement framework to gauge how programs at specific colleges and universities create value and where gaps exist, by race and income; and recommendations for sharing and applying the definition and framework to advance understanding about the value of postsecondary education.

"If we get to a definition of value...the public will understand the work that we do for students and our society," said Garcia. "And if we don't [define the value, there will be] the loss of talent — when students and families are not understanding why they should go to college, what [it is] that they're going to get in return for themselves and their families and their communities....It's so important for them as individuals, and it's important for the state and the nation and the vitality of our country."

"The urgency of getting value right in higher education," said Desmond-Hellman, "is turning a conversation all about affordability, debt — the reasons not to go to college — into a conversation about the reasons to go to college and get the degree."

"About the Commission on the Value of Postsecondary Education." Postsecondary Value Commission Webpage 05/15/2019. "Postsecondary Value Commission Fact Sheet." Fact Sheet 05/15/2019.