We believe in smart policy to accelerate and sustain systemic reforms.
We will assert the scaling power of policy when it is evidence-based, pursued in an appropriate venue, developed transparently and crafted with implementation in mind. We know that good policy provides flexibility for institutions but does not compromise on equity, quality, or accountability for results. We must restore and sustain public investment in higher education because its benefits are broadly enjoyed by the public, not just privately. We respect the duty of elected and appointed policymakers to protect the public investment in higher education and demand better and more equitable returns for students and taxpayers.
Identify the policy’s purpose
Policy can be used to set scale thresholds, define terms, lay out reporting requirements, or reinforce campus-driven reforms. Outdated laws and policies can stand in the way of progress unless amended. The first step of any discussion around policy is to identify the reason the policy is necessary.
The Standard is met when the Complete College Alliance Team’s Policy Lead can clearly articulate the issue that the policy is intended to address.
Listen and learn before acting
The Complete College Alliance Team’s Policy Lead must examine how others have tackled the problem, either through policy or practice, and whether those efforts were successful. This information should be shared broadly with policymakers within the state or region.
The Standard is met when the Complete College Alliance Team’s Policy Lead has data-driven, evidence-based examples of successful policy across the country and uses those examples to inform policy proposals.
Select the venue with the greatest chance of success
If policy is warranted, it could be enacted through legislation, gubernatorial executive order, coordinating board policy, system policy, or institutional policy. The Complete College Alliance Team’s Policy Lead must lead a discussion that considers the political environment, higher education governance structure, and stakeholder support or opposition to determine the best venue for the policy and its long-term sustainability, exercising particular caution when considering legislation.
The Standard is met when the Complete College Alliance Team’s Policy Lead has discussed and documented the pros and cons of adopting policy in various venues and is confident the selected venue is most likely to achieve desired results.
Create and circulate a draft policy
Details matter, so a draft policy and the steps in the policymaking process should be crafted early on and made available to those who will be responsible for implementing it. The Governor, SHEEO agency, and key legislators should all be engaged early in the drafting process. Stakeholders must not only be asked to comment on the policy in concept, but also offer their unique perspective on the language that is used in its construction.
The Standard is met when a draft policy document has been received and reviewed by stakeholders.
Broadly solicit advice from experts and stakeholders
The Complete College Alliance Team’s Policy Lead should use professional associations and designated government liaisons to surface possible improvements and objections to the policy. The feedback process must be done with an open mind and willingness to make adjustments. Feedback should not be taken at face value and instead should be evaluated against known data and established best practices. Doing so will limit the influence of anecdotes and unproven beliefs. The Complete College Alliance Team’s Policy Lead should communicate with stakeholders about how their input was either incorporated into the policy or why it was not included.
The Standard is met when all stakeholders expected to be impacted by the policy have had the opportunity to provide input and agree their input was not only solicited, but evaluated and considered.
Provide exceptional support for the policymaking process
The Complete College Alliance Team’s Policy Lead must proactively coordinate talking points, Q&A preparation, handouts, presentations/testimony, and other resources as needed to support the policy’s enactment.
The Standard is met when the policy’s author and decision-makers agree that they had everything they needed throughout the process to enact an appropriate policy.
Ensure robust communications throughout the policymaking process
The Complete College Alliance Team’s Policy Lead must work with the Communications Lead to ensure that all affected practitioners are engaged in ongoing communication throughout the policymaking process. Intentional efforts must be made to ensure that faculty and staff — not just Presidents and Provosts — are informed about the proposal, aware of the successful passage of the policy, informed about why it was enacted, and clear on next steps for implementation. (See Communications Scaling Standards for more.)
The Standard is met when all stakeholders and constituents who will be impacted by the policy are aware of its passage and understand the role they will play in implementation.
Proactively launch the implementation and set expectations
The Complete College Alliance Team must proactively convene those who will lead the implementation of the policy and those who will execute it, establish expectations and milestones, and connect implementers to available resources. (See Implementation Scaling Standards for more.)
The Standard is met when the right combination of people has been convened to work on implementation, supported by state or national resources when possible.
Establish a feedback loop to ensure results
If the policy needs to be modified based on lessons learned during implementation, those suggestions should be incorporated into a future policy agenda. A retrospective analysis should be made publicly available, so that practitioners nationally can learn from others and further refine their own work. The feedback loop must identify existing policies or newly proposed policies that work against the goals of the reform, to both prevent bad policies from being adopted and improve the good policies that have been adopted.
The Standard is met when those involved with the policymaking process have either confirmed that the policy reached its intended aim or have altered it to better do so.
For Complete College Alliance Team and Campus Implementation Teams that commit to these scaling standards, Complete College America commits the following resources in return:
- Assistance prioritizing potential policy agenda items and selecting an appropriate venue
- Pragmatic advice and language review during policy construction and drafting
- Facilitation of the stakeholder dialogue during the vetting process
- In-person presentations or testimony to inform policymakers about the national landscape
- Direct communications and implementation support upon the policy’s enactment and evaluation support to analyze the policy’s impact
- Off-the-shelf resources to support the policymaking process through Complete College America’s publication entitled New Rules. This resource provides:
- Detailed policy language to serve as a starting point for constructing a draft
- A brief national policy scan
- Questions to ask stakeholders and their expected perspectives for use in the vetting process
- Talking points, Q&A Prep, and digestible data visuals to support the policymaking process