Quality Assurance, Education Policy and Regulation

>>DR. DEB ADAIR: Okay, so here we go. So
today we’re actually going to have a conversation on Quality Assurance, Education Policy and
Regulation with Yuanxia Ding, who is currently the Chief Impact Officer for Skills Fund, but she
is also the Former Senior Policy Advisor and Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of
Education. And I think that’s a really interesting combination of roles that you’ve had, Yuanxia.
So I would love to hear you tell us a little bit about yourself, about your former role and the initiatives
you were involved in at the Department of Education, that transitions to where you are now,
which may not make a lot of sense to people on the surface, and the relationship to Quality
Assurance and education. >>YUANXIA DING: Thanks, so much, Deb, it’s
so nice to be here with you all. As Deb mentioned I was at the U.S. Department of
Education in a couple of different roles. In my first year, my role as senior policy advisor, I lead
the innovation sandboxes for Financial Aid. So we, for example, made PELL accessible to high
school students going for college credit, so they could essentially do dual enrollment. That was
one example. Another was that we made PELL accessible for incarcerated student, trying to get
a degree while still in jail, so they had a way to leave that life when they ultimately got out. One of
the experiments that we launched was called the Educational Quality through Innovative
Partnerships Experiment, or EQIPE. And that asked traditional institutes to pair up with non-
traditional for education training and a third party Quality Assurance entity, somebody that would
oversee that work and work out on the quality and outcomes. Quality Matters was one of eight that
were selected out of that process, though many applied. That was my first year at the
Department of Education. My — the second role I took on at the Department of Education was
Chief of Staff to the under Secretary and in that role, we did a lot of different things, really
overseeing the breadth of the Obama Administration, but I would characterize a lot of
my time during that period as sort of cleaning up messes. [Laughter]. Cleaning up the messes
that, frankly, had been created by poor quality programs and you all know about the for-profit
schools that were not doing the right thing for students and in many cases were leaving
students with debt, and figuring out what to do in those situations with those students and for those
students was a big part of that work. So when I thought about those two different things and sort
of going through those experiences, both really promoting innovation, really wanting to see
exciting, new initiatives in Higher Ed spring to life and also knowing that what once might have
been exciting turned out really badly for a lot of students, those things came together for me and
the way to thread that needle, the way to get through that for us as a country was really
focusing on Quality Assurance, really focusing on accreditation and making sure we are looking at
outcomes and being outcomes oriented and tying secondary programs to the workforce and
making sure the programs students are going into are good. That is really the crux and the only
way to promote the great stuff and make sure the bad stuff doesn’t happen. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: So thank you for that. And
I think it would — since you had a unique advantage point that most of us aren’t privy to, I
would really like to understand what are the trends and issues that were of particular interest
or concern, obviously regarding education, to the work that you were doing in the department? And
how do you think those are playing out now? And really, for this community, what should we be
paying attention to? >>YUANXIA DING: Yeah, it’s a great question.
There’s so much. So in the last few years of the Obama Administration at the Department of
Education, we focused on a few key things. One was recognizing that just college access is not
enough. I think a lot of us heard Mark say that this morning in the keynote, that we need to go
beyond just making college accessible, to making sure that it is actually — we’re actually delivering
outcomes. There’s a focus on college completion. College is, for better or worse, still
the most reliable ticket to the middle class right now and, therefore, focusing on completion and
equity was a big focus for what we did. Another big thing that we really tried to make sure that
everyone was thinking about in the Higher Education space was the fact that now most
students who are trying to get a post-secondary credential are not 18 years old and able to take
four years off of life to do that. The majority of students trying to get a post-secondary credential
are adults, they are working part-time, they have kids, that’s what we called the new normal
student essentially. And they are quite clear about what they are trying to get out of that post-
secondary credential and it’s not necessarily four years on a green, leafy quad as much as a path
to a better life, a better paying job, a way to support their families. All of that really lead to this
incredible laser focus on outcomes that we focused on and that, I think, is, again, it’s that
balance as I mentioned between innovation and essentially consumer protection. I think that’s
what you all should be thinking of when running online programs is, how many of you know what I
mean when I say regular and substantive? Oh, okay. [Laughter]. >>I think we know. >>YUANXIA DING: [Laughter]. Okay, thinking
you know is a good start. I would strongly recommend everyone go and look it up. So
regular and substantive is, it basically means the faculty in your programs have to be regularly and
substantively interacting with students, especially in online programs it’s incredibly important
because otherwise they can be become correspondence courses and there’s an entirely
different set of regulations around that. So if you don’t know what regular and substantive is and
you are attending this conference, you should really, really look it up. But, you know, that is a
huge challenge as well to some of the folks who raise their hands because it is not necessarily
extremely clear how to be completely in line with it, right? I think that’s probably a reasonable way
of putting it. And so we know that online programs can serve adult students better because they are
flexible, because they can be done from anywhere, but we also know that they can quickly
become lower quality because of things like that. So things like regular and substantive are there to
try to prevent that from happening. It’s not just at the Federal level, but also at the state level things
get more complicated with there being 50 states. They are cooking up all kind of regulatory formula
for online programs. There are difference rules, for instance, of what it means to have a physical
presence in a state. So Oregon’s definition of physical presence is, it may include like local
advertising and career fairs. New York’s version of physical presence is much more about, you
know, instruction sites and whether the state is offering instruction or support. It gets very
complicated. And there are states that Indiana that actually have reciprocity. So both at the
Federal and state level, doing what you are doing is there’s a very — at a macro level there’s a
sense it’s needed and it could better serve students and that’s great. Once you get into the
weeds and how do you comply with regulatory and compliance, it’s very complicated. So I think
what — generally what I would say is that in some ways it’s almost unfortunate that’s what we have
to resort to because if we actually had a clear set of outcome measures that everyone agreed on
that we could measure that we knew, then theoretically it doesn’t really matter how you get
the great results, what we want to see it that you get them. Right? That would be ideal. That’s
not the world we live in. So being that not the world we live in, regular and substantive is not
going to go away. These are constantly being worked on. So being clear, as clear as you can,
about how to follow that and how to think about that in the absence of a very clear, accepted, well
understood outcomes measures across the field, I think, is really important. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: Since we’re talking about
outcomes, I wanted to share a couple of data points from the CHLOE Survey that’s relevant
and actually get your reactions to it. So the first slide here is really looking at the report from the
CHLOE 3 survey. This was findings from 280 institutions who engaged in online learning. And
this is their — the sources of quality standards. So on the left you see that the reported use of
quality standards for support services, student outcomes, course design, program design, and
faculty development. And then on the horizontal axis, it’s representing the — where the sources
and standards came from. And, of course, the dark blue are ones that they were internally
generated. And, of course, if they are internally generated, they are customized, they are your
own institutional standards. And then red is the percentage that indicates that they relied on
external organizations. Green, which is the smallest percentage here, the percentage of
those who looked to accreditors for those standards. And then the purple were that they
had none adopted. And so you can see that 31%, when we look at student outcomes, you can see
31% of the institutions said they weren’t following any standards for student outcomes. And then if
we look at this chart, we were asking them about, again from CHLOE 3, their favorite benchmarks,
what benchmarks they would want to use. To, of course, retention and graduation rates, 80% of
respondents said that’s what they would be interested in. But as you look down that list, the
more workforce oriented those outcome standards were, the fewer institutions were
showing interest in pursuing those benchmarks. Only 32% of institutions reported systematic
efforts to track post-graduation employment in related field. And even few track feedback from
alumni and employers. So I want to ask you about that. >>YUANXIA DING: [Off microphone]. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: Here is your softball
question, are you encouraged or satisfied by those findings? [Laughter]. >>YUANXIA DING: [Laughter]. How many
people are encouraged or satisfied by these findings? Is anyone? [Laughter]. No, this is
obviously heartbreaking. So let’s just talk about what could fall under Quality Assurance for a
second. At the broadest level, if we define Quality Assurance, think of exposing the value of a post-
secondary credential, if we think through the points of decision, the points in the timeline, the
first is at the point of decision-making, when a student is electing whether or not to attend your
school, there should be data transparency, there should be information sharing, so for example
some of the work we’ve done around college score card and even the gainful employment data
release, that’s all about whatever data there is that — to get it out there to say these are what the
outcomes are. That’s at least a start. There’s the point of school accountability, so that’s really
where gatekeeping and traditional accreditation should be working. And then on the back end
there is, for instance, the Bar Defense Regulation that just went into effect to make
things right for students who did not get what they were supposed to get out of the education. But,
again, what’s missing in all of that is a clear outcomes set of standards. And so, you know,
on the one hand it’s interesting because the work that we did to try to spur innovation in quality
assurances through organizations like Quality Matters, that work is really encouraging, in a
sense, because there have been a number of Quality Assurance outcomes and frameworks
that have been proposed since we started that work. And that’s great. The challenge with
almost all of those that I’ve seen is that they try to do everything. Right? They try to — they are
trying to apply one set of standards or frameworks to every institution out there and we
know lots of different institutions have different missions, they are serving different purposes,
and different subsets of students, and so that doesn’t necessarily work, but the one thing I
would say is as a post-secondary training provider, and I think most of you in this room are,
or hail from them, what I want to ask you is: Who is your customer? That is the question I would
love for you to think about for, like, five seconds. Who is your customer? Now I have a second
question which is: How many of you are on Facebook before I go on this analogy. Come on,
hands up, you can admit it. [Laughter] [Laughter]. >>YUANXIA DING: So in the world of
Facebook, you as the user are both the customer and also the product. Right? You are using it.
You see the ads and if you click on an ad, Facebook is like, oh, thanks for clicking on the ad.
You are also a product because you are providing data to the platform. In some ways thinking about
yourselves as Higher Ed institutions, students are like that because they are the consumer.
They are consuming the education you provide, so they are a customer, but they are kind of also
your product because at the end of the day what you’re creating is what companies call talent. And
the labor market right now is very, very hot. It’s the tightest labor market we’ve had in 30, 40
years at this point and there’s a huge war for talent and huge dissatisfaction with the talent that
exists among employers and companies. It’s what a lot of people called the skills gap. That
companies are desperate for talent, they are poaching the heck out of each other’s talent, they
are looking for people with the skills they need and in many cases they are not necessarily
finding them. So your customer is both the student and also the employer because the
employer is the consumer of that talent. Okay, so the reason I’m saying all this and the reason it
comes back to this is because all the stuff in green, the highest percentage, which is 36, all of
that is feedback from those two customers. Every single one of these points, whether it’s post
graduate employment in a related field or alumni field back, or debt at graduation or employer
feedback, is either your student’s feedback or employer’s feedback. If those are your
customers, why are those not in the 90s? That’s the piece I’m struggling with, that’s the piece I
don’t understand. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: So in spite of that being
the struggle for you, do you have thoughts about how we can move the needle with those? How
we might best increase attention in Higher Ed to these other measures? How do we do that? >>YUANXIA DING: Yes, it’s a great question.
It’s a little bit of what I was getting at with data transparency and information sharing. That’s a
big piece of it. So you mentioned at the beginning, Deb, I now work for a company called Skills
Fund. We do a couple things, we finances students to go to accelerated learning programs
and do the Quality Assurance on those programs. One of the initiatives we spun out was
called CIRR, The Council on Integrity and Reporting, which essentially is an industry
association of these accelerated tech learning programs that have come together and said
we’re going to report outcomes in this way. We’re going to do this in a standard way so that it’s
clear what it means to be in a full-time, in field position, for example. So we’re at least able to
compare our outcome measures apples to apples. That is doable because this industry is
still growing. I don’t know how to get a broader swath of Higher Education to do that, but that’s
exactly the kind of initiative that’s needed. Groups of institutions that can come together and say,
you know what, we’re trying to do the same thing and we want to be able to show that we’re doing
a good job, so let’s make sure that we are reporting all of that out in a public way,
transparently, and we’re doing it in a way students can compare apples to apples. It’s a lot of what
we tried to force to happen through the college score card and by the gainful employment work
was well. There have been advances in that work, but the initiatives like The Council for
Integrity and Reporting. That’s what Higher Ed should be working towards as well, that kind of
voluntary industry group that reports outcomes. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: Do you have examples of
institutions that are making progress in this area, even if they are not all the way there yet? >>YUANXIA DING: So I would say that of the
schools that we work with at Skills Fund, a couple of really great schools that have started to
do this, one is an organization called Thinkful. It’s based out of New York. They are really focused
on making sure that when they open up sites they are in specific markets, working with students
and alumni and employers in those markets, and that they are crafting the curriculum in
association with the employers, and in fact, people from those employers serve as mentors
to the students. There’s a real dovetailing of the needs of the customers I just talked about and of
their programs. So that’s one example. Another example that is not actually reported out through
CIRR, but did a lot of great work on leading the way on outcomes reporting and trying to get
ahead of the problem is a school called Flatiron. Another school in New York. They were the only
school that responded to the call when the Obama White House put out a call essentially to
this rise of coding boot camps that said, you have to tell us what your outcomes are, and they did
that. They had some problems with their aggregated statistics and reporting, but they
should be commended and accredited for pushing the whole conversation and whole field
forward in terms of outcomes in Quality Assurance. What is really interesting for you, all
both of these schools actually have offerings and they have been developing those over time.
Flatiron has a platform called LEARN for online students and they really are trying to make sure
that the Online Program is just as deeply embedded with the community and having as
much community engagement and student engagement as their on campus so they can
actually allow students to go back and forth between both. So they can, you know, students
can seamlessly go between online and on campus programs if they need to because, again,
the flexibility of online, that’s a huge appeal of it. So blurring that is, I think, it’s great for the
program, it’s great for the student, and there are a couple of these schools out there that I think are
doing some really great work in reporting their outcomes and being pretty transparent about
their quality. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: So I’m interested in how to
— so these are two examples out of the academic Higher Ed universe, so I’m interested in what will
influence academic institutions to do this? And if you know of any, I mean, is it easier for
Community Colleges, for example, to move in this direction because they have a more localized
presence and an opportunity to have deeper relationships with local employers? Or do you
think that’s not relevant? >>YUANXIA DING: I think it could be. Of
traditional Higher Education institutions, what I’ve seen is it really depends on — it frankly sort of
depends on the priorities of the leadership. For example, just sort of in my backyard, I live in
Washington, D.C. still and Northern Virginia Community College, they have been doing a ton
of great work to make sure they are being super responsive, not only to employers at large, like
they’re not looking at just national labor market data, but they are in their local area recognizing
their students are still very much local to northern Virginia, finding the companies, the biggest
employers, and allowing their program development to be demand driven. That’s one
example. But what it takes to force that to happen is at scale and systematically, that’s the
challenge. But there are some examples of schools that are able to do that. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: I have one more data point
for you because it seems like we are talking about — this is not — it seems like we’re talking
about more significant change to make this happen because of the leadership issues, the
system issues, the, you know, the culture issues and the, essentially, the way that we have done
things for so long so inertia. And yet, you know, when we — when we’re capturing this data, and of
course, arguably, our online institutions and our online programs within institutions are among the
more innovative and this is where you would expect change to be, at least more custom, if not
more broadly embraced. So when we asked about the commitment to innovation and
expectations, you know, the blue here is the reported major changes in recent years of these
different types of institutions have seen and then the red is the anticipated major changes. And so,
you know — and the different categories are the enterprise-level institutions or the institutions in
this survey that served more than 7500 students, so they are operating at a different level of scale.
And then, of course, I think the Community Colleges, mid-sized and regionals are self-
explanatory. And the one on the right is the aggregate for the whole survey. In general, you
can see that the enterprise-level institutions, the ones who are serving the bigger student
populations, aren’t the enterprises where they have seen more significant change and are
anticipating relatively more, but still, it’s still under, it’s still under 50% even for them. And for the
other institutions, they’re not anticipating major changes. And so, you know, so what do you
make of this? Do you see this as a hesitancy about making change or not seeing the
imperative that you are seeing in terms of the outcome? What do you make of this? The
rationale for why this might be. >>YUANXIA DING: Yeah, so when you look at
this information, look at that data, you can draw a couple different conclusions. One is just that it is
— that change is happening, but it’s slow or there’s a lot of resistance to change. You know,
Higher Ed is a pretty [indiscernible] market to say the least. The way in which it’s designed, the
systems are designed, kind of goes all the way back to monastic roots. This is a very mature
industry in sort of business speak. And most mature industries tend to be pretty resistant to
change overall. But the thing I would say on this is, it’s not so much about willingness to change,
it’s more like, what are the changes that are actually needed? If I were looking at this as a
Higher Ed institutions, I would say, okay, but, like, what’s the problem? What’s the problem we’re
trying to solve? What’s the change you’re trying to get me to do? That, I think, is actually the
question we should be getting at. I don’t know that we have the answer to that, but there’s clearly
just a huge amount of shifting requirements and shifting demands on Higher Ed right now. And
that is probable causing a lot of initiative fatigue and change fatigue. So setting the right direction
and actually taking steps towards making those is probably as important, if not more important, than
just general willingness to change. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: Do you see that — the
change to be more transparent and mindful and using outcomes data, do you see that as a
strategic imperative for an institutions, for academic institutions? >>YUANXIA DING: I do. I see particularly the
need to focus on outcomes and the need to be able to be more responsive to labor market needs
as incredibly imperative. That’s a lot of the innovative work we did at the Department of
Education. That’s a lot of the schools we now support at Skills Fund is essentially these
alternatives training providers, these accelerating learning programs that have popped up because
the need is there, because Higher Ed isn’t moving fast enough to be able to accommodate
the demands of employers, so somebody is filling that gap. When there’s a clear need, you know,
we are in an innovative, entrepreneurial country and people rush towards that need and that’s
essentially what’s happened. So, yes, I think Higher Ed institutions should start to move in that
direction, albeit, it is harder to do when you are in a long established, mature organization. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: It sounds like you think the
non-traditional providers are probably, right now, more responsive to that than traditional Higher
Ed. And if that’s the case, how do you see — is there an opportunity for non-traditional providers
and traditional Higher Education to work together in this area? >>YUANXIA DING: Yes. Absolutely. 100%. So
that’s the thing, if you all in Higher Ed institutions haven’t talked to some of these accelerated
learning programs out there, I strongly encourage you to do so because it’s really exciting and really
interesting how much these two systems can get — can learn from each other and gain from
working together. That was a big part of what we did with EQIPE. Deb and Quality Matters is who
oversees the Quality Assurance between Ohio Edison University and study.com. Is that right? >>DR. DEB ADAIR: Yes. >>YUANXIA DING: I still remember it. That’s
one example. But the exciting thing about that program wasn’t just the eight we ultimately
picked, but it was the 74 that applied. So that means that — and we really only gave them two
months to do so, that exposes incredible demand between these non-traditional accelerating
learning programs and traditional institutions that said, huh, I wonder what’s going on over there. I
wonder what I can learn. Can we find a way to partner and work together? And that is exactly
what I think should be happening because, one, because traditional education is better at
providing a lot of the student supports, working with lots of different kinds of students, having the
administrative back end that traditional Higher Ed does. You have more of a good, sort of, baseline
to start from than some of the schools that are, to their credit, really good at responding to labor
market needs and creating programs quickly. You know, when I hear from institutions of Higher
Ed that at breakneck speed, if they are trying to create a new program, they are really excited it
only takes two years. When I then say that to an employer or industry, they’re like, that’s crazy. I’m
not going to wait two years for somebody to learn a skill that I need yesterday or next week or next
month. And the non-traditional providers, they are doing that. They are able to respond much more
quickly to those kinds of curricular developments, but they have less experience with the student
supports and frankly, they have less experience with the pedagogy. So, again, checking in this
room, how many of you are Instructional Designers? Okay, how many of you are faculty?
Yeah, great. So you know how to teach. In many cases when it comes to these non-traditional
programs, what they’ll have is somebody who is really good at, let’s say software development or
web development or data science, is great at knowing how to do that and has done it in
industry, but didn’t necessarily have your pedagogical experience or skills. There’s so
much that can be learned from going back and forth between these two different groups that are
essentially educating students. And then, as I mentioned, these partnerships are starting to
happen, so in addition to Study.com and Thomas Edison, Thinkful, Flatiron school, which I
mentioned before, working with the state of New York, SUNY, so the pairing of the various
strengths and assets of these two groups, I think, it’s really exciting. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: And it actually might move
the needle on things like this in terms of change, right? >>YUANXIA DING: One can hope. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: I have a — so you have a
framework that you have developed for quality assurance. I’m going to put it up here and ask
you to talk us through that a little bit in terms of how you are seeing this from where you sit in
Skills Fund. >>YUANXIA DING: Yep. Thanks so much, Deb.
So the way that Skills Fund, the way we look at Quality Assurance right now is on the left-hand
side of this page. So we look at completion rates for our schools. We look at placement rates.
We look at starting salary. We look at whether they are properly licensed. Their admissions and
refund policies. Any change in management. And also the loan portfolio, so we have that
information. This is what we do now. It’s great we ask this information of the schools and we
monitor this regularly. I want to do more than that. What I would love for us to do at Skills Fund and
in the field generally is to think about outcomes in a couple of ways. One is just pure student
outcomes. Just really getting at the information about, how are things going for students? The
second is at the school level diligence level. So at the student outcomes level, what that means is
first learning outcomes. Do they pass the technical assessments? Do they pass soft skills
assessments? Do they learn things according to the Instructors of that program? That’s probably
pretty familiar to most folks in this room. The second is around persistence and completion.
This is probably also not super revolutionary for Higher Ed, we have been pushing this for a while,
to know what your completion numbers are We’re going to start getting a little bit more
revolutionary and more innovative here. So satisfaction scores. Satisfaction isn’t just with
students, but also with employers. So when we think about the customer being both the student
and the employer, are they happy with what they are getting from the educational experience? Do
they see the value that hopefully we want them to? The next is employability. So one of the key
things that I think differentiates just essentially employer-based workforce training from
education is the notion that education is meant to enable and empower a person to be an individual
unit of labor, an individual unit of economic mobility in this country. So I want to know, not just
could they get a job, could they get that job in a number of different places? That is an important
piece. Certainly the financial outcomes, we want to make sure people are getting, especially the
quote new normal students, adult learners who have a part-time job and are taking care of a
family that they are, if they are going into debt, if they are taking out loans, if they are actually
getting a return on that and they are actually able to make more money as a result of having gone
through the program. And workplace performance and stability, and this one I call the
Holy Grail because it is the question of, not only did you finish, not only did you pass, not only did
you graduate, not only did you get a job, but did you actually have the skills to stay in that job?
Did you actually have what it takes to, like, be their six months later? And then in an ideal world,
did you have what it takes to be there two years later? Do you actually get promoted? Do you
have that stability? That’s a whole lot to ask for, but that is ultimately, I think, in reality, in reality
that is what our students are being judged on. In reality that is the quality of a post-secondary
learning program is reflected in that. We just don’t know what that is yet. We don’t have the data at
any level, really, to be able to expose that information, but that’s the reality of what’s actually
happening if you look at the market and were able to track it, that’s the Holy Grail, is to be able to
know that information. And at the school level, certainly recruiting and admissions, making sure
we are not selling false promises to our students. Compliance and stability, you are following the
rules and that there’s some degree of stability so the students know they can start and finish
because the school will still be there. Employer engagement, certainly because of a lot of things
I’ve already talked about, being labor market aligned, making sure the program you are putting
students through actually gives them skills that are demanded in the labor market, by engaging
employers, being an employer network. And last, but certainly not least is equity and inclusion and
making sure we are opening these opportunities up to everyone. That is a key aspiration that we
should be aiming for. So it’s a whole lot to try to go after, but that’s essentially where we are
headed at Skills Fund with the quality assurance work. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: I’m going to hold off on the
next question because we’re within ten minutes. So let me open this up to any questions from the
room or from the remote folks. Do you have any questions for Yuanxia before we
— before I ask my next one? Over here. >>When I looked at the slide that’s up there now
under Skills Fund, I notice you are looking at refund policies. Anything in particular that you
would be looking for in refund policies >>YUANXIA DING: Great question. So we don’t
have a particular thing, it’s like, you must have X, Y, or Z, but some of the great ones that I’ve seen
is essentially a trial period. So a school will say, you know, for example, because these are
accelerated learning programs, if it’s a 12 week program, for the first week it’s a trial period, or the
first two weeks, or first three days, it’s some period of time where the student gets to just see
if they want to do it, essentially. And if they don’t, if they drop out, they are refunded for that time.
That’s essentially what that is referring to. >>So you drew a distinction between the
educational providers that are creating market demand programs versus Higher Ed institutions
that are developing these over a couple of years. And yet those of us that are charged with that are
often, like, sure, I have to talk to my accreditor and because we are measured on our degree
production with our six year graduation rates, our incentive is to create those programs. So I’m
wondering if, and I know you don’t have a crystal ball, but if there’s some acknowledgement that
the incentives or that the data we are being tasked with collecting is really creating a system
that delays really, you know, the development of relevant credentials because we are bound by
rules that other educational providers aren’t bound by. >>YUANXIA DING: That’s a great question. I
think it’s great that you are incentivized to create those programs. To the extent there are many
hoops that you have to jump through in order to do that. Totally understand that, have heard that
many, many times, which is exactly why I think these partnerships could be helpful because
instead of developing all of that in-house where you are, like, hiring Instructors, where you are
developing the curriculum from scratch, like, instead of doing all of it yourself and having to
jump through all those hoops, being able to partner to do some of that might be helpful. >>Any other questions? [Off microphone]. [Laughter]. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: I do have a wrap-up
question, but before that, I was intrigue by what you said about employability. Can you explain that
again or in a little more detail what you are looking at? I had someone tell me, you know, who was
expresses sort of an understanding of, Higher Ed rightly pushes back and says you are not a
training arm for corporate America, we have our own mission and what we are trying to do and
what we’re trying to create. And his point of view was Higher Ed shouldn’t be responsible for
employment, they should be responsible for putting out students who are employable. >>YUANXIA DING: Yes. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: He was trying to make that
distinction. How are you thinking about that or defining that here? >>YUANXIA DING: That is largely how I’m
thinking about it as well. The example I’ll give is we had an application to EQIPE which was an
employer and Higher Ed institution. The employer was going to develop the curriculum
and then be the employer for all the students that went through the program. And we kept asking
over and over, will the students be able to get jobs at any other company having gone through this
program? And the answer kept coming back as, probably not, maybe. But, yeah, I mean, the
purpose of education is not to prepare people for one job. If we’re preparing people for one job at
one company, then the company should be paying for that development. That seems fairly
straightforward. The student should not be going into debt for that and taxpayers shouldn’t be
footing the bill for that. That’s just straight up employer-based training. That said, being labor
market responsive means you’re paying attention to the needs of multiple employers. You are
paying attention to the needs of a sector. The best example of this, many of the programs that
we work with at Skills Fund, software development, web development, data science,
these schools are essentially responding to a couple of pretty staggering statistics out there
which is by the year 2020, in a couple years, really, the projection there will be something like
1.4 million jobs in tech. Not the sector, but in the tech roles and there will only be about 400,000
people graduating from college with a Computer Science degree. So if these employers, which
many of them still are, are only looking for students who have graduated with a four year
degree with a major in Computer Science, they are just going to be out of luck, and that million
person gap, that shortage, that’s what we’re talking about. And so when these schools that we
work with at Skills Fund are creating these programs on software development, web
development, data science, they are responding to that clear gap and those students, you know,
we look for this and I sort of insist on this, those students need to be employable, not just go into
one job and one company, but actually be able to get that job in multiple places because they are
actually trained to do something that is valuable to the labor market as a whole and not just the one
company. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: So let me just get this
wrapped up and just sort of bring it back to what’s relevant for us and for Skills Funds. What’s the
role for organizations like Quality Matters or Skills Fund in this universe now? >>YUANXIA DING: Yeah. So because we work
with accelerated learning providers and because I’ve been on this journey of working with both
Higher Ed institutions and accelerated learning providers for some time, there’s a lot of, like —
there’s oftentimes questions of, oh, are you trying to replace college? Is college not worth it
anymore? Or whatever, this vilification of college and that’s really unfortunate. I don’t think that’s
what we’re doing. The role Quality Matters is playing and Skills Fund is playing and a lot of
these Quality Assurance entities out there is playing is about exposing the value. Because
when we talk about this with industry stakeholders or in policy circles and there’s this
questioning of the value of college, it may sound like it presupposes there isn’t value, but that’s not
the purpose. The purpose, in my view, is that we are — is that we know there’s value and that what
we’re trying to do is essentially show that and essentially reveal that and expose that value
because a lot of what we’re talking about here, you might be able to know it when you see it, but
that’s just not going to be good enough for labor markets, employers, for students, for the public,
frankly. And that is what has led to this sort of lack of confidence, this increasing lack of confidence
in traditional Higher Ed, is not being able to expose and share and reveal that value. And so
whether it is the non-traditional providers that we work with at Skills Fund or the traditional Higher
Ed institutions that Quality Matters works with, the purpose of Quality Assurance, there are
many potential purposes for it, protecting students, informing policymakers, but I think the
service that we provide to schools is to actually help demonstrate the value that does exist and
that is inherent. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: Yeah, and that’s a very
positive pro-Quality Assurance spin on what we’re all trying to do here.
Thank you very much. We appreciate your time.
[Applause]. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: Thank you. Thank you. >>YUANXIA DING: Thank you. >>DR. DEB ADAIR: Thank you, everybody.

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