U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell at UCR


I’m Kim Wilcox. I’m the Chancellor at the University of California, Riverside, and it’s a great delight to welcome you here this afternoon. I get to do lots of things as Chancellor, one of them of course is to introduce guests and speakers on the campus. And I enjoy it. But, there’s always a bit of tension between the personal and the professional. That tension is probably greater today than any time. The tension between the kind of doing the professional thing and doing the personal thing because what we have in our midst is the consummate professional and the consummate personal friend. Ted Mitchell is the Under Secretary of Education for the United States of America. He’s in charge of all post-secondary education issues for our government. He’s also in charge of all the student aid programs, he leads a half a dozen white house initiatives, primarily centered around inclusion and diversity issues for the White House. He’s a Washingtonian but he’s a California boy. Three degrees from Stanford, former president of the California State Board of Education, former president of Occidental College, vice-chancellor in dean of education at UCLA. He knows California, he loves California, he knows the University of California, but for today he’s going to come and do two things I think. Talk about the country and its higher education system in its future, but as importantly be able to talk about it from that California perspective. I have had the great privilege in the last few years to come to know Ted Mitchell as a friend, and I can tell you he’s not just a friend of higher education, and of California, and UCR. He’s a friend of doing the right thing. He’s the kind of person that people say Ted’s a good guy, and when they say that they don’t mean he does good things they mean he does good things for the right reasons. You enjoy spending time with him not just because he’s a personal individual, but because of what he stands for and how he carries himself. And to have somebody like that willing to be serving our government at a time like this in higher education, we are all truly blessed and again I’m personally blessed to call Ted Mitchell my friend and it’s a great honor to introduce to you the Under Secretary of Education for America, Ted Mitchell. Mr. Chancellor, Kim, thank you. That’s really really terrific start and don’t believe a word he says, except the friend part, Kim has become a trusted and good friend. I hope that you all recognize what an absolutely national treasure you have in this Chancellor. He is a leader. He is a leader not just here but a leader across the country and as I say I’m pretty darn often. I wish that we could clone what is happening at UC Riverside and bring it to every college and university in the country. I think that you all know that College has never been as important as it is today. When President Obama arrived, he set a goal for the nation of becoming first in the world again in the percentage of young people with post-secondary degrees and credentials. He set that goal not just to be number one, but because there is both a moral and economic imperative for us to spread higher education across this country in a more equitable way than we ever have done before. I’m here at Riverside because what you’re doing here not just at the university but through the riverside education collaborative across the entire k-16 pipeline what you’re doing here is you’re showing the kinds of partnerships the kinds of commitments that need to be made if we really are going to not only reach President Obama’s goal but have the kind of education system that supports a diverse democracy. I want to note that representative Mark Takano is in the house, Mark it is great to see you. Thank you you for being with us today. The work that Mark does is exemplary and I know I feel the department feels that we have a great partner i in representative Takano and look forward to continuing to work with that with Mark for the next ninety eight days. After which I am going to be homeschooling my high school son I think. Sorry small joke but he thinks it’s a really small joke. It’s been a pleasure to be in Riverside today and to really sort of watch the work and talk to those of you who do so much to make the collaborative work to bring this community together around education and I want to make a special shout-out to my colleagues in Riverside Community College District who have helped us recently in dealing with the students in Riverside County and really across the Inland Empire who have been displaced by ITT Tech’s closure. So that’s important work it’s been a huge help to those students and we will continue to do whatever we can at the department to help you make safe landings for them. Our theme, Living The Promise, is not only today’s topic, it motivates UCR’s path-breaking campaign and it has emanated our administration’s higher-ed policy from the very start. Higher Ed is one of those assets that always increases in value. And today in 2016, higher education has never mattered so much to so many. In the coming decade we were talking about the lieutenant governor who was in town talking about the new economy. Most new jobs will require a college degree or some post-secondary credential and college continues to be the best personal investment one can make in your own future for your children or your grandchildren’s future. Economist’s continue to do the math and they find that college graduates make a million dollars more over their lifetime than high school graduates. That’s what the data say, that’s were I continue to tell myself, to tell my wife, as we get ready to send our kids off to college. And those tuition bills we are reminding ourselves are worth every penny of it. We also understand that higher education is one of the best investments we can make for our nation. We’re increasingly competing for jobs on a global scale and we need the full development of every American’s talents and energies as we move our country forward. And it is not just about filling jobs, it is about making jobs. It is about making whole sectors and businesses that didn’t exist five years ago that don’t exist today will be major drivers of our economy in the future. That’s where the importance of both top-flight research and a well-rounded liberal education are paramount. The dynamism of our economy is fueled by the connections that people make between ideas and disciplines and by the focused inquiry that turns theories into discoveries that in turn reshape what were able to create. With eight national academy members on the faculty, one of the best creative writing programs anywhere among other things, UCR, stands incredibly tall. And finally we know that higher education contributes to and indeed as a bulwark of our civil society helping create community leaders who see the whole and not just parts, who dedicate themselves to bringing diverse communities and viewpoints together rather than separating them and create families, neighborhoods, communities, and a democratic nation that is, in the words of John Dewey, were the harmonious and whole. So the promise of higher education is one of individual benefit to all Americans, of broad-based economic prosperity for our state and our nation. And it is the promise of a thriving diverse democracy. It is quite simply the promise of opportunity, and the promise of the American dream. Living that promise is good policy and it is our moral responsibility. But the reality is we have a way to go. As a nation we are still far from the president’s goal and when it comes to disparate outcomes, we have gaps to close. By the age of 24 young people from the poorest families are over three times less likely to ever earned an undergraduate degree than people from the most affluent families. Students who are first-generation college-goers drop out at three times the rate of students whose parents graduated from college and a third of those students drop out before their sophomore year. Among young adults , White Americans are twice as likely as Black Americans to have completed a bachelor’s degree. This is not the America we want, not the America we need. And we have to do better. The good news is we know how to address many of these challenges and you’re already doing that right here in this community. We must build a higher education system for America not just any America, but the one that is emerging around us. A diverse America, a globally engaged America, creative and entrepreneurial America, and in America that is concerned about safeguarding our environment, our scarce resources, our national security, and our quality of life. UC, Riverside, is leading the way in many of these areas. The first year class is the largest in the university’s history, and is more than eighty-five percent non- White. I’m really encouraged to know that first generation college students, community college transfer students, students balancing work and college to support their families, returning Veterans, and single moms, all have found a home here. UCR Senior, Lisa Overa came to the U.S. from Mexico at age eight with her nine-year-old brother traveling without their parents. They were fleeing a life of poverty and hard labor. Lisa had been picking crops with her family since age four and had never been to school. Her parents who later joined them are no doubt extremely proud of Lisa who won an academic scholarship to UC, Riverside is majoring in Chicano Studies with a minor in education. She hopes to be a teacher one day, and is off to a great start. Already working as a mentor to local at-risk youth here in riverside. She says and I quote “I just want to pass on that same opportunity that my parents gave me to a younger generation”, And we’re grateful to you Lisa for doing that work. And then there’s Daniel Frank a 35 year old Air Force veteran who served in Iraq is a transfer from RCC who’s hoping to earn his ms and mechanical engineering for a while Daniel was working 18 to 20 hours a day commuting to ontario for work living in apple valley and going to school at RCC that left about four hours for sleep now he’s going to have shortened his commute considerably and his set his sights on a career in project management in aviation or possibly transportation let’s give Daniel and Lisa hand please and let’s count that applause for every student’s story I didn’t tell because every student deserves a high quality post-secondary education every student deserves a chance to overcome whatever difficulties they may have had in the past every student deserves an opportunity to live the dream all students who get that high quality education can make their own mark as engaged citizens, as educators, as business owners, medical professionals, fill-in-the-blank of your own American Dream. And let us remember that as students to fill their American dream we all reach toward fulfilling our dreams for America. And we can only do that if we work together. There’s a lot riding on how well our colleges and universities live up to their promise and we can learn a lot from the good work going on right here. The UC system and UCR in particular, have made diversity and inclusion central to the definition in pursuit of excellence. I want to pause on that for a moment. Diversity isn’t a nice thing. Diversity isn’t a gift that’s bestowed. Diversity does not come at the expense of excellence, It is an essential element of an excellent education. Research across many fields has demonstrated that diversity whether of age, gender, sexual identity, race, class, age, experience, improves creativity, challenges conventional approaches, and results in better outcomes. Whether that’s in the boardroom, the conference room, the workshop, the design studio, the schoolhouse for the University. My bet mark is it might even work in legislatures. The leadership here for that student leadership, faculty leadership, administration, and the community, knows this and works every day to prove the combination of diversity and excellence every day to prove to others that it can be achieved. The number of applications this year were up at UCR and so was the percentage of students who chose to enroll here. The combination is created the largest entering class in the UC system. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Diversity matters to students in creating an inclusive campus in which all students can be successful matters to students. My daughter’s a high school senior so I’ve had a ringside seat while she and her friends look for the right College. Won’t surprise you to know that one of the tools that she and her friends use is the department’s new ish college scorecard. I didn’t make her do it but uses it. And on the scorecard one of the first things they look for is the screen on diversity and the population of students at the institutions that they’re talking about or visited. Name-brand schools have not made the grade with my daughter and her friends because of their lack of diversity. And you know what, they’re not alone. Diversity inclusion matter to today’s students because they know this is their world. It does little to move the needle if students are interested in diversity and inclusion but institutions are not. And here again I want to applaud the UC system and UCR in particular and their commitment to access. Here fifty-six percent of the undergrads are pell recipients. That’s a full 16 points above the UC average and half are the first in their families to go to college also well about the UC average. A large part of the success can be traced to the growing success of the Riverside town education collaborative that I mentioned earlier. By creating a venue for true collaboration between the k-12 system, higher education, and community partners, the collaborative ensures that students have access to coursework that will make them college and career-ready that they have the support and guidance along that pathway and that the often mystifying process for applying to college is simplified. We’ve called the collaborative is one of the best examples of promoting access and success in the nation and I’m really happy to be here to be able to thank you in person for that work and for that model. But access isn’t enough, Living the Promise of higher education means not just getting into college but as Secretary King likes to say it means walking across that stage on graduation day. Here at UC Riverside you’ve dramatically increased college completion rates over the past several years. Across-the-board graduation rates exceed the national average which was only sixty percent for all students in 2014 and even more important you come close to achieving graduation parody across your student body, in other words, it doesn’t matter what social-economic group you have, what one ethnic group you belong to, It doesn’t matter whether your parents went to college or not. When you’re admitted to UC, Riverside your chances of graduating with your degree are nearly the same it as they are for any other student. In 2015 African-American students at UC, Riverside a six-year graduation rate of seventy-three percent compared with 41-percent for the rest of the country. For Latino students at UC, Riverside it was sixty-nine percent compared with fifty-four percent nationally and for the graduate for Pell students seventy-two percent is virtually virtually the same as a seventy-four percent for students who didn’t receive Pell grants. That is extraordinary work, those are extraordinary outcomes, those are numbers to be proud of. You are doing a lot right including providing targeted counseling, student supports, and peer mentoring opportunities, opportunities for research in world-class labs, with faculty across the disciplines. My hope, my aspiration for the coming administration is that they will continue to shine a spotlight on the work going on at UC, Riverside and help what’s going on here happen at every college across the country. Nationally we’re working hard at the department to keep up with you and to ensure that more colleges and universities follow UCR’s lead. The Obama administration has made the largest investment in higher education since the GI Bill was passed in 1944 and through our efforts we’ve sent more than a million more African-American and Latino students to college since 2008, many of them first-generation college students. On the front end, we’ve worked to give more students the opportunity to go to college and complete their education. We’ve dramatically expanded student aid increasing the maximum Pell grant by more than a thousand dollars and indexing Pell to inflation. We eliminated the middleman in the student loan program saving 60 billion dollars that we were able to put back into programs supporting young people across the country. We’ve proposed in this year’s budget and several of us were talking about this a few minutes ago. We’ve proposed in the President’s budget restoring summer Pell to help students shorten their time to degree thus making it less expensive and provide bone and also to provide a bonus to institutions that are doing like UCR that are doing a good job graduating Pell students . We’ve pushed states to reinvest in higher education, a major driver of tuition increases has been States disinvestment following the hard choices that states needed to make in the Great Recession. States need to restore that funding. States need to play their role as a part of the Triad that supports higher education, families, the federal government, and states. They need to step up. We’ve simplified the FAFSA and made it available earlier. We just launched the new improved FAFSA on October first. My daughter and I spent a great bonding anytime on saturday afternoon taking care of business with FAFSA. 29 minutes is the Mitchell Family scorecard for FAFSA completion got a little competition going on Twitter about who’s going to beat that so please join in if that’s the right age bracket for you guys. And we’ve improved the information available to students so that their college search can be better informed. The college scorecard is a helpful new tool the financial aid shopping sheet helps students measure apples-to-apples the financial aid Awards that they received from different colleges. All of these things help we think provide informed access to students to higher education. You know that the president has proposed America’s College promise which would create a new partnership with States to make two years of Community College free for students of good standing. It would also support for year historically black colleges and universities and minority serving institutions including UC Riverside in providing low-income students with up to two years of college at zero tuition. Well this proposal is still unfunded by Congress, communities aren’t waiting and they are stepping up taking it upon themselves to make the promise of free or deeply discounted Community College a reality. Today there are nearly 160 promise programs across the country. We’ve also tried to make sure that when students have access there having access to high-quality institutions and we’ve tried to through regulation called gainful employment we’ve tried to take the lowest-performing tier of Career Colleges out of the game by creating a threshold for student debt in those institutions measured against student earnings and if they don’t make the grade they can’t have access to federal funds. We’ve also as I think you know and I mentioned ITT earlier, we have also sharpened our scrutiny of the entire for-profit College industry trying to make sure that when students enroll in college there rolling in a college of value not just in the short run but in the long run and that they will indeed be able to pay back whatever money they borrow and move well into middle class jobs earning a decent living. On the very back end we’ve been working to make student debt more affordable. We have kept interest rates low on on student debt and most recently the president announced a set of income driven repayment plans that allow any direct loan borrower any direct loan bar to limit their student loan payments to ten percent of take-home pay. We believe that, that gives every student with a direct student on federal student loan the opportunity to overcome bumps in the road as they establish their careers or if they’re temporarily displaced or over a longer period of time for students who are working in lower-wage jobs gives them the opportunity to make the other kinds of investments that they need to make in their families in their homes and cars and so on while still staying current on their on their student loans. We’ve also created a public service loan forgiveness program that helps students who go to work as teachers, firefighters, social workers, helps them get loan forgiveness after working in these vital areas. And finally probably my favorite part is we’ve worked hard to try to shine a spotlight on those colleges and universities that are making a difference in expanding opportunities in America that’s why I’m here today and that’s why i’m so proud to talk about UCR wherever I go. Of course there’s always room for improvement and in California we have some particular areas we need to work on. 2015 nearly a quarter of all first year students entering the California State University system were in need of math remediation. For African-American students the rate was forty-eight percent and for Latinos it was thirty-eight percent and for all california community college students in 2014 the remediation rate was at seventy-four percent, and let’s remember what that means. That means that you start college and are told immediately that you’re not at the starting line, you’re 75 yards back and that 75 yards can be a long distance to travel can be very dispiriting to students and so the more we can do to link the graduation requirements and the aspirational curriculum requirements of the k-12 system with real college radians real career readiness the more we will cut in to that 75-yard deficit and the more we will be able to keep students on track to timely graduation from their post-secondary experience. When we think about educational innovation a lot of us are drawn to bright shiny technology objects and I think that we underplay other kinds of innovations. UCR is a part of the University innovation Alliance and it’s remarkable that you can go to meetings with the University Innovation Alliance folks and not hear a lot about whiz-bang gizmos. Sure much better data use absolutely but what you hear much more is about partnerships in the University innovation Alliance is a great example of what I’ll call a horizontal part set of partnerships where institutions with the same aspirations very different footprints and profiles but same aspirations share work best practices ideas you wouldn’t think that that was innovation but it is and it is really starting to bear fruit not only here but in other institutions. Another type of partnership is vertical partnerships and that’s where the collaborative comes in strong, stable, ongoing, sustained partnerships between k12 and higher education is the only way i know to be able to truly align college and career-ready outcomes with college and careers. And so again I’m here because I want to make sure that you as a community continue to invest in that kind of partnership in that kind of commitment. I know that the work is hard. I know that the work seems endless and it probably is, but I think that what you have all shown here and what Riverside UCR stands out for when we look at the the country is a shared commitment to creating a large, diverse, most inclusive, college cohort that this country has ever seen. And in so doing to prove that yes the future is always invented in California and from where we sit that future looks pretty bright, so thank you for having me here today. Kim thanks for allowing me to to ramble with the crowd and look forward to the chat. Secretary Mitchell has agreed to have a little conversation and I’m afraid he’s the best conversely I’m the best he could find so let me start. There’s been I’m gonna jump right in DC if you don’t mind, There’s a presidential campaign going on, there’s conversations about education. One of the topics is free tuition and some people actually suggested that free tuition may not provide greater access, may not provide equality. What’s your sense of free tuition as a concept and how it might play out in America. I think it’s important to remember the tuition is only one of the basket of costs that students and families and the state and the federal government need to cover and so I think that any proposal that doesn’t take the entire cost of attendance into account really does run the risk of privileging folks who have greater wealth, greater assets, higher incomes, because that money likely to pay for free is going to come out of traditional aid programs and the aid programs that we have now are attuned to the cost of attendance rather than just the tuiton. You earlier commented on looking at universities with your daughter and how you kind of go through the comparisons or schools and know you had spent a lot of time in your present job looking at rating systems and help the president think carefully about rating systems. We now have more rating systems than you can shake a stick at America talk to me about how as prickly as a parent you manage to get through that morass and what it what it meant for you what you might observe about America’s rating systems. We love to rate things. And so I think that we will not see the end of ratings and I think that that’s fine actually like the proliferation of ratings because they’re moving us away from the idea that there is a unitary rank to thinking about different ways that you would weight different aspects of of an institution’s profile and so if you even look at the rankings for UCR in a variety of different vehicles I think it’s both confusing and healthy that it can be one and it can be 147 or whatever so I think I decide that I think that the proliferation ratings is a good thing. It is confusing because I think for students and families you really want to know the answer it’s like please don’t give me three different rankings I just want to know the one. And I can get one of the many places where first-generation college going students and their families are at a distinct disadvantage because this stuff is complicated. There isn’t one answer. And knowing one’s way through that is is it is non-trivial. When we said when the move from a ratings that system to our scorecard is sometimes talked about as a defeat for the president I think it was a huge victory for the president because I think we came up we talked to a lot of people heard a lot of things and I think we came up with a better idea than ratings which was put the information out, reliable information. Put it out in an easily digestible way with tools that would allow students and families to search for what’s important for them. So my daughter and her friends as they said are going to look at diversity. They also look at the average student loan debt and so that’s fine, that’s important to them and they need to look at that right that’s much better then saying UCR was 27 and not have that be able to be unpacked. So you know we’ve also released the data to the world in a variety of different formats and so very encouraging us to see that Washington monthly’s ratings, the Economis, Forbes, Payscale, Wall Street Journal’s college rankings are now sort of powered by our information so there’s less guesswork about whether these are reliable data or not. So I think more information is always good but the breakthrough has been able to create opportunities for students and families to slice it and dice it around what’s important to them. The great point we recognize that if you are a student in a family whose family income is in the top decile of incomes in America you have a ninety percent chance of graduating college if you the bottom decile you have a ten percent chance. Even though you’re just as able in all the ways. So this notion of social equity which I know is dear to your heart is affected by rating systems and how families can get at this. Some have suggested that our entire education system is skewed in a way that’s going to increase perhaps not decrease the socio-economic gap in America. What’s your sense of that reality and how we might make sure that that isn’t the case in the future? Yeah so there-there are troubling troubling indicators so as I noted they’re persistent gaps in completion that costs money to close and I think that there’s a bit of an irony there where colleges and universities are constantly being asked to cut costs, reduce administrative activity, when in fact it’s a lot of that work that helps students succeed and so we’re not going to close gaps if the completion rate for African-American men for example remains in the twenty percent range that’s just not gonna happen in we need to create supports on campus and we need to create a k-12 system that gets them college-ready in order to get there. I think it’s also quite troubling the state disinvestment that’s happened at at just the time when we are for all the right reasons diversifying this student body and so those tuition increases are falling on the shoulders of families who can who can least afford it most troubling for me is that whether it’s the sticker price or whether it’s just the overall conversation about how expensive colleges is I think that that is discouraging families from encouraging kids to go to college. So I think that there are troubling indicators. If you’re going to give California one piece of advice in this regard what might be and for those who may not be familiar with some of the terrain well california has its challenges I’m quite proud when I go around the country and talking about the support systems in California left in place when most other states cut their financial aid programs and the universities they did it across the board here are universities took some cuts but our financial aid programs stayed pretty robust so with that commitment and and it also remained need-based. So with that commitment in place what would you suggest for California in terms of managing this very challenging notion of financing and family income? So I think if California could show the way to really tackling this developmental ed remediation problem and really focus on getting that right moving to a model that’s much less about taking a course over and over again and much more about diagnosing very specific issues and I know that that’s something that that you are hard at work on but I think that that if California could lead the nation and in solving that problem that would be a remarkable achievement for California and would be a remarkable achievement of the nation. Well thank you. In fact earlier comments to credit of lots people in the room my colleagues at RCC and across the campus that is the strategy we’re pursuing we’re trying to do not just make this about a course completion but about a mastery and we’re trying to do it not just the community colleges are not just the high schools are not just the university so that’s helpful for us to hear is kind of advice as we pursue this. There are some people who suggest that we know all we need to know about helping students succeed. We just don’t have the will or the commitment to do it and there are others of course suggest we have a lot to learn. Where are we in that dichotomy in your mind? I’m farther on the will side than the no side. And one of the most successful documented support programs for low-income and first-generation students is the ASAP the ASAP program that was built at the CUNY system in new york. They had remarkable success and none of it is rocket science, it’s close mentorship with both faculty and advising staff. It’s about understanding it we’re talking about earlier the total cost of attendance and helping students deal with childcare issues by having a childcare centers on campuses deal with transportation issues they give out metrocards to students so I think that it’s it’s not one thing it’s a lot of small things that really do add up for students and I think in the sense of not knowing enough is a probably more about kind of some of the things that the Georgia state is doing about tightening up what we know about student pathways student success and then making sure that students do more to take advantage of those pathways. Now I almost don’t want to ask this question because I know you’re an optimist but I will anyway some have suggested that life is not as good in higher education as one was our glory days are behind us. Others suggest that were in our glory years how do you see the world? So I think that our glory years are just beginning and this is the most exciting time there has ever been in American higher education and I think frankly many people who think that our glory days are behind us are people felt more comfortable when higher education was the preserve of non diverse population and I think what’s most exciting about where we are headed today is the fact that we have embraced the idea that higher education like k-12 education is for all Americans and that we need to build campuses that reflect the reality of the emerging America and we need to embrace all of the tools at our disposal to make these colleges work and if we do our work right, the energy, the talent, the spectacular creativity of these students will make colleges even more vital than they were a decade ago. Beat that as an answer huh. I hope they give you some flavor of the talent and the values of the man and why we have made the progress we have nationally in the last several years with Ted’s guidance and leadership and I wanted on behalf of the University and all of our colleagues here just thank you for your willing to come and share your perspectives thanks privilege to be here.

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