Education Week: New Conversations about College Access and Success

By Watson Scott SwailPresident & Senior Research Scholar, Educational Policy Institute

Next week EPI will converge on San Antonio for our Education Week, a series of three events including our Retention 101 Workshop, the Retention 2014 Student Success Symposium, and the EPI Forum on Education & the Economy. We look forward to great conversations about important issues in student success. I thought I would take the time in this week’s Swail Letter to preview some of our outstanding speakers and sessions.

Dr. Laura Rendon of the University of Texas at San Antonio will kick off our Student Success Symposium on September 30 at 1pm. I’ve known Laura for a long, long time, and she remains one of our nation’s preeminent scholars on educational opportunity, diversity, and equity. Her keynote is titled “Employing an asset-based framework to foster student success.” Laura always brings an interesting perspective on diversity and equity issues, so this should be engaging to say the least.

On Wednesday morning (October 1), our research panel will get things going with a plenary chat about what matters in student retention and success. I’ll be joined by Jim Black of SEM Works, Amaury Nora of UTSA, Neal Raisman of N. Raisman & Associates, and my old friend (I don’t mean “old,” Peter) Peter Dietsche of the University of Toronto and PSE Information Systems. The “guys” will get together and give their input on the critical factors of student success, as well as what people think matters but really doesn’t.

Evelyn Waiwaiole of the Center for Community College Student Engagement will be our luncheon keynote and will be speaking about high-impact practices in community colleges to engage students. Evelyn’s research is impeccable and this should be very interesting for all participants, not just those interested in community colleges.

We close the Student Success Symposium and open the Forum on Education & the Economy with a joint luncheon on Thursday, October 2 featuring Dr. Raymund Paredes, the executive director of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Raymund spoke at our last event in San Antonio back in 2007 and he is always an engaging speaker. He will discuss the latest in policy and practices from a Texas perspective, but he always has his pulse on national trends and issues. This will be a do-not-miss session.

The speakers lined up for the Forum are simply outstanding. After Raymund Paredes entrances us (not sure if that is from Wicked or Frozen), we will shift to a discussion on the Common Core State Standards and College Readiness Standards with Chris Minnich of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Jon Whitmore, the CEO of ACT, Jim Applegate, the ED of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and Linda Rosen, the CEO of Change the Equation. The common core has become a lightening rod in education, and we look forward to the perspectives of these nationally-recognized scholars and leaders.

We close Day 1 of the Forum with a fireside chat with Jack Grayson. You’re gonna love this guy. Last year he went parachuting on his 90th birthday and he wants me to go with him next year. I’m not so sure I’m up for it, but we will see. Jack is a legend. He created the Baldridge National Quality Award back in 1987 and has been working with quality in education for the past decade. We will have a one-on-one conversation about quality in education and what institutions need to do. This session will be fun.

Day 2 of the Forum speeds things up. We kick off with a discussion about redefining how higher education meets the needs of society and industry. Moderated by my former College Board colleague Tom Rudin (now with the National Academy of Sciences), the session will utilize the expertise of Kent McGuire, CEO of the Southern Education Foundation, and Bill Tierney of the University of Southern California (and former president of AERA). This promises to be an adventurous session, as I can tell you from the prep session last week. Don’t miss it. We never know what Bill will say…

We then explore future models of higher education with Trinity University’s Dennis Ahlburg, University of Houston’s Bill Flores, Kaplan University’s Wade Dyke, and Apollo Group’s and former Deputy Secretary of Education Jane Oates. Here we have presidents of a public university, private university, a for-profit university, and the Vice President of the largest for-profit system in the United States. Together they will be discussing trends in higher education. This excites me greatly. I wasn’t going to moderate this session, but I am now.

The final afternoon features a discussion about equity and opportunity with Sue McMillin, the CEO of TG, William Serrata, the President of El Paso Community College, and our friends Laura Rendon and Amaury Nora of UTSA. We welcome Hans L’Orange of SHEEO as our moderator. Hans has been involved in these issues for a long time and this promises to be very interesting.

We close with a keynote from UTSA’s President, Dr. Ricardo Romo. He’s the other “Romo” in Texas, but this one was one of the first American’s to break the four-minute mile. His record at the University of Texas lasted 42 years! Dr. Romo is the leader of UTSA and fights for educational quality, opportunity, and equity for the university’s 37,000 students.

We look forward to a phenomenal week on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. If you haven’t registered, please do. We’d love to have you.


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