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CONTACT: Shouping Hu, FSU College of Education
(850) 644-6721;

October 2014

FSU’s Center for Postsecondary Success Hosts Prominent Economists Sandy Baum and Michael S. McPherson

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On Thursday, October 9, 2014 Florida State University’s Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS) hosted a Public Forum on Higher Education Finance and Policy with prominent economists, Dr. Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and a research professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, and Dr. Michael S. McPherson, fifth President of the Spencer Foundation. In attendance at the event were members of the CPS research team, graduate students and faculty in the College of Education, representatives from the Florida state legislature and Florida Division of Colleges, as well as additional guests.

The public forum began with opening remarks by Dr. Baum and Dr. McPherson and was followed by a wide-ranging dialogue among the economists and members of the audience. Dr. Baum’s remarks emphasized the need to support students who are “in the middle” both financially and academically. She argued that higher education policy has traditionally focused on students on either extreme: academically talented students receiving merit aid and low income students receiving need-based aid. Instead, Dr. Baum suggested focusing resources on students in the middle who might not succeed in higher education without assistance.

Dr. McPherson challenged researchers and policy makers to broaden their perspectives on higher education policy and finance. He encouraged educational researchers to engage in understanding the linkages among the education sectors and studying education as a system (P-16) rather than focusing on its discrete parts. He argued that “good thinking on cause and effect is rare,” and criticized overspecialization among researchers, stating that we need to “make progress on the things we don’t understand not build precision.” He further recommended that policy makers and researchers “think binocularly in short term and long term simultaneously.”

The lively discussion also touched on topics such as the definition of success in higher education, shifting the education policy dialogue from access to graduation, educational equity, the margin of return on higher education for different programs of study and different types of institutions, cohort crowding, and misleading media representations of higher education policy and finance.

Dr. Baum has co-authored Education Pays: the Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society, the College Board’s annual publication Trends in Student Aid and Trends in College Pricing, and the Brookings Institution’s report, Beyond Need and Merit: Strengthening State Grant Programs. Dr. McPherson, has co-authored and edited several books, including Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities; College Access: Opportunity or Privilege?; Keeping College Affordable; and Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy.


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