California is active in all three of WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Professional Student Exchange Program, and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2011-12 California’s students and families saved $86.7 million. California saved money, too, through not having to establish and maintain costly programs in a number of areas, including some in healthcare.
Western Undergraduate Exchange. California students have enrolled in undergraduate programs beyond California’s borders through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) since 1997, saving on 43,411 annual tuition bills. In 2011-12, 9,717 students from California are enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving more than $83.7 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $8,619. In the last dozen years, students have saved $309 million.
California benefits from WUE in another way: by receiving students from out of state. California’s institutions can choose how many out-of-state slots to offer and in which areas, allowing them to make the best use of their resources by accepting students in underenrolled programs. There’s a workforce benefit for the state, too, as students often stay in California after graduating. In 2011-12 California received 987 students through WUE.
Professional Student Exchange Program. California receives professional students through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP). In 2011-12 it received 72 PSEP students and $1.3 million in support fees.
Western Regional Graduate Program. California’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access to over 250 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning that they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 47 institutions in all WICHE states. WRGP programs run the gamut, but emerging social, environmental, and resource-management fields are particular strengths, as are innovative interdisciplinary programs. In 2011-12 California sent 224 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving two.
Internet Course Exchange (ICE). WICHE’s newest exchange, ICE, is an alliance of member institutions and systems with a set of policies, procedures, and support systems for sharing distance-delivered courses among two- and four-year institutions in the 15-state WICHE region.
WICHE’s Added Value
California gains added value from WICHE’s programs in policy, workforce development, technology, mental health, and other areas.
Policy & Workforce Development. California has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, the U.S. Department of Education, and others. In addition, WICHE policy experts often visit the state to present or consult on a number of vital issues, including the state’s workforce needs and balancing the financial aid portfolio between grants, loans, and scholarships, as well as between merit- and need-based aid.
WICHE was recently asked by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office for its counsel on how to help the state address proposed cuts to financial aid programs. Staff also served as an expert resource at a Public Policy Institute of California meeting, addressing the changes necessary in the wake of Governor Brown’s decisions to defund the California Postsecondary Education Commission, with the goal of ensuring that CPEC’s data collection was not lost. Staff discussed how to move California’s efforts to link data statewide and across segments forward and provided a brief report of what other states are doing in terms of statewide data governance. In addition, WICHE President David Longanecker worked with the Legislative Analyst’s Office on state governance and testified before legislators on university presidents’ compensation systems.
WICHE’s Lumina-funded project Getting What You Pay For: Understanding Higher Education Appropriations, Tuition, and Financial Aid promoted informed decision making and the alignment of higher education appropriations, tuition, and financial aid policy by state legislators, to improve student access and success. WICHE sent copies of the project’s eight policy briefs to all members of the California Legislature. In addition, WICHE President David Longanecker did a presentation on student aid based on this research, addressing the state’s Special Committee on Postsecondary Education Reform. Longanecker delineated six principles of good public policy on student aid, provided examples of how California measures up on each principle, and presented particularly strong evidence that California policies result in substantial federal benefits being left on the table.
California partnered with the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California on a just-completed Ford Foundation-funded project that examined student progression and graduation rates, looking at differences by race/ethnicity in the achievement of milestones en route to postsecondary success (completion of remediation, 15 credits, 30 credits, postsecondary credential, etc.). The state also participated in the Lumina project Best Practices in Statewide Articulation and Transfer Systems, which seeks to develop a deeper understanding of how states coordinate their articulation and transfer programs for students who move from two-year to four-year institutions, focusing on strategies that increase access to and success in higher education.
California is one of five partner states participating in the Interstate Passport Initiative, which seeks to improve graduation rates, shorten time to degree, and save students money by addressing the two-year to four-year institution transfer problem at an interstate level. The two-year pilot project will focus on forging general education core transfer agreements based on learning outcomes between 28 institutions, including California State University, Sacramento and Cosumnes River College.
California participated in a Gates-funded meeting in 2008, which brought together the stewards of the data systems in 14 of the WICHE states for discussions around linking data internally and with other states. A central topic of conversation was how to address the challenges to data sharing presented by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Another meeting was the Western Summit on Workforce Certification and Higher Education for policymakers in the West, held in response to the national demand for more highly skilled workers in a host of fields, from healthcare to high tech. Participants explored how states might use a workforce certification system – which would allow business and higher education to communicate with a common language about workforce demand and supply – to improve their ability to prepare individuals for productive careers and enhance the health of their economies.
Additionally, the California State University System and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona are members of the Western Academic Leadership Forum, whose members address regional higher education issues and engage in resource sharing. A new WICHE initiative, the Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders, brings academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the College of the Sequoias are members.
Technology. Several California colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), a membership cooperative that accelerates the adoption of effective practices and policies to advance excellence in technology-enhanced teaching and learning in higher education. The WCET 2010 annual conference was held in La Jolla, California, attracting 350 higher education professionals for the four-day event.
WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. WCET provides access to peers, colleagues, common interest groups, experts, and decision makers; communications tools that enable members to stay informed about developments affecting technology-enabled teaching and learning; and information about key developments affecting e-learning providers, such as new federal rules pertaining to distance education. WCET also manages multi-institutional projects, one aimed at adult online learners and another on large-scale student data aggregation and predictive analytics to improve student outcomes..
Mental Health. A nucleus for researching mental health policy and a provider of technical assistance in such areas as service innovation, system reform, workforce development, program evaluation, and other areas, WICHE’s Mental Health Program is another well-used resource. Staff provided technical assistance to five California-based sites through the federal integrated care grant program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources Services Administration. Three California higher education campuses participated in a research study, funded by the National Institute for Mental Health, that focuses on campus mental health and the effects of mental health first aid training for residence life staff.
Other Initiatives.Another initiative, the Master Property Program (MPP), helps institutions reduce their insurance premiums and improve their coverage. Created by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) and expanded to the WICHE region, the MPP includes 50 member institutions with total insured values of $78.9 billion; it has generated some $65.4 million in savings for the participating institutions while expanding their coverage. WICHE is also partnering with MHEC to offer MHECare, a new health program providing vetted, competitively priced medical benefits for students. Underwritten by UnitedHealthcare StudentResources, MHECare offers a variety of plans.