Annual Meeting, September 21-22, 2022

Citizen Hotel, Autograph Collection | Sacramento, CA

Adjusting & Adapting: What’s Next for Postsecondary Education?

Wednesday, September 21

Looking Back and Looking Ahead: COVID-19 Impacts and an Uncertain Future for Postsecondary Education

We know that the pandemic has significantly impacted higher education. The key question will be how those changes and others continue to impact postsecondary education in both the short and long term. This session explored the changes to the postsecondary landscape between the onset of the pandemic and now, highlighting regional, state, and territorial shifts and concluding with a discussion of which changes are short-term and which may be here to stay. Additionally, discussion focused on the key future trends for postsecondary education and workforce development. WICHE senior leadership shared insights and observations in their areas of expertise.

Demarée Michelau, president, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

Raymonda Burgman Gallegos, vice president, programs and services, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education
Todd Helvig, psychologist, behavioral health, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education
Patrick Lane, vice president, policy analysis and research, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education
Russell Poulin, executive director, WCET; vice president, technology enhanced education, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

Bending the Trends Part I: Addressing enrollment challenges 

Stark enrollment declines—especially in the community college sector—and troubling decreases in FAFSA completions since the beginning of the pandemic suggest that many potential students are opting not to pursue or continue their education. This has implications not only for potential students missing out on the benefits of postsecondary credentials, but also for states trying to meet current and future workforce demands. The data points shared in this session helped frame key issues of focus in this meeting by identifying important indicators for legislators to consider as they examine postsecondary policy.

Patrick Lane, vice president, policy analysis and research, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education | PRESENTATION

Bill DeBaun, senior director of data and strategic initiatives, National College Attainment Network | PRESENTATION
Marty Alvarado, executive vice chancellor, equitable student learning, experience, and impact office, California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office| PRESENTATION

Bending the Trends Part II: Meeting workforce needs in diverse fields 

As states and territories emerge from the pandemic with different contexts and priorities, one common thread is clear. Concerns about meeting workforce needs are no longer theoretical or long-term discussions. Shortages across a raft of key occupations are impacting everyday life for Western residents and forcing legislators and other policymakers to think creatively to address these shortages. Depending on the occupation and industry, there could be straightforward policy solutions, or issues could be deep and complex requiring a range of interventions to shift policy and practice with the hope of bending the workforce trends in the long-term. This session examined some policy approaches, including those developed by Western states and territories, to identify usable potential solutions.

Demarée Michelau, president, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

Tara Kini, chief of staff and director of state policy, Learning Policy Institute 
Carl Sims, deputy program director, The Council of State Governments Center of Innovation
John Cordova, director of workforce development and clinical partnerships, Futuro Health

Supporting students to boost retention and completion

While developing new incentives and programs to meet current and future state workforce needs is crucial, thinking about state strategies to support retention and completion is another way to shore up the pipeline of educated and trained workers. There is not a single “silver-bullet” approach, but comprehensive, broad-based strategies have the potential to move the needle. While research supports many of these programs, and several states and territories in the West have adopted many of them, there is still certainly room for improvement. This session examined some of these approaches and the research behind them, with examples drawn from legislative bodies across the West.

Patrick Lane, vice president, policy analysis and research, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

Alexander Mayer, director, postsecondary education, MDRC
Michelle Ware, senior associate, postsecondary education, MDRC | PRESENTATION


Thursday, September 22

Behavioral Health in Postsecondary Education

Although behavioral health was an issue prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 has clearly exacerbated issues for students, faculty, and staff alike. In addition to being a key issue for promoting well-being on campus, there are very clear and real implications for credential completion and the efficiency of our postsecondary systems. While data are somewhat murky, it is clear that behavioral health issues impact student completion, which has implications for meeting future workforce needs and ensuring students have positive outcomes. This session examined potential legislative approaches to supporting enhanced behavioral health care in postsecondary education.

Patrick Lane, vice president, policy analysis and research, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

David Arnold, assistant vice president for health, safety, and well-being initiatives, NASPA
Todd Helvig, psychologist, behavioral health Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

State Authorization: The impact on student protection and access in a changing environment

The Regulatory Triad – consisting of states/territories, accreditors, and the federal government – looks clean and neat on paper, but is much more complicated in reality. In this session, we examined state authorization – the process through which states and territories set criteria for institutions that educate their residents in greater detail, including how state and territorial polices on authorization interact with the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, and can be tailored to find the right balance for ensuring student protections and promoting student access.

Demarée Michelau, president, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

Deborah Cochrane, chief, Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education
Cheryl Dowd, senior director, state authorization network and WCET policy innovations, WCET 
Amanda Winters, program director, postsecondary education, National Governors Association

Looking Ahead 2023

With 2023 rapidly approaching, what are your higher education priorities for the upcoming session? LAC members shared what bills they hope to work on and what they hope to accomplish in the coming year.

Demarée Michelau, president, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education