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10.13 NYC EVENT: Restoring Opportunity: The Role of Education

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 | Public Agenda

6:30 - 8:00 pm
Macaulay Honors College
35 West 67th Street, New York, NY 10023

Click here to register, or email

If the U.S. is truly to be a land of opportunity for all, what role can and must education play? How will our education system -- K-12 and higher ed -- have to change in order to play that role? And what are the limits of education as a cure-all for the challenges of diminishing opportunity in the U.S.?

We are excited to announce the first in our Restoring Opportunity series. "Restoring Opportunity: The Role of Education" will take place at Macaulay Honors College on October 22, 2015 from 6:30-8pm.

Restoring Opportunity is Public Agenda's 10-year commitment to help communities and the nation address one of the great challenges of our day, stagnating prospects for too many Americans.

For the program, moderator Brian Lehrer of WNYC will interview a panel of two dynamic education experts: Public Agenda board member Wendy Puriefoy, the former president of the Public Education Network and a K-12 expert, and Public Agenda’s Alison Kadlec, an expert on higher education reform.

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10.13 In Solving Region's Problems, New York Area Residents See a Role for Government, and for Themselves

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 | Allison Rizzolo

Listen to the related story on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show.

Residents of the New York metro area say our region is facing some serious problems: the gap between the wealthy and everyone else is growing, costs are increasingly unaffordable, wages are stagnating and opportunity is diminishing. Moreover, they say the government is not doing a good job addressing their concerns.

But they don't view these problems as unsolvable. And they see a role for both the government and for themselves in solutions.

We asked local residents about a number of policy approaches for addressing the issues they view as serious problems. In general, residents favor policies that will make education and housing more affordable and that will bring good jobs to the area, even if those policies include tax increases.

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10.12 New Yorkers Don't Resent the Wealthy, But...

Monday, October 12th, 2015 | Allison Rizzolo

Listen to the related story on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show.

We're all aware that income inequality is growing, particularly in urban areas. The New York metro area is no different: 65 percent of residents say the gap in income between the rich and everyone else is a serious problem in their community.

We were curious: in the New York region, do people have a problem with the basic premise of the rich getting richer? Or are they ok with it, as long as they have an opportunity to get ahead too? This is an issue our co-founder has opined on in the past, writing on his blog:

Americans are big fans of economic success. Unlike many Europeans, we are remarkably free of envy about some of us making zillions of dollars. But the legitimacy of their doing so comes with an all-important qualification: the insistence that all of us should be free to take advantage of our system of open-ended opportunity to improve our lot in life.

We wanted to test his hypothesis.

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10.11 What Do Residents of the Greater New York Metro Area Worry About Most?

Sunday, October 11th, 2015 | Allison Rizzolo

Listen to the related stroy on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show.

Our primary purpose in surveying residents of the greater New York metro area was to understand what issues most concerned them. It turns out, regardless of where people live, affordability is something they worry about the most.

We asked people about 19 different public issues, from housing costs, to crime, to parks and recreation. We wanted to know whether people thought each issue was problem or not in their cities and towns. Everyone, whether they lived in New York City or the suburbs, regardless of age and income, identified these four issues as the most serious problems where they live:

  • High cost of living
  • High cost of housing
  • High taxes
  • High cost of college

Residents also worry about the lack of well-paying and secure jobs and the lack of affordable health care. Again, these concerns cut across demographics and geography, though lower income residents throughout the region and residents of New York City proper are most acutely worried about rising costs and economic instability:*

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09.23 Evaluation Matters: A New Toolkit for Assessing Participatory Budgeting

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 | Megan Rose Donovan

For those of us exploring ways to deepen and expand public participation in democracy, we know how essential evaluation is to our cause. Both government officials and the public have limited time, energy and resources. And furthermore, many may already be disillusioned by current and past efforts to include the public in decision making.

We need to be able to demonstrate to officials, the public, interested funders, community partners and others that their investment in new public engagement methods will be worth it. Will more people participate, particularly those who have been historically less civically engaged? Will the new form of engagement lead to better decisions and policies that residents support? Will the public feel like their voices have been heard, and will they come to understand the complexities and trade-offs inherent in many policy decisions? Will the method build trust among officials and the public and open pathways for collaboration among community-based organizations and the government?

At the same time, we as public engagement practitioners are very busy. Evaluation can be time consuming and complicated, especially when we’re attempting to measure something amorphous like deeper public participation. As such, evaluation too often gets lost among everything else we're doing.

For these and other reasons, we are particularly excited about one of our current projects: an initiative to help make it easier for practitioners to evaluate participatory budgeting efforts.

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09.08 NYC EVENT: From Application to Enrollment: Helping Students Make Better Decisions on Going to College

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 | Public Agenda

Monday, September 21, 2015
06:30 PM – 08:15 PM
156 Fifth Avenue, Second Floor
New York, NY 10010

Prospective students often start their college searches with high expectations, and soon into their exploration, high anxiety. Both students fresh out of high school and older adults returning to school are making crucial choices about their educations without key information and resources and with misconceptions about everything from application requirements to financial aid and sound student loan options.

According to recent research from Public Agenda and New America's Education Policy Program, 41 percent of students say they did not find enough helpful information to make their college decisions, and less than 1 in 5 adult prospective students has used an interactive website like the College Scorecard when considering college choices. And when it comes to paying for college, for example, 48 percent of students from families making less than $50,000 were unfamiliar with the Pell Grant, the cornerstone of federal financial aid for low-income students.

What do these findings mean for the systems of higher education admissions and recruiting? As Congress begins looking towards the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, how can policymakers and education practitioners better address students' needs and help them become savvier about choosing the college that's right for them?

Click on the link below to listen to a presentation of respective surveys from Public Agenda and New America. This presentation is followed by a panel discussion with college admissions, recruiting and counseling professionals, who are charged with helping New York's prospective students make beneficial choices for their educations and their futures.

Join the discussion online using #CollegeDecisions and following @PublicAgenda and @NewAmericaEd.

Download the research presentation here.



Carolin Hagelskamp
Director of Research, Public Agenda
Author of Is College Worth it For Me?

Rachel Fishman
Senior Policy Analyst, Education Policy Program, New America
Author of the College Decisions Series

Panel Discussion

Paul Marthers, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor and Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success, State University of New York

Carmel Paleski, Ed.M.
Director of Academic Affairs, Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center

Laura A. Bruno, M.S.W.
Assistant Dean of Enrollment Management, Queensborough Community College, City University of New York

R. Ummi Modeste, M.S.Ed.
College Advisor, City-As-School High School

Moderator: Kim Clark
Senior Reporter, Money Magazine


09.03 DC EVENT: Choosing College: How We Can Help Students Make Better Decisions

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 | Public Agenda

Thursday, September 17, 2015
09:00 AM – 11:30 AM
1899 L Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC, 20036

It's that time of year. Recent high school grads are loading up the family car and heading to State U or a private liberal arts college. They chose this college after carefully weighing their options, with help from their family members and guidance counselor. They'll spend the next four years coming of age living on a cozy campus.

Yet people don't realize that many first-time college students don't fit the traditional college student archetype that society tends to envision. They're not entering college straight from high school. They're taking classes while working full- or part-time. Many have families to care for. Moreover, many don't know about or have access to resources to help them make careful, well-informed decisions about what college is best for them.

The current research base on how students - especially older, "nontraditional" students - decide to attend and pay for college is incredibly thin. A lack of understanding about nontraditional students encourages policymakers to craft policies that are targeted only to a narrow subset of college students. It also promotes a system where students lack key information to help inform their decisions.

Recent survey research from Public Agenda and New America aims to help practitioners, researchers and policymakers better understand the expectations and concerns of today's students and the factors they consider when choosing a college. Findings from that research include:

  • 41 percent of students said they did not find enough helpful information to make their college decision.
  • Just 37 percent of community college students say they seriously looked into other schools before enrolling.
  • Less than 1 in 5 adult prospective students has used an interactive website like the College Scorecard when considering college choices.
  • 48 percent of students from families making less than $50,000 were unfamiliar with the Pell Grant, the cornerstone of federal financial aid for low-income students.

How can the findings of these surveys help inform policymaking focused on improving student outcomes, particularly as Congress looks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act? How can we help prospective students have a better understanding of which college will be the right fit for them?

Click on the video below for a presentation of respective surveys from Public Agenda and New America and a follow-up panel discussion with researchers and policymakers.

Join the discussion online using #CollegeDecisions and following @PublicAgenda and @NewAmericaEd.

Download the research presentation here.


9:00 AM: Breakfast and Registration

9:30 AM: Welcome and Opening Presentation

Carolin Hagelskamp
Director of Research, Public Agenda
Author of Is College Worth it For Me?

Rachel Fishman
Senior Policy Analyst, Education Policy Program, New America
Author of the College Decisions Series

10:00 AM: Panel Discussion

Kevin Fudge
Manager of Government Relations and Community Affairs, American Student Assistance

John Pryor
Principal, Pryor Education Insights

Carrie Warick
Director of Partnerships and Policy, National College Access Network

Moderator: Libby Nelson
Education Reporter, Vox


07.22 Charter Schools In Perspective: What We Know and What We Talk About

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 | Megan Rose Donovan

Back in February, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, who serves as the Chairman of the Senate Education panel, expressed some confusion over a basic characteristic of charter schools. During an event at the Brookings Institute, Sen. Alexander asked, "there are some private charter schools, are there not?"

If one of our top education policymakers — someone leading the effort to overhaul the nation’s main federal education law – is confused about charter schools, it’s easy to understand why parents, voters, educators and others also have significant gaps in knowledge.

Despite not knowing all that much about charter schools, we remain eager to comment on them. Yet our conversations about charter schools and how these schools should fit into the larger picture of education reform are often unproductive. In partnership with the Spencer Foundation, we’re trying to change that dynamic, with a new effort called Charter Schools In Perspective.

Charter Schools In Perspective is a set of resources that can help anyone – parents, voters, educators, policymakers – get past the clatter, focus on practical questions and have a better conversation about charters and school reform.

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07.16 Key Lessons for the U.S. Department of Education on College Selection

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 | Carolin Hagelskamp, Ph.D.

With word that a federal college ratings system is off the table, the U.S. Department of Education seems to have recognized what many experts have long said: comparing colleges and rating them against each other in a way that most people can agree on is very difficult, if not impossible. The Department’s decision to let go of its rating system is a major reversal of Obama’s college accountability push. It is also perhaps a wise one.

Giving up on its attempts to rate and compare colleges, the Department is now essentially saying "we leave it up to the consumer." At the end of the summer, a new, revised, web-based tool will launch. This tool will not include college ratings. Instead, a dozen or so updated metrics on college performance, from graduation rates to students’ earning outcomes, will be made public for prospective students to use and make informed decisions about colleges.

These metrics are important. They are increasing much needed and valued transparency in the higher education market. And yes, students and families should have all the information possible as they are making college choices.

But what are we really expecting students and families to do with these metrics, when the higher education experts in this country have just decided that it is impossible to make fair comparisons?

Will the new tool really be relevant? Can it seriously change the way Americans make decisions about college?

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05.21 Corinthian Dominates Headlines, but Students and Employers on For-Profits' Sidelines

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 | Allison Rizzolo

Earlier this month, for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges officially declared bankruptcy, after having gradually closed its campuses over the past year. The high-profile failure of Corinthian – once a Wall Street darling – has cast a shadow on the for-profit college industry.

As the collapse of Corinthian dominates headlines, we worry that narratives that underscore controversy or oversimplify the higher education system may harm efforts to foster a healthier, more inclusive conversation.

For-profits may be a top concern for some of our legislators and education leaders. However, our research suggests that expert-level policy conversations about these schools are not meaningful to students and employers, two groups directly affected by the success or failure of for-profit schools.

For example, nearly half of undergraduate students currently attending a for-profit school and 41 percent of for-profit alumni are not familiar with the term "for-profit college."

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