No More “Sink or Swim:” Incorporating Subgroup Accountability into the Higher Education Act

This resource from Third Way gives background information and data on equity gaps in higher education outcomes, and recommends a framework for subgroup accountability measures to be included in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. 


No More “Sink or Swim:” Incorporating Subgroup Accountability into the Higher Education Act

Significant equity gaps persist in higher education outcomes, and have remained largely unchanged over the past 20 years. For example, disparities in the graduation rates of historically (and currently) underserved students within and between institutions of higher education are clear. Postsecondary attainment is becoming increasingly necessary for the job market, and it is more important than ever to develop an equitable higher education system. Currently, there are few accountability measures in the Higher Education Act (HEA) around this, but reauthorization provides an opportunity for this to change.

A useful resource for state leaders concerned about equity gaps in postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE), this report from Third Way discusses the glaring equity gaps in higher education, who is impacted and in what ways. The report proposes that inclusion of subgroup accountability in HEA reauthorization is one way to understand and respond to the issue. A framework for subgroup accountability in HEA is provided that includes:

  • Which student subgroups should be used;
  • What should be measured;
  • How to identify and compare institutions for subgroup accountability;
  • What should happen when an institution has low equity outcomes;
  • How to mitigate unintended consequences; and
  • How to improve outcomes.

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