Partners in Policy is an occasional series in which we profile colleagues at the associations, foundations, and think tanks that NASFAA works with to advance higher education and financial aid policies. In this installment, we profile Mamie Voight and Jamey Rorison with the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).
In the world of higher education policy, data is king. Reliable data and research provides policymakers with the information they need to make educated decisions to best help students. The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides research and data on student success and college access to policymakers at the federal, state, and institutional levels. IHEP also works with institutional practitioners who interact directly with students.
And for IHEP's Mamie Voight and Jamey Rorison, data and research can be the keys to unlocking better higher education opportunities for underserved students.
Voight, who has worked at IHEP for two-and-a-half years, heads up the organization's policy research team, which focuses on improving college access, success, and equity by getting what she calls "quality research" about issues facing low-income and underserved students in front of policymakers.
While higher education "provides the clearest pathway out of poverty for low-income individuals," Voight said that the current system "continues to perpetuate inequities" that leave low-income and underserved students behind. "I work on higher education issues to try to close these gaps and open doors of opportunity for the millions of students who deserve a true chance at a college education," she said.
As a senior research analyst on the policy research team, Rorison said he has been "deeply engaged" in the team's policy work, authoring reports and briefs and sharing the research with various higher education stakeholders. Rorison, who has been with IHEP since May 2014, also manages the Postsecondary Data Collaborative, in which NASFAA participates as a partner.
"Working in higher education policy is so exciting because it is such a dynamic environment," Rorison said, adding that he "enjoy[s] being able to use research to inform policy advocacy, with the ultimate goal of addressing these important broad issues" of college access and success.
Overall, IHEP's agenda is driven by four policy priorities:
According to Voight and Rorison, IHEP is currently engaged in several projects that align with one or more of those priorities. For example, through the Community Partnership for Attainment, key stakeholders in 75 communities are working with IHEP to increase the number of local residents with postsecondary education. IHEP also is producing an ongoing documentary film series on the history of federal student financial aid titled "Looking Back To Move Forward," which the organization hopes will inform future policymaking.
Another example is the aforementioned Postsecondary Data Collaborative, which "brings organizations together to advocate for the use of high-quality postsecondary data to advance student success," Voight said. The collaborative is driven by the need for consumers, policymakers, and institutions to have better information, particularly on college affordability. As an organization that recognizes the need for high-quality information on college cost and affordability, NASFAA is considered to be a core organization partner in the collaborative, Rorison and Voight said.
IHEP's policy team views financial aid administrators as valuable resources and advocates, as they "play a crucial role in guiding students through the [financial aid] process," Voight said.
Aid administrators should "feel empowered to be advocates on their campuses" because they see first-hand how policy changes can impact students, Voight said, adding, "With this knowledge, they should advocate to institutional leaders on behalf of the neediest students to protect and advance policies that support these students."
Voight and Rorison said they hope aid administrators will view IHEP not only as a resource for research, but also as a partner in working to better meet students' financial needs. Interested aid administrators can become involved by joining IHEP's listserv, PostsecData's listserv, and following the organization on Twitter (@IHEPTweets and @PostsecData).
Publication Date: 3/9/2016