101 Resources

101 Resources

Who are today’s students? How does our system of higher education accreditation work? Who holds colleges and universities accountable for student outcomes? Why do we need a student-level data network?

Our series of 101 explainers sets out to answer these questions and decode the complex, but critical policy issues that impact today’s students and providers. Featuring visual infographics, compact definitions and user-friendly explanations, the 101s offer policymakers, analysts and media a quick and easy to consume explanation of key policy issues in postsecondary education.

Want more 101s from Higher Learning Advocates? For more information or to suggest a topic for an upcoming 101 feature, contact our Deputy Director Emily Bouck West.

101: Public Awareness: Racial Disparities in Higher Education

This latest Higher Education 101 highlights the public's lack of awareness of achievement gaps in postsecondary education.

101: Career and Technical Education

This new 101 provides a quick overview on who participates in CTE, outcomes from CTE programs, funding for CTE, and return on investment in CTE programs.

101: Equity Gaps in Higher Education

This is Higher Learning Advocates' 101 on equity gaps in higher education. Gaps in factors such as access, persistence and completion in higher education by race and ethnicity continue. This 101 provides an overview of these persistent disparities in postsecondary education between different groups of students by race and ethnicity.

101: FAFSA

Over two million borrowers have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines a student’s eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study. Check out this new resource that explains what the FAFSA is, the types of questions asked on the application, and what happens after a student completes the FAFSA.

The Glossary of Higher Education Policy

Today’s students need a bipartisan and comprehensive rewrite of the Higher Education Act that upgrades quality, strengthens affordability, and promotes the more accountable system of higher education today’s students deserve. Learn to speak higher ed wonk with our new resource, “The Glossary of Higher Education Policy”, which provides definitions of commonly-referenced terms in higher ed policy.

101: Negotiated Rulemaking

The Higher Education Act (HEA) requires the U.S. Department of Education to use the negotiated rulemaking process in order to make any changes to programs authorized under Title IV of the HEA, the section that administers more than $130 billion annually through federal student financial aid programs. Our new 101 provides a quick read on what “neg reg” is and how the process works.

101: Income-Driven Repayment (IDR)

Since 1994, the federal government has offered income-driven repayment (IDR) plans to help borrowers with lower earning power repay their federal student loans at a slower pace without penalty. Today, over 7 million federal student loan borrowers are enrolled in some form of income-driven repayment. How do these plans vary in terms of their requirements and payment schedules, and which students are eligible? Our new 101 breaks down the basics of this program and why it exists and provides a skimmable summary of the six IDR plans available to students.

101: Competency-Based Education

More and more of today’s students are adults, parents and older students who are learning outside the traditional academic calendar and often bring substantial work experience and existing college credit. Increasingly, some colleges and universities are measuring a student’s progress based on learning instead of time using competency-based education (CBE). This new 101 from Higher Learning Advocates for a quick read on what CBE is, and why CBE is a critical tool to better serve today's students. 

101: Pell Grant Rainy Day Fund

Funding the Pell Grant program is a complex, sometimes confusing process. The Pell Grant funding mechanism can generate shortfalls and surpluses. In times of surplus, the Pell program gathers a “rainy day fund”, which can provide a cushion in case of future deficits or unexpected cost increases. This explainer resource from Higher Learning Advocates breaks down why leaving the surplus untouched is in the best interests of college affordability and the fiscally responsible thing to do.

101: Accreditation

Accreditation is the linchpin of the federal role in higher education as the gate-keeping system for the federal government’s $120 billion annual investment in higher education. Looking to understand the complex and esoteric process that determines which colleges and universities get a “stamp of approval” to receive federal student aid? Our new accreditation “101” breaks down the basics of how this process works and why policymakers need to take a closer look at changing the system to focus on student outcomes and true quality assurance.

101: Accreditation Glossary

This new "101" accreditation glossary gives you a handy resource decoding the language used during NACIQI meetings and other accreditation debates. From accreditors to on-site evaluations and self-study—the accreditation glossary summarizes the essentials behind the complex process of higher education accreditation.


The new Higher Learning Advocates “101: NACIQI” explainer provides a quick overview and infographics of the appointed panel that exists as an independent check on accreditors by determining which should receive federal recognition.

101: Higher Education and the Triad

Looking for a refresher on higher education accountability? Read our new resource, "101: Higher Education and the Triad", which provides a quick "who's who" of federal higher education accountability and the complex system of checks and balances we use to hold colleges accountable

101: Postsecondary Data

Enhancing federal data systems could help many more students find postsecondary options that work for them and improve their chances at educational and career success.Higher Learning Advocates has developed "101: Postsecondary Data" to provide an intro-level primer on the issue of postsecondary data and why it matters to today's students and consumers, the second in our series of explainers looking at key policy issues in postsecondary education.

101: Today's Students

Today's students are different than the students that federal policy is designed to serve. They are working adults, parents, part-time and online learners, veterans and more diverse in terms of age, race, and income. Get up to speed on who today's students really are with this "101", the first in our series of explainers looking at key policy issues in postsecondary education.

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