Arlington, VA (Sept. 22, 2020) – If US higher education is to survive, it must refocus its efforts and prioritize students, Angel B. Pérez, CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), said today in remarks at the 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference.
The association represents nearly 14,000 counselors, admission officers, and others who assist students in the journey to college. Like many sectors of the US economy, the admission profession has felt the effects of the coronavirus crisis on its institutional budgets, Pérez noted. But those concerns are secondary when compared to the larger crisis looming for higher ed, he said.
“While we all understandably worry about our schools and our institutions, we have to remember that without students, nothing else in the educational endeavor matters,” Pérez said in his first keynote address as the association’s chief executive officer. “…As we move away from enforcing a code of ethics, NACAC will act publicly and with determination when policy or practice threatens to cause harm to or perpetuate inequities among students.”
Pérez’s address to conference-goers comes at a time of transition for the association. In December, following a two-year long “restraint of trade” inquiry by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), NACAC announced its was deleting three provisions from its code of ethics that the DOJ believed could inhibit, to some extent, competition among colleges for students. Prior to the conference, NACAC’s Assembly voted to change its code of ethics to a a “best practices” guide.
The new document will not be enforced, but Pérez said today he is confident the association will use its national profile to advocate for students and change the conversation about the role of higher education.
Citing findings from NACAC’s Ad Hoc Committee on Leadership in College Admission: Process, Findings, and Recommendations, Pérez outlined the critical challenges facing higher education overall as well as crucial next steps.
“So many of the challenges we face as a profession stem from the distorted view of higher education as a commodity to be purchased,” said Pérez, who became CEO in July and is a former admission officer. “This orientation is the deliberate result of policies in the US that have marginalized the value of higher education to both the individual and to society. This orientation has to change. Higher education is a public good, and NACAC will be work tirelessly to restore this notion in America.”
Pérez cited ways that the association already has moved in this direction, advocating for a number of initiatives over the summer that support students, families, and admission professionals, including:
- Promoting to students that “test-optional means test-optional” to clear up confusion among students and families about testing policies adopted in the wake of COVID-19
- Encouraging colleges to consider their use of standardized testing overall in light of equity concerns expressed in a recent NACAC report
- Advocating for the inclusion of undocumented students in federal student aid relief measures, a stance that has been validated by the federal courts
- Advocating to Congress for robust emergency funding for K-12 and postsecondary education in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and warning that students need protection from unscrupulous, predatory colleges, and
- Announcing to the public, through a media release and a national op-ed, that NACAC would seek to take the offensive in reframing the debate over higher education to consider social justice and equity as bedrock assumptions in all policy and practice discussions.
“Now this is only the beginning…we now have a north star—guidelines that are going to help us…begin to design the future of the association,” Pérez said, urging members to work together and with the association to achieve these objectives. “I know that if we put our minds to it, we can all achieve our goals.”
The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), founded in 1937, is an organization of nearly 14,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education.
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