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Look Ahead

5 Things to Watch in Higher Education, Contraceptives, Evidence-Based Policy, Organ Donation, and Democracy in 2022

These program teams also have their eyes on big goals, launches, results, and initiatives to maximize opportunity for students, patients, voters, and more.

While Arnold Ventures has a significant focus on the Criminal Justice and Health Care portfolios, the organization also looks at other ways it can maximize opportunity and minimize injustice via other programs. These program teams also have their eyes on big goals, launches, results, and initiatives coming up in 2022. Like health care and criminal justice, they look at how social programs can better serve individuals — be they patients, voters, or students. Here’s a preview of what’s to come and what they’re watching in higher education, contraceptive choice and access, evidence-based policy, organ donation, and democracy.

#1 Higher Education: Strengthened accountability measures in the Department of Education’s negotiated rulemaking

This year’s sessions on negotiated rulemaking — or NegReg” — will define the rules governing how schools can access federal student aid. (Getty Images)

The Department of Education continues negotiated rulemaking this spring, a process that defines how schools can access federal student borrower aid. AV’s focus is to put accountability measures in place for schools in order to protect students.

The committee for negotiated rulemaking, or negreg, comprised of for-profit and nonprofit school representatives, students, policymakers, and others, will meet three times this spring to talk about a wide range of institutional accountability rules, including:

  • Gainful employment rules, or the connection between how much debt students can take out and how much money they can expect to make after graduation 
  • The 9010 rule, which governs how schools can access money set aside for veterans’ education
  • Borrower defense rules, which outline how students can be protected and made whole when cheated by predatory schools

Director of Higher Education Kelly McManus recently outlines her top five goals for negotiated rulemaking in 2022, which center on accountability for schools, to the benefit of students. 

If the negotiated rulemaking committee is unable to reach consensus by the summer, Secretary of Education James Kvaal will weigh in on how the rules should be made.

#2 Contraceptive Choice and Access: Greater understanding of patients’ views on choice, access, and barriers 

A groundbreaking national study will look at how contraceptive needs — as patients define them — are being met. (Getty Images)

In many fields, broad-based demographic data can give only a small part of the story on why things happen or don’t happen, or what people want and why. The case is the same in reproductive health, where standard details like income, age, coverage status, geography, and simple method-use surveys have been used to try to determine patients’ unmet needs in contraception — and yet, they do not tell the full story. The understanding behind what patients want for contraception, why, and what stands in their way to accessing it is far more complex and nuanced; one method to understand patient needs is, of course, to talk to the patients. 

Dr. Añu Gómez of University of California, Berkeley, a field leader who has been focused for over 20 years on the structural, social, and historical context of contraceptive decision-making and access, is conducting a groundbreaking national study on how contraceptive needs — as patients define them — are being met. The survey has a focus on communities of color who face the greatest systemic barriers to contraceptive access; its results, due late this year, have the potential to inform policy intervention at both the national and state levels.

#3 Evidence-Based Policy: Research results on social programs

In this April 2021 photo, Rueben Castro, left, throws a football to Cameron at a park in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. Castro mentors the 14-year-old through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland. (Dolly Butz/​Sioux City Journal via Associated Press)

One of Arnold Ventures’ goals is to fund social programs that work — that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice. But how can you tell whether a social program actually, measurably works? Enter the Evidence-Based Policy team, the meticulous, beating heart of Arnold Ventures, which evaluates randomized controlled trials — considered the gold standard for determining the effectiveness of interventions — of social programs to see if they are able to do what they say they do. 

The Evidence-Based Policy team is expecting to see important interim or final results from several randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of programs focused on improving important life outcomes for low-income Americans this year. These include RCTs of Big Brothers Big Sisters, College Forward, Year Up Professional Training Corps, and Per Scholas. Some of these studies have the potential to grow the evidence base around college completion and workforce training programs, as shown in this list of top student success evaluations.

#4 Organ Donation: Contractor reform

More accountability to the organ donation space could save thousands of lives every year as well as billions of dollars to Medicare in avoided dialysis costs. (Getty Images)

The persistent, pervasive nature of the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to an increased need for organ transplants, which has an inequitable system for patients of color. Bipartisan Congressional leaders have already called acceleration of organ contractor reform an urgent health equity issue,” so keep an eye on the investigations from the Senate Finance and House Oversight committees. Policy fixes are critical to ensure that organ donation contractors are held accountable and inequities are addressed, including reforms promoting transparency and basic principles of good government contracting.

Within organ donation reform, Organize is shining a light on corruption and gross negligence among federal organ donation contractors. The organization is looking to bring accountability to the organ donation space for the first time in 40 years, saving thousands of lives every year as well as billions of dollars to Medicare in avoided dialysis costs.

#5 Democracy: Final Four voting in Alaska’s U.S. Senate and gubernatorial elections

Deborah Moody, an administrative clerk at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Anchorage, Alaska, looks at an oversized booklet explaining election changes in the state on Jan. 21, 2022. Alaska elections will be held for the first time this year under a voter-backed system that scraps party primaries and sends the top four vote-getters regardless of party to the general election, where ranked choice voting will be used to determine a winner. (Mark Thiessen/​Associated Press)

Alaska voters made history in 2020 when they became the first state to adopt Final Four Voting, a policy that gives all voters the ability to vote in an open primary and rank the top four candidates in the general election. The 2022 election will be the first in which this new system is put to the test. 

Alaskans for Better Elections will be focused on helping Alaska election officials implement the new method of voting while holding hundreds of meetings with candidates and civic groups to educate voters about the reform. If the reform works as intended, candidates running will have an incentive to broaden their appeal beyond their base and find common ground with other candidates in order to garner second and third-choice votes, critical to the outcome of high-profile contests such as the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial elections.