Originally known as the Council for Financial Aid to Education, CAE was established in New York in 1952 by a group of executives under the leadership of Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. (General Motors) to advance corporate support for higher education. Their goal was to increase the number of citizens who go to college.
From 1952 to 1989, CAE ran a highly successful national campaign with the Ad Council called "Give to the College of Your Choice." A significant increase in donations to higher education resulted from this campaign. During this time, CAE also produced a short film called "Education is Everybody's Business," which aired on national television for several years.
CAE was the first organization in the US to regularly provide national statistics on private giving to higher education. The Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey is the authoritative source on private giving to institutions of higher education and private K-12 schools nationwide. It consistently captures about 85 percent of the total voluntary support to US colleges and universities. CAE has managed the survey as a public service for over 50 years. Results of the survey are distributed in an annual report authored by the survey director, Ann E. Kaplan. Results are also available by subscription to an online, interactive database—VSEr Data Miner.
In 1996, CAE became a subsidiary of the nonprofit research organization, the RAND Corporation. Roger Benjamin, head of RAND Education, became CAE’s president. Dr. Benjamin continues to lead CAE today.
In 1997, RAND released CAE’s report, which warned of a potential fiscal crisis in American higher education. The report, "Breaking the Social Contract: The Fiscal Crisis in Higher Education," showed that millions of Americans might be denied access to higher education due to unsustainable growth in costs and demand. The timely and still relevant report was based on a two-year study prepared by a national commission, formed by CAE and co-chaired by Joseph Dionne (then chairman and CEO of The McGraw-Hill Companies) and Thomas Kean (former governor of New Jersey). The commission called upon the nation to address rising costs and shrinking state funds, and CAE echoed the commission's message through regional meetings with leaders in education, business, and government.
CAE, as part of RAND, became a leading resource for analysis, strategic planning, and policy recommendations for government leaders and state systems of higher education. CAE made recommendations for how to improve student performance. These included:
- In 1998, CAE was hired by the Mayor's Task Force on the City University of New York (CUNY) to evaluate the curriculum, mission, and governance structure of the CUNY system, the nation's largest urban public university system. [The Governance of the City University of New York; CUNY's Testing Program]. CAE's president, Roger Benjamin, served as the executive director of the task force, which was chaired by Benno Schmidt, Chairman of the Edison Schools and the former president of Yale University.
- In 2000, CAE conducted a study for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that helped develop a 15-year master plan for Texas higher education. CAE provided a needs-analysis of the state's regional higher-education capacity and its relationship to projected regional economic development.
In addition to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and CUNY, CAE conducted strategic planning work for higher-education systems in California (1996-1998) and Nevada (2001-2002).
In 2002, CAE launched a national effort to assess the quality of undergraduate education by directly measuring student learning outcomes through performance tasks. This assessment model came to be known as the Collegiate Learning Assessment (now CLA+). CAE also developed a similar assessment for high schools and middle schools with the College and Work Readiness Assessment (now CWRA+).
CAE was spun-off from RAND in 2005 under its own board of directors, now chaired by Dr. Katharine Lyall, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Wisconsin. This spin-off facilitated a focus on providing educational assessment services to educational institutions.
To date, more than 1,000 colleges and high schools have participated in the CLA and CWRA. The assessments are delivered online and use real-world, problem-solving tasks to measure students' critical-thinking skills. In 2013 CAE launched CLA+ and CWRA+, which are reliable and valid for judgments about individual student performance. This change makes it possible to significantly expand the range of CLA+ and CWRA+ applications. Today the CLA+ and CWRA+ are used for measurement of proficiency levels achieved in critical thinking skills as well as value added growth in those skills.
CAE also offers its assessments to international schools at both the secondary and post-secondary level. CAE in 2011-12 participated in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) feasibility study, with CLA performance tasks culturally adapted and translated for online delivery. Now CAE is working in collaboration with OECD on CLA+ International, taking CLA+ performance assessment of generic skills to Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.
In 2012, CAE began offering test development services for clients including consortia, testing companies, states, and municipalities. CAE is now a leading provider of innovative, high quality assessment solutions.