WASHINGTON, D.C. | September 18, 2013 -
Before we begin, I want to take a moment to offer our condolences and prayers to all whose lives were shaken by the tragedy earlier this week in Washington’s Navy Yard. The victims and survivors, as well as their families, will remain in our thoughts. I also want to extend our appreciation to the first responders, metro police officers, and our own Capitol police who worked diligently then, as they do now, to keep our capital city safe. Thank you.
Returning to today’s subcommittee business, I’d like to thank our panel of witnesses for joining us today to discuss the ways postsecondary institutions are utilizing innovative partnerships to improve higher education access and affordability.
With thousands of colleges, top-ranked research universities, and specialized degree programs, America is home to the greatest higher education system in the world. Our diverse institutions not only cater to the unique needs of students from around the globe, but also drive our nation’s economic competitiveness by preparing graduates for the 21st century workforce.
However, our higher education system is not without its challenges. College costs continue to rise at an unprecedented rate, compelling institutions to explore more creative ways to rein in tuition. Changing student demographics heighten the demand for more flexible degree programs and course schedules. And evolving technologies mean institutions must constantly modernize program offerings to ensure graduates have the skills necessary to thrive in today’s workforce.
Recognizing these new dynamics, a growing number of institutions are forming creative partnerships with private sector entities to help reduce costs, strengthen degree programs, and enrich coursework to better meet the needs of a changing student body.
With the development of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, institutions are exploring exciting new ways to deliver high quality education opportunities to students all over the world. These online platforms are revolutionizing instructional delivery, and providing thousands of students access to free educational resources at the click of a button. Coursera, edX, and Udacity are just a few of the MOOC providers helping universities build online learning environments where students can access and complete high quality courses in their own time.
Georgia Tech is working to take online education a step further, announcing in May plans to work with AT&T and Udacity to offer the first fully online master’s program for computer science. Students will be able to earn their degree completely online and at a fraction of the cost of traditional programs, possibly even less than $7,000.
While some institutions are exploring ways to improve higher education access and affordability through partnerships with online providers, others are forming partnerships with other nearby colleges and universities to offer students in-demand degree programs at a more affordable price.
To expand degree options for students without raising tuition, administrators at Indiana’s Grace College partnered with two local institutions to develop a program that allows Grace College students to take advantage of the popular nursing and engineering programs offered at the other schools.
Another great example of innovative partnerships can be found at Emmanuel College, a small liberal arts school in the heart of the Longwood Medical Center in Boston. In 2001 the school leased an unused piece of land to pharmaceutical giant Merck & Company, forging a partnership that launched a wealth of biomedical graduate programs and specialized summer internship opportunities for Emmanuel students. Enrollment has since tripled and Emmanuel has regained a competitive edge in the higher education system.
It is creative partnerships like these that will help ensure our higher education system remains the best in the world. As policymakers, we have a responsibility to ensure such innovation can continue. By lifting burdensome regulations and simplifying the current complex statutory framework, more institutions will have the opportunity to innovate and meet the changing needs of our students and economy.
Earlier this year, we took a step in the right direction by approving the Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act, legislationto eliminate three regulations that threaten to stifle innovation at postsecondary schools. I hope we can work together through the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to continue these efforts to limit federal overreach and preserve flexibility in our modern higher education system.
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