WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 17, 2015
Today, too many Americans struggle to realize the dream of higher education. Our current system is unaffordable, inflexible, and outdated, and has resulted in too many students unable to complete college, saddled with loan debt, and ill-equipped to compete in our modern economy.
In recent years, more federal regulations, a lack of transparency, and a dizzying maze of student aid programs have only contributed to the problem. Students and families deserve better.
The upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act
provides Congress an opportunity to help every individual – regardless of age, location, or background – access and complete higher education, if they choose.
To inform the reauthorization process, the Education and the Workforce Committee has held more than a dozen hearings. After receiving feedback from students, institutions, innovators, administrators, and researchers, the committee established a set of key principles that will guide our reform of the postsecondary education law.
First, we must empower students and families to make informed decisions when it comes to selecting the institution that meets their unique needs. Today’s higher education resources are incomplete, inaccurate, and often complicate the financial aid process, misguiding students about their academic and financial options. Developing a more streamlined and transparent system, as well as enhancing financial literacy services, will help students better understand the higher education landscape and make choices based on easy-to-understand, relevant information.
Second, we must simplify and improve student aid. Currently, the federal government operates more than 10 aid programs, each with its own set of rules and requirements. Many students, particularly first-generation and low-income students, are overwhelmed by the complexity of the current system, which can ultimately deter them from accessing the aid that will help make college a reality. Consolidating this patchwork of aid programs will simplify the application and eligibility process and help more students understand, manage, and repay their debt.
Third, we must promote innovation, access, and completion. In recent years, as the postsecondary student population has changed, many institutions have developed new approaches to delivering higher education, including competency-based curriculums and online classes. The federal government should make every effort to support these innovations, as they have enabled more Americans to earn a degree or certificate faster, with less cost, and without additional disruption to their daily lives.
Finally, we must ensure strong accountability while limiting the federal role. The current administration has subjected institutions to onerous requirements and regulations, which have created a costly and time-consuming process, hampered innovation, and jeopardized academic freedom. Eliminating ineffective federal burdens will provide states and institutions the flexibility they need to effectively deliver a high quality education to their students.
We are confident – with guidance from higher education leaders such as you – these pillars will translate into meaningful federal reforms that reflect the evolving needs of students and the workforce.
We welcome your policy recommendations on how we can strengthen America’s higher education system to serve students, families, workers, and taxpayers better. I look forward to hearing from you and from my colleagues on this important issue.