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Witnesses Urge Congress to Advance Bold Higher Education Reforms

The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), today held a hearing to learn how Congress can strengthen America’s higher education system. Witnesses and members discussed reforms the will help ensure more students have the opportunity to complete an advanced, quality education without absorbing unmanageable debt.

“Too many Americans struggle to realize the dream of higher education,” said Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC). “Our current system is unaffordable, inflexible, and outdated … The upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act provides Congress an opportunity to help every individual – regardless of age, location, or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.”

In response to feedback from students, institutions, innovators, administrators, and researchers last year, the committee established four key principles to guide the reauthorization process: empowering students and families to make informed decisions; simplifying and improving student aid; promoting innovation, access, and completion; and ensuring strong accountability while limiting the federal role.

Former Indiana Governor and Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said, “It’s my great hope that this Congress will have the courage to see the challenges and treat reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as an opportunity for reform.” He continued, “The country needs a reauthorization ... that will: reduce the costs of higher education’s regulatory burdens; simplify and improve student aid; [and] create an environment more conducive to innovation in higher education.”

Dr. Christine M. Keller, Vice President of the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities, stressed the need for “access to clear, meaningful data … to answer questions and provide essential information for higher education stakeholders – for student and families to make more informed decisions about where to attend college; for policymakers to determine allocations of public resources and evaluate institutional effectiveness; and for college leaders to facilitate innovation and successful student outcomes.”

After outlining several opportunities for simplifying federal aid, Mr. Michael J. Bennett, Associate Vice President for Financial Aid Services at St. Petersburg College, recommended “a new repayment model that will simplify and streamline the repayment process by collapsing the various existing plans into two basic plans … simplifying repayment for students would certainly decrease default rates and the taxpayers’ burden of having to shoulder the costs of defaulted loans.”

Bennett added, “These initiatives and simplification efforts must be paired with the availability of personalized, comprehensive financial education services to help students.”

Speaking of the committee’s principles for strengthening America’s higher education system, Chairwoman Foxx concluded, “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.”

To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit


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