Higher Education Reform and College Opportunity
Senator Mike Lee recently introduced legislation that would expand college opportunity for low-income and middle-class families by providing for new alternatives to the federal accreditation system. The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act would allow all 50 states and the District of Columbia to develop their own systems of accrediting educational institutions, curricula, apprenticeships, programs, and even individual courses. All accredited programs would be eligible to receive federal student loan money.
Our higher education system – and especially the federal policies that govern access to it – is failing the two-thirds of Americans who never get a B.A., and the large minority of Americans who never set foot on a college campus.
Those Americans need access to skills that current colleges aren’t teaching, at prices that four-year residential institutions can’t afford, on timelines the academic calendar can’t accommodate. And the lower a student’s income, the greater the need.
In today’s customizable world, students should be able to put their transcripts together a la carte – on-campus and online, in classrooms and offices, with traditional semester courses and alternative scenarios like competency testing – and assistance should follow them at every stop along the way.
We don’t need to dump our higher education system – we just need to open it up to more students and teachers.
So instead of eliminating our current accreditation regime, my bill would simply allow 50 new ones to compete with it, and each other – with enough quality control to protect students and taxpayers, and enough flexibility to incentivize experimentation and innovation.
The point of higher education policy should be to make it easier and more affordable for good teachers to teach, willing students to learn, the economy to grow, and civil society to flourish. State-based accreditation reform can help on all four fronts.
Higher Education Reform
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