WASHNGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee introduced legislation that would expand higher education opportunities 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.
“The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act would not only make the cost of higher education more affordable, but also make it easier for students to customize their own education and gain the specific skills they need to compete in today’s economy,” said Sen. Lee. “Today’s higher education system is falling behind on students’ increasingly diverse higher education needs and the resistance to change stifles the emergence of new education models than can be much more effective and affordable. The HERO Act will open the floodgates of innovation, providing greater choice, access, and opportunity for America’s students.”
The HERO Act does not replace the current accreditation system. It simply permits states, if they choose, to set up their own systems to accredit alternative institutions, programs, or courses. Because these new systems would be eligible for federal dollars, each proposal would still have to gain the approval of the Secretary of Education through an agreement with the state.
“Our current higher education system is controlled by the iron triangle of regional accreditation organizations, the schools and federal bureaucrats,” Lee added. “The result is the exploding cost of higher education, which either prevents students from getting the educational experience they need or forces them to take on unnecessarily large amounts of debt. We can do better by opening up new avenues of opportunity that make education more affordable and accessible.”
The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act
- Authorizes states to create an alternative, state-run process for accreditation, providing the state with the same authority as the Secretary of Education has in selecting the institutions eligible to participate in Title IV funding.
- Allows States to accredit any institution, that provides postsecondary education (courses or programs) that can be applied to a degree, credential or professional certification, including:
- Institutions of Higher Learning (Colleges/Universities);
- Non-profit Organizations;
- For-profit Organizations or Businesses; and
- Postsecondary apprenticeship programs.
- Requires States to enter into an agreement with the Secretary of Education prior to creating their own process for accreditation. These agreements would include:
- The designation of one or more accrediting entities within the State;
- The standards/criteria that an institution must meet in order to become accredited and maintain accreditation;
- The appeals process for an entity that is denied accreditation;
- The State policy regarding the transfer of credits;
- The agreed upon reporting requirements, which may include:
- The number of students who successfully complete each course or program;
- The number of students who successfully obtain their certification, credential or degree;
- Job placement for individuals who had obtained their certification, credential or degree;
- How often the agreed upon reports will be submitted to the Secretary; and
- Any requirements for third-party verification of the information in the reports.
- The State policy regarding public access to information related to State accredited programs and entities;
- An assurance by the State that it will only accredit institutions offering postsecondary education courses or programs that provide credits toward a postsecondary certification, credential or degree;
- A clear statement of the State’s definition of a postsecondary certification, credential and degree;
- A description of the agreements the State will enter into with institutions accredited under this system;
- A description of how the State will select institutions for accreditation under this system; and
- A description of how the State plans to administer Title IV funds for institutions it accredits under the alternative accreditation system.
- Assists States in covering the administrative and reporting costs associated with the alternative accreditation system in the same manner that assistance is currently provided to institutions of higher education.