WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee outlined legislation that would greatly expand access to higher education for many working- and middle-class students, as well as many individuals seeking non-traditional forms of education.In a speech at the Conservative Policy Summit, sponsored by Heritage Action for America, Lee argued that federal policy on higher education has not kept up with technology and, as a result, is leaving millions of students behind.
“Today, technology has made it possible for students to take classes from professors in another state; for academics to conduct research with colleagues across oceans; and for anyone with an iPad to carry a library around in their backpack,” said Lee.
“For the first time in history, students don’t have to go to college to go to college,” Lee added. “Unfortunately, this innovative, alternative market is being cordoned-off from the vast majority of students by increasingly outdated federal policy governing higher-education accreditation.”
He explained that the problem is the current federal accreditation policy, which only allows degree-issuing institutions to be accredited and, therefore, ensures only they can receive federal student loans. Blocking out competition for education dollars drives up the cost of getting a degree.
“In effect, Washington’s offer to most Americans after high school is: go tens of thousands of dollars into non-dischargeable debt to pursue an over-priced degree there’s no guarantee you’ll receive, or spend the rest of your life locked out of the middle class,” said Lee.
To fix this, Lee has recently introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act (S. 1904). The bill would allow states to voluntarily create parallel accreditation systems that expand educational options eligible for federal student loan dollars.
“There are too many valuable opportunities and invaluable people current law excludes. It’s time to decouple Title IV eligibility and enrollment at degree-issuing institutions,” said Lee.
“In higher education, as in so many other areas, the greatest threats to equal opportunity are the unintended consequences of dysfunctional policies. The current system has helped a lot of people, but it has left many others behind. Reform needs to circle back and make equal opportunity a reality for everyone.”