Sep 09 2016
Utahns have a lot to be proud of. We’re one of the happiest and healthiest states in the nation. We have one of the lowest poverty levels and the lowest level of income inequality of any state. Our economy ranked second in the nation for job growth last year, and CNBC named Utah the top state for doing business this year.
Despite all that we have accomplished, we cannot rest on our laurels. Not only are neighboring states looking to emulate our success, but unaddressed policy challenges are creating opportunities we should capitalize on.
That’s why I invited business, education, and technology leaders from around Utah, and from across the country, to join me at this year’s Utah Solutions Summit, which met on Thursday, Sept. 1.
As a federal legislator, one of the questions that concerns me the most is how does federal education policy make it harder for today’s students to acquire the skills they need to succeed in our competitive economy?
We know that too many young Americans are borrowing far too much money chasing increasingly expensive degrees that are worth less and less. One of the causes of the dysfunction within higher education is the current accreditation system, which requires students who need federal financial assistance to attend only those institutions that are approved by one of the nation’s eight regional accreditation entities.
This makes some sense for quality control. The problem is that in order for an educational program — like one of the many computer programming and coding “boot camps” springing up across Utah — to acquire this stamp of approval, it must go through a review process that is effectively controlled by schools that are already accredited.
As a result of this accreditation arrangement, where the regulated have become the regulators, innovative models of career training are often restricted from gaining access to the students who want to learn but need federal financial help to do so. That’s why I have introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act, which would allow states to create their own alternative systems of accrediting higher education providers.
Under the HERO Act, every state would be free to pursue innovative higher education models including professional training programs, apprenticeships, distance learning or even competency learning.
Some of these innovations would — and have — come from within our colleges and universities. Others would be created anew by education entrepreneurs. Those that served both students and employers the best would thrive and grow
And that really should be the focus of higher education reform: helping students. We’re driven to innovate not for our own personal satisfaction or convenience, but to make a difference in someone’s life and to help others fulfill their God-given potential.