A mission to review higher education

Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has a mandate to revise the Federal Law on Higher Education by the end of the year. He could easily do that with his latest recording

Alexander has already met with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, the highest-ranking committee member, says, along with nine other committee members, to talk about putting together nearly a dozen bilateral proposals in a single piece of legislation.

“My goal is to inform our committee this spring’s legislation so that the entire Senate can think about it this summer,” he said Monday at an event at the American Enterprise Institute. “This timetable should allow for a conference with the House of Representatives with its version of Higher Education Reform, so we can put together a gift for 20 million college students and their families for Christmas.”

For Alexander, the transition to a more than ten-year late re-authorization of the Higher Education Act would be the second major school revision under his presidency. In 2015, Alexander and Murray introduced a general revision of the Federal Law K-12, now known as Law, that all students succeed.

And for Alexander, formerly the Education Minister of President George H.W. Bush, the governor of Tennessee and president of the University of Tennessee system, which would rewrite the law of higher education, would be a particularly sweet farewell. The four-man Senator announced last year that he will not seek re-election in 2020.

Alexander described his plan on Monday, saying that he has focused on three priorities: simplifying the application for state student allowance, simplifying loan payment options, and setting up a new accountability system based on whether students pay the fees. Loan.

“The questions I hear most from students are:” Can I afford it? Two, “Is it worth it? “And three:” Can you apply for financial assistance and reimbursement? Student loans are easier? “, He said.

To this end, Alexander listed nearly a dozen proposals developed by committee members with the support of both parties. Among other things, this includes reducing the number of questions in the free application for a state study grant from 108 to 15.

“The easiest, fastest and best way to make college affordable for poor students is to simplify FAFSA so that poor students do not feel intimidated,” he said.

Regarding loan disbursement, Alexander proposed to eliminate the nine loan options and create an option that guarantees that borrowers will never pay more than 10 percent of their income. If a borrower loses his job, Alexander said, the payment would stop and not affect credit ratings. The monthly payment would automatically be withheld like federal taxes.

Alexander also expressed interest in expanding competency-based programs, where students start college and go through lessons, depending on what they know and how quickly they master a skill. Advice on financial assistance to students and families; easier loan language; Pell scholarships for prisoners; and the requirement that all higher education institutions on average submit estimates of credits and income after graduation, also known as paid employment

“I was very pleased to hear that he acknowledges the serious and growing challenges facing students and families and the need for us to work together on a comprehensive re-authorization that really addresses them,” said Senator Patty Murray of D Wash. Older member of the committee, said in a statement. “This is a time when we need to take a step forward and work hard to negotiate a comprehensive re-authorization that really works for students, families and borrowers, and I hope we can continue to tackle the difficult tasks. “

Many university policy experts said that they were encouraged to hear that due to the already belated re-authorization, so much work was already under way among stakeholders, though some were skeptical that the plan described by Alexander provided more guarantees for the students more disadvantaged.

Lanae Erickson, Vice President of Third Way’s Policy and Social Policy Program, said the Senator’s plans are not specific on how students who leave the university with debt can be helped.

“I do not hear anything Senator Alexander put on the table,” he said. “We have big problems in our higher education system, and it’s not enough to join existing invoices that can be supported by both sides.”

Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that Alexander and the other committee members should keep in mind that the growth in enrollment, five million more students since 1990, was borne by colored people.

“We need to use this moment to look at our policies and priorities and make sure we respond to those students’ needs,” he said.

Others did not agree with the proposal for paid employment originally introduced by the Obama administration to regulate for-profit universities, many of which enrolled students in non-accredited programs, leaving little to be desired. employment and many debts for student loans. Education Minister Betsy DeVos has rejected this regulatory requirement.

Sarah A. Flanagan, vice president of government relations and policy development at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities representing nearly 1,000 higher education institutions, said her members remain extremely concerned about the way income is reported. Certain academic programs that quickly adapt to the changing needs of the workforce will drive people into specific careers and create a problem of equity.