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Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) has asked for public input in response to three white papers on policy issues being discussed in preparation for the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).

The papers address:

  • Risk-sharing or "skin-in-the-game." The stated goal focuses on realigning incentives so that colleges and universities have a "stronger vested interest and more responsibility in reducing excessive student borrowing." Possible strategies include requiring institutions to assume a liability based on some factor related to former students' repayment rates, to guarantee a percentage of their students' federal loans, or to pay yearly premiums into an insurance fund.
  • Data transparency and consumer information. The identified goals here are to ensure public access to "accurate, comparable data" and ensure "purposeful and consumer friendly" information for students. The paper suggests restricting data collections and disclosures to those related to student financing, success, or safety, and instead allow third-party organizations to continue voluntary data collections in other areas. The paper identifies potential solutions to improve the value of information which include allowing the Department of Education to collaborate with other agencies to link to their databases.
  • Higher education accreditation. The paper questions whether the accreditation system, and the federal government's reliance on accreditation to determine eligibility for federal student aid, should be overhauled. Concerns discussed include the need to focus more on outcomes rather than inputs and whether the current system stifles innovation.

The HELP Committee is asking for feedback from interested parties to help inform its HEA reauthorization work. Comments are due by April 24. The corresponding email addresses for each can be found here.


Liz Clark

Vice President, Policy and Research


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