Chairman Alexander: Federal Government Should Not Act as A “National School Board for Colleges”

Posted on April 10, 2019

“Congress should create a new measure of accountability that looks at whether students are actually repaying their loans. A second step to improve accountability would be for the federal government to make the data it collects from colleges more useful to students and families. And third, we should strengthen the 44 federally recognized accrediting agencies upon which we rely for certifying that students are receiving a quality education.” – Sen. Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2019 — Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that the federal government should not act as “a national school board for colleges, telling states and accreditors and boards of directors at institutions how to manage the 6,000 colleges and universities.”

“Four years ago, this committee passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which reversed the trend towards a national school board for elementary and secondary education,” Alexander said. “For the same reasons, Washington should resist the urge to send thousands of federal bureaucrats to evaluate our colleges and universities, which would, in effect, create a national school board for colleges. Our goal needs to be to help students know that their degrees are going to be worth their time and money and to help taxpayers know that the federal government isn’t financing programs that do not provide students with a valuable education.”

Chairman Alexander made his remarks today at a Senate education committee hearing to explore how to better hold colleges and universities accountable for ensuring their students are earning degrees worth their time and money. Today’s hearing was the third hearing of this Congress on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA).

Alexander laid out his proposals: “Congress should create a new measure of accountability that looks at whether students are actually repaying their loans. This would be a more effective and simpler way to ensure that taxpayers aren’t financing degrees that are priced so high and worth so little that students are never able to pay back their loans. A second step to improve accountability would be for the federal government to make the data it collects from colleges more useful to students and families. As we work on updating the Higher Education Act, we first need to identify what information schools actually need to report, and second to  provide direction to the department on how to make that information accessible and useful to students.

“And third, we should strengthen the 44 federally recognized accrediting agencies upon which we rely for certifying that students are receiving a quality education. For example, instead of requiring that accreditors have a standard of ‘student achievement,’ Congress could more clearly require that accreditors measure whether students are both learning and succeeding, but leave the specific ways of measuring those to accreditors and institutions.”

On April 2, the committee held an HEA reauthorization hearing to examine the process for responding to sexual assault on college campuses, and on March 12, the committee held an HEA reauthorization hearing on FAFSA simplification and reducing the burden of verification. In February, Alexander outlined his priorities for updating HEA at the American Enterprise Institute.

You can read Alexander’s full prepared remarks here.

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