Alexander: Congress Should Create Environment That Allows Colleges to be as Versatile as Today’s Students

Posted on January 25, 2018

“Our reauthorization and today’s hearing is focused on students. Today we will look at how we can help colleges provide an education that works for every student – whether it is an 18-year-old college freshman, a mom returning to school to finish her bachelors while also working full-time, or a 25 year old low-income student who is the first in his family to attend college.”

WASHINGTON, January 25, 2018—Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said Congress should create an environment that allows colleges to be as versatile as today’s students are.

Today, the committee held its third hearing this Congress on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, to look at ways to encourage institutions to move beyond the traditional classroom mold to meet the needs of all students.

“This is the digital age with remarkable inventions everywhere we turn, and so today we are looking at how the federal government can get out of the way so schools can innovate to meet the needs of all of today’s college students,” said Alexander. “Our reauthorization and today’s hearing is focused on students. Today we will look at how we can help colleges provide an education that works for every student – whether it is an 18-year old college freshman, a mom returning to school to finish her bachelors while also working full-time, or a 25 year old low-income student who is the first in his family to attend college.”

Alexander continued: “In other words, how can Congress create an environment for colleges to innovate to meet the needs of today’s – and tomorrow’s – students? As the typical university student has changed into a more wide-ranging group, there is a bipartisan consensus that colleges need to be able to offer solutions to meet those students’ diverse needs –flexible class schedules or online learning to accommodate for family and work commitments.”

“One of the most promising innovations is competency-based learning, which helps students finish a degree based on their ability to demonstrate knowledge of the subjects – rather than hours spent in a classroom. A good example is a working mom studying at the University of Wisconsin who has earned her associate’s degree in nursing and wants to get her Bachelor’s in nursing to increase her earning potential. Through the university’s new Flexible Option, she is able to earn credits and finish tests and assignments on her own time, including between her shift and her son’s baseball game, to earn her degree sooner.”

“Today’s college student could look many different ways, and colleges are working hard to meet their needs, and what I want to know is, how can we get the federal government out of the way so they can meet these students’ needs?”

The committee met on November 28, 2017 to examine proposals to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and on January 18, 2018 to examine proposals to simplify federal financial aid, which currently consists of two grant programs, five loan programs, and nine repayment plans. 

Alexander’s full prepared remarks are here.

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