“Our institutions of higher learning must have independence from government regulation and paperwork to remain the best in the world” – Lamar Alexander
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told members of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association that the greatest danger to the independence and autonomy of higher education is overregulation by the federal government.
In 2005, Senator Alexander introduced legislation – the Higher Education Simplification and Deregulation Act – to ease this burden on institutions. The Senate included many provisions of this legislation in legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act which passed the full Senate in July 2007.
“However, despite this good news,” said Alexander, “I am very concerned that we are more than doubling the current requirements we already impose on institutions of higher education. Over the next several weeks I will be talking with my colleagues about the need to reduce the reporting burden, not increase it. Our institutions of higher learning must have independence from government regulation and paperwork to remain the best in the world. There is no need for the administrators at Austin Peay or Vanderbilt University or the Nashville Auto Diesel College to be spending more time on paperwork and less time educating their students.”
“The secret weapon in Tennessee’s success is our outstanding colleges and universities, both public and private,” continued Alexander, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee with jurisdiction over education policy. “The more government regulates and mandates, there is less freedom of thought and innovation at our universities. It is up to higher education leaders to share this with legislators.
Alexander gave his remarks at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, where he received its “2008 Gold Medallion Award for Excellence in Education Policy” award. This is the second time Alexander had been honored by the organization, having been presented with this same award in 2004.
Speaking before a crowd of university presidents, state legislators, and civic and business leaders, Alexander shared his belief that the higher education community must do a better job of explaining the importance of the autonomy and independence to state and federal leaders and the public, especially on such issues as:
• Tuition increases,
• Student learning and accountability, and
• Endowment spending.
Alexander is a former U.S. Secretary of Education and the former president of the University of Tennessee. As governor, he led Tennessee to become the first state to pay teachers more for teaching well and began the Tennessee Governors Schools for Outstanding Students.