U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today made the following statement regarding U.S. Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings’ comments today on the September 19 report from the Commission on the Future of Higher Education:
“I like Secretary Spellings' recommendations to simplify financial aid, improve access, and to find ways to reduce costs. But I am troubled that her Commission on Higher Education believes that having "a complex, decentralized, postsecondary education system [with] no comprehensive strategy" is a weakness. I believe the opposite.
“The key to the quality of American higher education is that it is NOT one system. It is a marketplace of more than 6,000 autonomous institutions regulated primarily by competition (for students, faculty and research dollars) and by consumer choice (federal dollars following students to institutions of their choosing). There is, in addition, an independent system of accreditation.
“The Secretary says new accountability efforts cannot be charted by the federal government alone. I agree. I will monitor carefully new federal efforts to collect data. Information for consumers is a good thing. But American higher education does not need a barrage of new regulations imposing new costs so someone in Washington can try to figure out how to improve the Harvard Classics department and Nashville Auto Diesel College--both of whose students are eligible for federal grants and loans.
“I believe the overregulation of higher education is the greatest deterrent to maintaining its quality and that autonomy, competition and choice are the greatest incentives to excellence.”
Senator Alexander is the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Education and Early Childhood Development and former U.S. Secretary of Education.