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  • Realistic measures our government can take to improve higher education
  • Posted By:
  • Willy R
  • Posted On:
  • 10-Oct-2014
  • Of late, a lot of debate is ongoing about bringing about more accountability in higher education. Some of the ideas doing their rounds recently include empowering parents and students by giving them better information on outcomes and cost.

    Other absolutely latest ideas coming up include expanding Income Share Agreements and other private financing options and replacing accreditation agencies with new set of authorizers.
    Debates around the for-profit colleges are at an all-time high. When you look at the overall scenario, you will find some people advocating status quo while some want no federal interference whatsoever.

    There is a group focused only on wanting more public money and there are people who wish to genuinely lower costs and improve quality by leveraging federal power and funds. This group has progressive ideas that focus on creating space for innovation and rewarding outcomes and not enrolments.

    Recently reform agenda proposed by Paul Ryan called colleges to have “skin in the game”. Doing this would lead to a situation where colleges would either be punished or rewarded through the creation of new grant programs.

    “Skin in the game” would also require change of rules for the federal financial aid programs currently in existence. Doing this in turn will give more power to the federal government which means more control over what colleges do.

    Obama, Marco Rubio, Reed, Ryan and other vociferous policymakers are focused on broad reforms. There is no common consensus under a single tent about how the federal role can be restructured by fleshing out important differences.

    The bottom line is that students have to be imparted high quality education at affordable price. Most reformers today feel that non-governmental and government organizations that play a role in offering affordable, quality education for students are failing to perform.

    These are failures for sure and the need of the hour is to find out specific areas where the federal government has the necessary resources to perform well. Rather than handing over all non-performing areas to the government, it is important to identify other institutions that can do roles efficiently, roles that not compatible for the government.

    There is a widespread argument that designing and implementation of ‘bright line’ policies is best left to the government as it is capable of handling it in a fair, transparent and effective manner.
    If you look at the “90/10” regulation and the Cohort Default Rates (CDR), these are certainly not perfect quality measures. These measures must necessarily be replaced by a set of modernized accountability mechanism, a mechanism that can apply to all institutions.

    The “skin in the game” policy can help encourage mediocre institutions to perform better and the worst performing schools can be weeded out with the loan performance floor. It is definitely possible to implement these reforms in a transparent manner.

    Our education department has all necessary data available and is faced with only one straightforward question – are students able to repay their loans? There is a major structural error in our President’s ratings proposal. This proposal aims at rating the entire higher education sector in terms of quality.

    Rather, the proposal must be modified to first address the huge gap in our approach to quality education assurance. This can be done through simple reforms rather than through complicated rating systems.







 

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