Press Release: Transforming the Higher Education Act for the 21st Century

Student-Centered Principles for HEA Reauthorization

Washington, DC—(November 4, 2015)— Today, Jobs for the Future joins with New America, the Business Roundtable, and a coalition of nine other national organizations to release a set of shared principles for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). The group also met with Congressional Staff on Capitol Hill to share their positions and elicit feedback. 

The seven principles agreed upon by the coalition of national education, workforce, and business organizations include: 

1. Outcomes are what matter. Student outcomes need to play a stronger role in our quality assurance system and in the rules determining access to public federal higher education funds.

2. Federal financial aid policies need to be more flexible. The federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of HEA do too little to support students who are older, returning to school, or seeking specific skills and credentials for work.

3. Higher education needs to do more to connect learning and work. HEA reauthorization should encourage institutions to expand experiential learning opportunities by supporting the use of college work-study and other innovative strategies for fostering stronger linkages between work-based and classroom learning.

4. Accreditation processes need to be more transparent and rigorous. Our quality assurance system is fragmented, duplicative, and overly focused on institutional inputs and processes rather than program quality and student outcomes.

5. Quality assurance processes should focus more on programs and credentials. Improved competency and credential validation processes that include employers would go a long way to improve transparency around skill attainment and to ensure that credentials are used for making employment-related decisions.

6. Higher education is not an island; HEA shouldn’t be either. The reauthorization of HEA creates opportunities to better align the law, particularly the rules surrounding access to the federal student aid programs, with other federal education and training programs.

7. Policy should encourage innovation and experimentation. HEA should provide safe spaces for experimentation with new outcome-based quality assurance processes, alternative currency for awarding financial aid, and rigorous evaluation of new approaches.

Today’s economy is markedly different than it was 50 years ago when the Higher Education Act was first passed. Society, education, and our economy will continue to change. These guiding principles are intended to reflect this changing environment and to ultimately increase access, quality, affordability, and educational opportunities for all Americans. We are committed to working with Congress to renew the promise of the Higher Education Act and expand the scope and impact of the nation’s postsecondary education system.

Read a detailed description of the principles