01.25.18

Higher Education Act: Murray Calls for Expanding Access to Higher Education for Underrepresented and Nontraditional Students

In hearing, Murray highlights the need for a variety of solutions to support students, improve access, and encourage responsible innovation

 

To avoid innovation at the expense of our students, Murray calls for evidence-based experimentation by strengthening ‘experimental site initiatives’ within HEA

 

Murray stresses importance of addressing a variety of issues facing students through a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act

 

Murray: “I look forward to a conversation today on how we can provide a path to students who may not feel there is a place for them in higher education”

 

*Watch Senator Murray’s opening remarks here*

 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee delivered the following opening statement on increasing access to higher education for historically underrepresented and nontraditional students, and expanding innovation to prepare these and other students for a changing economy.

 

This is the third of a series of hearings regarding reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

 

Key Excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Chairman Alexander—I was encouraged to hear you say simplification shouldn’t mean eliminating aid, and the Higher Education Act should be student-centered. I couldn’t agree more, but the devil is in the details. I am confident we can find bipartisan solutions, but it will be challenging and this just beginning. After all, if we want to truly help students we also need to improve how we hold colleges accountable for student performance, and find ways to combat the rising number of threats to student safety on campuses—including campus sexual assault. And because many of these challenges are intertwined, I look forward to working with the Chairman and stopping at nothing less than a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”

 

“Now—I know there will be a lot of discussion today around improving access to higher education and the role innovative models of education can play, but we also need strong guardrails to hold all programs accountable for results—ensuring students get high-quality instruction and the right support. Federal policy cannot set our students up to fail. We would not want to repeat instances where students were misled or cheated by their schools—and now are stuck paying back loans on a nonexistent or worthless degree. In the worst cases—a student’s college or training provider may have decided they could no longer make a profit—and simply closed down or collapsed. These outcomes are unacceptable.”

 

“But, as we continue these conversations, we cannot be allured by innovation for innovation’s sake—and risk allowing a generation of students to be sacrificed in the process. With experimentation must come evidence—that is the only way to guarantee our students are benefitting from innovative programs. It’s the only way to truly protect taxpayer dollars, and it’s the only way to make sure students don’t simply become guinea pigs for any outside-the-box idea. The Higher Education Act allows for responsible innovation with ‘experimental sites initiatives.’ We should strengthen this policy to make sure more schools are participating in meaningful experiments—collecting real evidence that shows what causes students to succeed.”

 

Video of Sen. Murray’s speech available HERE.

 

Full text below of Sen Murray’s speech:

 

“Thank you, Chairman.

 

“And I want to welcome each of our witnesses here today.

 

“I look forward to hearing from you all on ways we can make college a reality for students who may not have access to the opportunities higher education can create.

 

“Providing pathways to college for non-traditional and underrepresented students should be a top priority of ours, but we also need to consider whether these pathways are accessible to all students and whether underrepresented students have the tools they need to succeed.

 

“I believe we had a productive conversation on reducing college costs last week.

 

“And Chairman Alexander—I was encouraged to hear you say simplification shouldn’t mean eliminating aid, and the Higher Education Act should be student-centered.

 

“I couldn’t agree more, but the devil is in the details.

 

“I am confident we can find bipartisan solutions, but it will be challenging and this is just beginning…

 

“After all, if we want to truly help students we also need to improve how we hold colleges accountable for student performance, and find ways to combat the rising number of threats to student safety on campuses—including campus sexual assault.

 

“And because many of these challenges are intertwined, I look forward to working with the Chairman and stopping at nothing less than a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

 

“Now—I want to dig a little deeper into the students we’re hoping to help and the multiple, overlapping barriers they have to overcome in higher education.

 

“Students from low-income families are far less likely to even apply to college than their wealthier peers…

 

“Students who are the first in their family to go to college often struggle to navigate the complex financial aid system and how to succeed in their courses…

 

“Students of color face implicit bias and discrimination, leading to significant inequities that begin early in our K-12 system….

 

“Veterans and servicemembers are often targeted by predatory for-profit colleges that do not prioritize their education…

 

“Students who are homeless or in the foster care system get lost in paperwork and bureaucracy when applying for financial aid and housing…

 

“Working adults need a flexible schedule so they can continue to work while earning a degree that provides them with skills that are relevant to their careers…

 

“And I could go on.

 

“So I look forward to a conversation today on how we can provide a path to students who may not feel there is a place for them in higher education and how we can set up every student with the support they need to navigate their program, graduate on time, and move into a good career.

 

“Now—I know there will be a lot of discussion today around improving access to higher education and the role innovative models of education can play…

 

“But we also need strong guardrails to hold all programs accountable for results—ensuring students get high-quality instruction and the right support.

 

“Federal policy cannot set our students up to fail.

 

“We would not want to repeat instances where students were misled or cheated by their schools—and now are stuck paying back loans on a nonexistent or worthless degree.

 

“In the worst cases—a student’s college or training provider may have decided they could no longer make a profit—and simply closed down or collapsed.

 

“These outcomes are unacceptable.

 

“But—there are a number of solutions I believe can work in conjunction to support students, improve access, and encourage responsible innovation.

 

“High-quality online programs and competency-based education allow students to learn at their own pace—and should absolutely be a part of the conversation.

 

“They can give students the flexibility to work on their degree when and where they want to—whether that is at home after their kids have gone to bed, or on their commute to work.

 

“But many of these schools and programs fail to provide students who need the most help with the supports they need to succeed— sometimes deepening the equity gaps we already have.

 

“All programs must be held accountable for educating students and preparing them for jobs in today’s changing economy. 

 

“Additionally—colleges and universities should create partnerships with high schools to offer dual enrollment programs or early college opportunities giving all students, including underrepresented students, a better shot at success.

 

“And—we must provide students with the tools to make it to graduation day, including in-depth advising, tutoring, career counseling, and full financial support to help with child care, textbooks, food, housing and transportation.

 

“These are just some of many solutions proposed to address gaps in higher education enrollment, persistence, and completion, and I hope we can debate the merits of each thoroughly.

 

“But—as we continue these conversations, we cannot be allured by innovation for innovation’s sake—and risk allowing a generation of students to be sacrificed in the process.

 

“With experimentation must come evidence…

 

“That is the only way to guarantee our students are benefitting from innovative programs…

 

“It’s the only way to truly protect taxpayer dollars…

 

“And it’s the only way to make sure students don’t simply become guinea pigs for any outside-the-box idea.

 

“The Higher Education Act allows for responsible innovation with ‘experimental sites initiatives.’

 

“We should strengthen this policy to make sure more schools are participating in meaningful experiments—collecting real evidence that shows what causes students to succeed.

 

“Now—before we end, I just want to reiterate my concerns about the Department of Education’s implementation of our nation’s K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

 

“We included federal guardrails in ESSA to ensure our most vulnerable students, the students who often struggle more than their peers, are able to get the support they need.

 

“Chairman Alexander—last week, you said if I was concerned, you were concerned.

 

“That was really encouraging to hear…

 

“I am confident we can work together to ensure the Department is implementing our bipartisan law as we intended…

 

“And then we can get back to our good-faith negotiations on the Higher Education Act.  

 

“Thank you.”

 

 

###