Testimony before Senate HELP Committee focuses on productive innovation and redesigning higher education

WASHINGTON, DC—Lumina Foundation president and CEO Jamie Merisotis testified today before chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) and members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

At a hearing entitled “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Exploring Barriers and Opportunities within Innovation,” Merisotis, a globally recognized leader in philanthropy, higher education and public policy, addressed the need for Congress to adopt a student-centered approach in the next reauthorization—one that recognizes and builds upon today’s wider array of pathways to affordable, high-quality degrees and credentials.

Introductory summary of Merisotis’ testimony

Since it was first enacted in 1965, the Higher Education Act has extended educational opportunity to tens of millions of Americans. The reauthorization currently under Congressional consideration will be the most consequential in its legislative history, Merisotis said. By the end of this decade, more than two-thirds of all jobs will require some form of education beyond high school, and to meet the needs of today’s economy, the U.S. must dramatically increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025—an effort known at Lumina as Goal 2025. Today the national two- and four-year attainment rate is 40 percent.

Highlights from today’s hearing

Meeting Goal 2025 will require a focused and intentional effort to redesign higher education so that the needs of today’s diverse student body can be met. This includes the older, working, students of color, first generation students, low-income students, and financially independent students who increasingly comprise today’s college majority. Merisotis’ testimony before the Senate HELP Committee highlighted three steps that policymakers must take to encourage productive innovation and support student success in the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. They include:

  • Building clear pathways to high-quality degrees and other credentials by recognizing a wider array of postsecondary education providers, experimenting with new ways for students to earn credentials, and directing federal funds to the providers who best serve their students.
  • Focusing on quality from students’ perspective by ensuring that the credentials they earn bear genuine value in the labor market and accurately reflect knowledge and skills that employers need.
  • Addressing the rising costs of higher education by not only reducing student expense, but also exploring promising approaches. These include competency-based, online and accelerated programs that can reduce the cost of delivery, shorten the time required to earn a credential and create healthy competition.

About Lumina Foundation:  Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. We envision a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Our goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

Read the full prepared remarks of Merisotis’ testimony

 View a video of the full hearing

Related news:
Debate Over Alternative Models Dominates Hearing On Higher Ed Act | WGBH | July 23, 2015

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