Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Strengthening Accountability to Protect Students and Taxpayers

Testimony Provided to the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

I have been asked to address the issue of accountability in higher education. Among its many obligations, government has one central role in society: The provision of the public good.

Higher education benefits society generally, and college graduates directly, in a multitude of ways. In those regards, the U.S. higher education system is performing exceptionally well.

However, that is not the complete story. Our higher education system also serves to regenerate existing wealth, status, and privilege. I am convinced that without appropriate government support and oversight, higher education will not, on its own, fully accomplish its mission of advancing the public good.

Primary factors driving the low average postsecondary education completion rate are the race- and income-based inequalities built into our system and the stratification and unequal distribution of resources apparent within and between our postsecondary institutions. These income- and race-based inequalities mean entire segments of our society are being kept out of higher education based on factors independent of desire and talent.