NAICU Washington Update

Congressional Committees Again Look at College Costs

July 23, 2012

Last week, committees in both the House and Senate held hearings on college costs. The July 18 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training focused on state efforts to control rising costs.  A day later, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions heard from witnesses regarding “promising policies and practices” for promoting college affordability.

The House hearing focused on the ways in which public institutions are responding to decreased state government support. The need to improve efficiency and outcomes was emphasized throughout the hearing.  Witnesses cited measures such as comprehensive articulation agreements, “pay for performance,” and expanded use of prior learning assessments as ways to achieve these goals.

Similar calls for innovation and doing “more with less” were heard at the Senate hearing.  Witnesses reducing overhead expenses, improving the transfer of credit, establishing less expensive “pathways” to credentials, and redesigning courses through use of technology.

Those speaking at both hearings stressed the need to increase on-time graduation rates.  They also expressed concern about “credit inflation,” both in terms of the increase in number of credits required for particular degrees, as well as students’ taking more credits than required for graduation.

Both hearings were the second in a series planned by the two committees to address college cost.  For information on the earlier hearings, see the Washington Update stories from December 19 and February 15

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