NAICU Washington Update

NAICU Submits Comments on Alexander White Papers

May 11, 2015

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), recently released three white papers on particularly vexing policy areas in higher education. (See April 10, 2015 Washington Update) The three papers highlighted, and sought feedback from the higher education committee on, various proposals and ideas on accreditation, institutional risk sharing, and data transparency and consumer information.

In April, NAICU submitted its response to the Senate HELP Committee highlighting areas of risk and opportunity within each white paper.


NAICU stressed five particular points in its response to Sen. Alexander’s proposal: (1) Accreditation is a dynamic process that works; (2) Accreditation works because of its mission-based focus; (3) Accreditation works best when it is focused on quality assurance, not compliance; (4) There is a need to avoid a “check-the-box” focus on accreditor compliance; and (5) There continues to be a need to increase public understanding of what accreditation does and how institutions demonstrate their quality. Further, NAICU directly addressed some of the more concerning proposals contained within Sen. Alexander’s paper that the Association believes would “fundamentally alter the independent accreditation process.”

Institutional Risk Sharing

NAICU highlighted five concerns with Sen. Alexander’s proposal: (1) The risk-sharing proposals contained within the paper are untested and could prove uncertain in their outcomes; (2) Positive incentives for partnership are more effective than negative punishments; (3) Congress should continue to strengthen its support for the growing number of non-traditional students, but also provide incentives for institutions to help traditional students complete on-time; (4) The cohort default rate (CDR) is a useful, though limited, indicator of institutions’ success with students; and (5) Student debt levels and student loan defaults are distinct phenomena. The highest rate of default is with those who borrow the least.

Data Transparency and Consumer Information

NAICU stressed three main points in response to Sen. Alexander’s proposal: (1) The federal government can play a positive role in consumer transparency, helping families find a best-fit college; (2) The hard policy, privacy and security questions that arise with any personal information collection and dissemination activity must be squarely addressed; (3) Avoid oversimplifying the Net Price Calculators, which help students make informed choices about college financing.

In addition to its own responses, NAICU signed onto three community-wide letters organized by the American Council on Education (ACE) that also addressed accreditation, institutional risk sharing, and data transparency and consumer information.

NAICU will continue to closely monitor any developments on these issues and others related to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

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