NAICU Washington Update

Senate Homeland Security Committee Holds Hearing on Student Outcomes

October 08, 2015

In an unusual move, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, which has no higher education jurisdiction, held a hearing focused on student achievement and outcomes.

The central question of the hearing was whether educational outcomes are matching the requirements of employers and society at large. In particular, Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) criticized the “exploding” cost of college, and openly questioned whether the federal government is receiving adequate student outcomes via its investment in higher education.

The hearing featured two panels of witnesses. The first panel featured Kevin Carey of the New America Foundation and Richard Vedder from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Both witnesses echoed their belief in the “Bennett hypothesis”—that federal subsidies in student financial aid programs lead directly to an increase in college tuition. This claim has been challenged by several independent studies commissioned by the federal government, including studies led by the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations.

The second panel featured Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Mitchell’s testimony focused on the slate of recent federal initiatives aimed at providing transparency and accountability in higher education. His testimony specifically highlighted the College Scorecard, the simplified FAFSA, and a switch to Direct Lending as tangible steps taken by the Department of Education to provide more data and transparency to the American public about the higher education marketplace.

The Homeland Security hearing was another in a string of hearings that Congress has held on issues such as innovation, access and affordability, and consumer information as it moves toward reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA).

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