NAICU Washington Update

Bipartisan House Hearing Focuses on Innovation in Higher Education

June 24, 2019

The House Committee on Education and Labor recently held a hearing focused on the role of innovation in improving student outcomes and advancing equity. The hearing, which was the fifth and final installment of the Committee’s previously announced five-part series of bipartisan hearings on the Higher Education Act (HEA), was part of a coordinated legislative effort to lay the groundwork for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. 

During the hearing, witnesses testified about a wide range of new practices in higher education, including dual enrollment and four-year degree programs at community colleges, competency-based education, and supportive services for low-income, minority, and first-generation college students.

In his opening statement, Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) emphasized the need for “structural reform” to promote high-quality educational programs that provide access for a diverse group of students. According to Rep. Scott, “innovation, backed by rigorous evaluation, plays a key role in this reform.” He cited wraparound services that support completion, dual enrollment programs, and online education as examples of welcome innovations, but cautioned that such programs must have an evidence-based record of success and “cannot sacrifice our commitment to quality and equity.”

Citing the need for “bold reform” in higher education, ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) advocated for a federal policy that embraces innovation and responds to job-market demands. According to Rep. Foxx, “the federal government and the higher education sector too often continue to cater to an outdated vision of postsecondary education. This stubbornness in policy has resulted in mountains of debt, low student completion rates, dissatisfied employers, and a lack of accountability for poorly performing institutions.” Rep. Foxx also singled out dual enrollment, competency-based education, and “apprentice-style earn and learn programs” as praiseworthy innovations.