Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, released a white paper Thursday suggesting that current federal accountability measures for higher ed institutions are inadequate or simply unfair.
The paper found that the cohort default rate -- which attaches Title IV federal aid to the percentage of student borrowers who default on their loans after leaving an institution -- rarely sanctions colleges and provides little incentive to improve. The paper suggested a loan repayment rate, an alternative favored on both the right and the left, would be preferable.
But the paper suggested the 90-10 rule, which requires 10 percent of an institution's revenue to come from nonfederal sources, and the gainful-employment rule, issued by the Obama administration to hold career education programs accountable for high student debt, were faulty because they targeted only certain kinds of programs, namely for-profit colleges. Those conclusions are unsurprising coming from the Republican side of the committee. But they won't be well received by Democrats or liberal higher ed groups.
While the Department of Education is rewriting the gainful-employment regulations, Democrats have called preserving the rule and strengthening it by closing the so-called veterans' loophole.
Alexander, who chairs the Senate education committee, called for public comment by Feb. 15 to inform the committee's process as it pushes forward with plans for a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
“As the Senate’s education committee continues our work to develop legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act by early spring, I am asking for input from every corner of the higher education community -- students and their families, professors, institutions, and others interested in our colleges and universities,” Alexander said in a statement. “My goal is to create accountability measures that ensure students are receiving degrees worth their time and money, and I welcome input from all perspectives as Senator Murray and I work to reach a bipartisan result.”
Washington Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said in a statement that Congress should hold all colleges accountable for all groups of students.
"Unfortunately, the principles from Chairman Alexander would move us in the wrong direction and make it very clear we have some serious and tough issues to work through as we negotiate a comprehensive reauthorization of this important legislation, but I remain hopeful we can get this done as quickly as possible," she said.