Lee outlines higher education reform at policy summit

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Monday, Sen. Mike Lee outlined legislation that would greatly expand access to higher education for many working- and middle-class students, as well as many individuals seeking nontraditional forms of education.

In a speech at the Conservative Policy Summit, sponsored by Heritage Action for America, Lee argued that federal policy on higher education has not kept up with technology and, as a result, is leaving millions of students behind.

Lee said:

Today, technology has made it possible for students to take classes from professors in another state; for academics to conduct research with colleagues across oceans; and for anyone with an iPad to carry a library around in their backpack.

For the first time in history, students don’t have to go to college to go to college. Unfortunately, this innovative, alternative market is being cordoned-off from the vast majority of students by increasingly outdated federal policy governing higher-education accreditation.

He explained that the problem is the current federal accreditation policy, which only allows degree-issuing institutions to be accredited and, therefore, ensures only they can receive federal student loans.  Blocking out competition for education dollars drives up the cost of getting a degree.

In effect, Washington’s offer to most Americans after high school is: go tens of thousands of dollars into non-dischargeable debt to pursue an over-priced degree there’s no guarantee you’ll receive, or spend the rest of your life locked out of the middle class.

To fix this, Lee has recently introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act (S. 1904).  The bill would allow states to voluntarily create parallel accreditation systems that expand educational options eligible for federal student loan dollars.

There are too many valuable opportunities and invaluable people current law excludes. It’s time to decouple Title IV eligibility and enrollment at degree-issuing institutions.

In higher education, as in so many other areas, the greatest threats to equal opportunity are the unintended consequences of dysfunctional policies. The current system has helped a lot of people, but it has left many others behind.  Reform needs to circle back and make equal opportunity a reality for everyone.

Read the full speech here.

Submitted by the office of Sen. Mike Lee


Senate Bill 1904 to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 – introduced Jan 9 2014 by Sen. Mike Lee – full text of bill as it was introduced to the Senate on Jan. 9, whereupon the bill was referred to committee the same date.

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  • Jaybird February 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Mr. Lee, it might be another option to offer community colleges in Utah, rather than the state-run universities.

  • Bub February 11, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Sounds like Lee must have received some campaign funds from online only institutions. Normally a tea-party plan would be to privatize public collages and raise tuition, since public funded education is socialistic in nature. I would not count on Mr Lee to come up with any bright ideas since he is affiliated with backwards conservative think-tanks. At least with this one there’s nothing about it being Obama’s fault directly…whoopy huh?

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