Higher education policy is a bi-partisan bust

This marks the first in a new series of posts in which I will offer some personal perspectives on higher education policy. We are in the early days of a new US presidential administration. A new Secretary of Education has been confirmed and she will, presumably, soon appoint an Undersecretary for Postsecondary Education. The last two administrations—one Republican (Bush/Spellings) and one Democrat (Obama/Duncan)—did much to enlarge the federal government’s policy and regulatory reach. Unfortunately, they did not, in my judgment, contribute much to improving higher education policy.

Hoping for a reset

The legislative branch also appears poised to take up the matter of higher education policy during the present term. Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act has once again been delayed and is long overdue. Congressional hearings have begun. Hope springs eternal, as they say, so the new regime has me hoping for something of a reset.

I doubt my contributions will reach the desk of anyone in Washington, but the exercise is of intrinsic value and, who knows, perhaps some of these musings will find their way into broader streams of discourse that combine in their flow into some liberating and culturally nourishing yield.

Canadian caveat

As I begin this journey, I offer apologies to my Canadian colleagues and readers. I do not presume relevance of my policy ideas to your context. You should feel free to discard or reframe as you see fit. I welcome critique and dialogue. I would value what I may learn from your perspective.

Let’s start with a dozen

I offer a dozen propositions for a start. I intend to devote one blog post to each of these propositions in the coming months. I may yet think of other propositions I wish to add, but a dozen should suffice for now:

  1. Education for the common good should be a societal priority but not a government bureaucracy.
  1. Individual and societal flourishing encompass far more than economic prosperity.
  1. Private (independent) higher education serves the public good.
  1. Public policy and government funding should foster student higher education access and choice.
  1. Students should have to contribute, relative to their means, to paying for their education.
  1. Like most all major purchases, responsible college financing may be appropriate, even if not preferable.
  1. Federal (and state, for that matter) policy should dis-incentivize student debt and prevent servitude to educational debt.
  1. The government should not be a public lender and should not benefit financially from student borrowing.
  1. Government policy should respect and support independent peer review as a credible quality assurance mechanism.
  1. Government policy should support student mobility in terms of transfer credit and degree level articulation.
  1. Government policy should promote variety, not conformity, among postsecondary education providers.
  1. Confessional colleges—and not merely those that prepare professional religious workers—should be affirmed and protected by public policy.

Well, it’s a far cry from Luther’s 95 theses, but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as I seek to elaborate on each of the above assertions.


Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …

The Disappearing Middle Class in Christian Higher Education

Calvary University (MO, an accredited ABHE member) President Dr. Christopher Cone offers some sober, thought-provoking analysis regarding the state of and strategic options for our ABHE member colleges. Regardless whether you agree with his assessment, I advise you to reflect upon and discuss this analysis with your board and leadership team.


Rubio Pushes for Accreditation Reform

I’m not a fan of Marco Rubio’s persistent push to break up what he terms the “cabal” of USDE-recognized accreditation agencies. But we can’t afford to ignore the political momentum that is gathering behind efforts to, at best, reform and, at worst, replace our historic independent (vs. government ministry of education-type) peer-review accreditation system. Keep your eye on this train. It may soon leave the station, destination unknown.