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Rubio, Bennet Introduce Alternative to Accreditation that Shifts Focus to Student Success

Mar 13, 2017 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Michael Bennet (D-CO)  today introduced a bill to create an alternative system of accreditation for high-quality American colleges, universities, and other higher education providers so their students can access federal financial aid.

“America needs a 21st century higher education system that embraces all the new ways people can learn and acquire skills without having to go the traditional four-year college degree track,” said Rubio. “To modernize our higher education system, we must end the status quo accreditation system, which stifles competition, fuels soaring tuition costs, and limits opportunities for nontraditional students, such as working parents. The alternative accreditation system we’ve proposed is built on higher quality standards and outcomes than the current accreditation system, and would mark an important first step toward shaking up a higher education system that leaves too many people with tons of student loan debt and without degrees that lead to good paying jobs.”

“In order for our kids and grandkids to succeed in the 21st century economy, they need access to higher education,” said Bennet. “Our generation is at risk of becoming the first American generation to leave less opportunity to our children than we inherited. It’s time we shed old ways of thinking, and build a modernized education system that embraces different approaches and focuses on innovation and student success, rather than inputs and process. This bill is an important first step to change some of the broken incentive structures in higher education, and create an outcomes-based process for schools and students.”

Currently, only students attending accredited institutions of higher education can receive federal student aid funds. While accreditation is supposed to provide quality assurance and accountability, it can focus too much on inputs and process, resulting in an inefficient system that limits innovation and competition.

The Higher Education Innovation Act creates a five-year pilot program for an alternative, outcomes-based process to access federal student financial aid. Through this process, students would have the ability to use federal student aid funds to attend institutions that offer high-quality, innovative, and effective programs and have a proven track record of successful student outcomes.

The bill would also create an innovative approach to financing higher education. Currently, higher education programs must exist for several years before they are eligible to apply to receive federal financial aid. The Bennet-Rubio proposal would allow new programs, including college and non-college providers, to enter into contracts with the U.S. Department of Education so long as they are generating positive student outcomes.