NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Education Reform Options for 2015

November 10, 2014

With a Republican majority in both houses, what might happen in education reform come 2015? Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor at National Review, and Yuval Levin, fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, offer their suggestions for dealing with higher education.

The two note that one year's tuition at a private university costs more than half what an average American family makes in a year, leading students and parents to take out loans in order to cover college education costs. Notably, incomes have not made up for the rising prices, and college graduate earnings have been falling over the last 10 years.

What's the solution? Lawmakers on the left have pushed for more generous student loan programs, including loan forgiveness, but such policies, explain Ponnuru and Levin, will only send costs up further. The student loan system as it stands now gives colleges no incentive to be disciplined about their costs (for example, the Parent PLUS loan program provides loans up to the cost of attendance). Schools that might be able to offer a better model -- one with lower costs and better outcomes -- are unable to thrive, because federal accreditation requirements and student aid rules limit their ability to enroll students.

According to Ponnuru and Levin:

  • Lawmakers should restrict the amount of money available under the Parent PLUS program so that it doesn't provide funds no matter the cost of attendance.
  • New methods of funding, like income-share agreements, should be developed, allowing students to enter into private funding arrangements.
  • States should be allowed to test new methods of accreditation, which would allow nontraditional schools to develop and experiment with different ways of providing an education.
  • Federal law currently prohibits student loan record information from being analyzed alongside employment and wage records. They encourage the repeal of that law so that students can more easily access information about the likely value of a college degree.

Current education policy has only made college more expensive, and new reforms could lower costs and allow for new innovations in the provision and funding of education.

Source: Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin, "How Republicans can improve higher education," Washington Post, November 6, 2014.

 

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