A new policy framework identifies a three-pronged plan to shift the focus of federal policy from higher education to higher learning by ensuring high-quality outcomes, focusing on today’s students and creating a more affordable and responsive system of education and training beyond high school.

Most federal higher education policies were designed when the typical college student attended a four-year college directly after high school.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that 75 percent of students today are now either working adults, part-time students, parents with dependent children or student with some other non-traditional characteristic. In the framework, Higher Learning Advocates argues federal policy should adapt to meet the needs of those students.

(Next page: What is outlined in the new framework?)

The new framework proposes raising the quality of postsecondary learning by updating the federal policies guiding accreditation to better align requirements with student outcomes and allow for new models of quality assurance to assess new and innovative providers of postsecondary education.

Additionally, the bipartisan organization is calling on policymakers to improve student data and information systems and provide students and families with greater transparency into the return on investment of their college choices.

“We need to modernize higher education for a new generation of students,” said Dr. Chris Bustamante, a Higher Learning Advocates board member and president of Rio Salado College, nationally-recognized for its focus on serving a diverse cross-section of students. “Quality, outcomes and the needs of today’s students should guide federal policy rather than historical precedent and institutional convenience. Built on those three principles, new policy solutions can help institutions and systems support and educate a broader range of students and embrace technological innovation.”

3-part #federal policy plan for #highered focuses on #outcomes, #affordability, skill-building

To bridge the gap between today’s students and the prevailing system of higher education, the organization supports changes to the current federal student aid system to better serve adults and other non-traditional students. Higher Learning Advocates is proposing a shift that would enable federal student aid to be used for all high-quality learning including innovative models such as competency-based education, apprenticeships, employer-based training—so long as they deliver strong student outcomes and adhere to rigorous quality assurance.

“The demand for education and training beyond high school continues to grow while the gap between federal policy and what today’s students need widens,” said Julie Peller, executive director of Higher Learning Advocates. “Meeting the needs of today’s students requires us to once again put students at the center of policy. Our mission is to help build bipartisan support for making that shift.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Editorial Director, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura