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Marco Rubio Renews Effort to Reform Higher Ed Accreditation

March 14, 2017 - 8:00am
Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is once again taking on the higher education “cartel” as he brought back his proposal to reform accreditation on Monday. Currently only schools accredited by organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education are eligible for financial aid. 

Rubio teamed up with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Col., to bring back their proposal 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.” Rubio and Bennet first brought out the “Higher Education Innovation Act” in 2015 but the bill failed to cross the finish line. 

In recent years, Rubio has called for accreditation reform, taking aim at the current system as inefficient and too focused on input process and not concerned about results. He’s even branded the current system as a “cartel,” more focused on keeping its current status and limiting innovation and competition. 

Rubio returned to that theme on Monday. 

"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.”

According to Rubio’s office, the bill puts in place a pilot program for five years setting up an “alternative, outcomes-based process to access federal student financial aid” which will give students 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 proposal also lets new higher education programs apply for financial aid and to enter into contracts with the federal Education Department.


Is the described accreditation change, a part of the Gates Foundation plot to takeover education? If vulture ed. foundations promote digital learning for the middle class and poor, while the reformers' kids attend schools that reject the testing and measurement scheme, why would anyone (except a politician) permit the incursion of self-interested rich people, into the exceptional U.S. education system? The Gates Foundation gave a huge grant to a professor. At the Deutsch 29 blog, we can read, that professor's prescription, for a "two-tier" education system, where the privileged few "learn about Shakespeare" and, the others, are "tested everyday". I can agree with Rubio about one thing, a college dropout, who goes on to become among the richest 0.1%, and destroys democracy, is indeed proof of a Harvard University failure. But I doubt it can be quantified, according to the Rubio-proposed accreditation rubric Don't look to the Democratic Party to oppose Rubio's plan. The Center for American Progress wrote a remarkably similar plan at Forbes on Nov. 18, 2016. The plan's co-author was formerly an employee at Gates-funded New America Foundation. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Pearson, etc. are investors in the largest seller of for-profit, schools-in-a-box.

Nursing accreditation agencies do stress outcomes.

You obviously have no idea how FASFA/Title IV works for Higher Education. There are many super high quality programs that offer graduates Certificates or Certifications that are not eligible for Title IV funding. Opening these programs up so that colleges/universities can offer student Title IV funding has nothing to do with circumventing controls. Programs would have to be approved by the State, their accrediting agency, and then the Department of Education. Once the Program qualifies, the same process for students to receive Title IV funding would be the same scrutiny as a credit bearing, 4 year degree. Its time for people in Government and the nay sayers to understand that many good paying jobs do not require college 4 year degrees, but 2 year vocational degrees or Certificate programs.

I am all for the concept of higher education innovation. However it seems to me that freedom to innovate without being tied down to some bureaucracy runs contrary to the current method of providing financial aid. Financial Aid offices are asked to be quasi IRS agents and financial & family investigators to verify that a person is eligible for aid and not just milking the system for another means to live by. Now you want to open this up to more people who may just want to live off of federal financial aid and do it with less controls. Give the current colleges the chance to do it with less verification. It appears that we have the concept of innovation competing directly with the concept that we need to check and double-check eligibility. Also make sure the student is attending class, make sure the person is gainfully employed once they leave college.

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