BY SCOTT PULSIPHER AND MICHELLE DIMINO, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS – 02/24/23
The Supreme Court is poised to consider President Biden’s student loan cancellation plan next week. No matter the decision, the U.S. higher education system is at an indisputable breaking point, and its future hinges on what the government and postsecondary institutions do next.
Today’s students increasingly question the value they are getting from their education. Completion rates remain stagnant, taxpayer dollars continue to flow to schools, even those with abysmal outcomes, colleges too often leave their students worse off than before they started — and millions of dollars of student debt remain.
To ensure all learners have access to high-quality degree pathways and are supported to graduation, issues of ever-increasing costs, widening relevancy gaps in relation to work, declining enrollment, and diverging equity must be top of mind for the Department of Education and the 118th Congress. And institutions shouldn’t wait for a federal mandate — they should be using every tool at their disposal to hold themselves accountable for providing value to students right now.
For its part, the Biden administration has proposed several meaningful actions to increase quality and strengthen accountability in higher education. The Education Department is poised to release a new gainful employment regulation this spring, which is key to ensuring that career education programs equip their graduates with the skills to get in-demand jobs and increase their earning potential. And the department recently issued a public request for information on how it can identify and increase transparency around low-financial-value college programs that simply aren’t paying off for students and taxpayers. Actions like these are notable amidst pending department proposals to cancel large swaths of student debt and institute new income-driven repayment plans that some analysts suggest could actually increase the risk of predatory institutions charging more in tuition and students taking on more debt.