In the News, Politics & Policies

Higher Education for the 21st Century – Competency-based education and Lifetime Learning Accounts are keys

Today education and training beyond high school are more essential to our success as individuals and as a nation than ever before. Experts estimate that approximately two-thirds of American jobs will require some postsecondary education or training by 2020.1 Of the jobs created since the last recession, almost all have gone to workers with at least some college education.2

Americans have responded to these new realities, and education beyond high school is now the norm in the US. As of 2016, 60 percent of adult Americans have completed some coursework or training beyond high school.3 Nearly 70 percent of the high school class of 2016 continued directly to college the following fall.4

These trends make the federal Higher Education Act (HEA), which governs federal student aid programs and accreditation rules for colleges and universities, more important than ever. First passed in 1965, the HEA was most recently reauthorized in 2008 and has been due for reauthorization since 2013.

Recommendations for HEA Reauthorization


1. Allow new models of higher learning to emerge

2. Fully authorize competency-based education and allow student-centered models of higher education

3. Federally fund research on improving access, affordability, and better student outcomes in higher education


4. Increase Pell grant funding

5. Create Lifetime Learning Accounts for every American that will serve as the “bank account” for all student aid, including grants, scholarships, and student loan lines of credit

6. Transfer management of federal student aid to the Department of Treasury from the Department of Education

7. Move the origination of student loans to the private sector. Provide federal guarantees for those student loans where such guarantees are necessary for affordability

8. Limit the amounts of some types of federally-guaranteed student debt that individuals can accrue

9. Allow borrowers to refinance their federal student loans

10. Pilot-test alternative funding models for higher learning, such as income- share agreements

11. Test increased risk-sharing by having postsecondary institutions pay a small percentage of the value of loans defaulted on by their former students


12. Improve the information available to students and families by having higher education institutions publish standardized cost and outcome measures

13. Enhance today’s accreditation system with a set of quality assurance entities, which would certify the providers of higher learning that are eligible to receive individuals’ payments from their Lifetime Learning Accounts

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at How to Reinvigorate Higher Education for the 21st Century | Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board


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