Fresh Perspectives on Higher Learning

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Budget 2018: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Quality & Outcomes
Budget 2018: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Today, Congress approved a budget deal, ending a brief government shutdown and agreeing to a framework that would set budget parameters for the next two years. The compromise eventually approved by U.S. Senate leaders included several key provisions that could have a major impact on student success and higher education accountability.

Here’s the statement from my colleague Emily who commented on what it means for the higher education policy landscape:

“While the budget deal passed by Congress takes critical steps toward a long-term funding agreement, it is only the beginning of several important debates that will impact today’s students and higher education providers. Summaries from Senate leadership have called for $4 billion of expansion of federal funding for student-centered programs. Expanding access and affordability is vital, but it’s also key that Congress direct these resources at programs that improve student outcomes and completion.”

“Unfortunately, the legislation also includes a provision that could roll back existing accountability. It’s troubling that the deal passed this morning allows the Secretary of Education to waive the cohort default rate (CDR) in economically distressed communities. This would weaken a vital accountability rule designed to hold institutions accountable for the outcomes their students experience. While student loan default may be an imperfect measure of measuring student success, it is at least a bare minimum standard and proxy for whether an institution of higher education is delivering any acceptable level of quality and value to students.”

We need to ensure students in economically distressed communities use their federal aid at institutions with the strongest outcomes—not roll back accountability for precisely those schools most likely to fail their students and produce poor outcomes.”

As Congressional appropriators move toward a long-term solution for funding the government and committees continue their important work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, we hope they emphasize the importance of good policy that produces strong outcomes for today’s students.”