Quality & Outcomes

Federal postsecondary education policy focuses too much on institutional concerns such as compliance, but neglects the important values of quality and outcomes.

This undermines the ability of providers to innovate and address systemic problems that keep far too many students from completing and finding success in the workforce. Federal policy needs to be updated to focus on quality, broadly defined as success in student outcomes including completion, employment, equity, and value. Higher Learning Advocates believes that federal policy should:

Rethink and expand our quality assurance system.

Accreditors, as gatekeepers to federal student aid, should continue to be held accountable for measuring student outcomes instead of compliance. Accreditation reform should also expand the federal government’s quality assurance system by recognizing new validators to assess new and innovative providers of higher learning.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Reform accreditation’s federal recognition process to allow accreditors to integrate a differentiated approach. Such a system should be more focused on student outcomes and should come with the expectation that all institutions provide a high quality education to all students.
  2. Allow new validators to assess provider quality—particularly for innovative delivery models driven by student outcomes—which could allow for access to federal financial aid.
  3. Update federal requirements for accreditors to ensure they are able to place a greater focus on student outcomes over compliance.

Use smart regulations to ensure institution and student success.

It’s time to holistically reform the maze of regulations and reporting. Federal policy should place greater emphasis on smart regulations that fit together and ensure institution and student success, while reforming and eliminating regulations that no longer serve a clear purpose.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Update requirements and regulations to ensure they are in line with high-quality learning and student success.
  2. Streamline reporting requirements unrelated to student success and safety.

Hold institutions accountable for student outcomes.

Federal policy needs a greater focus on student outcomes and should hold all institutions participating in federal student aid programs accountable for quality and outcomes, including completion, employment, equity, and value.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Implement institutional accountability reforms that incent institutions to complete all students and measure success on student outcomes, without giving institutions disincentives to enroll low-income and minority students; and
  2. Ensure institutional-based reporting on campus based aid, Title III and V, and competitive programs accurately portray how students receiving aid perform in relation to completion and equity measures.

Improve student data systems to improve transparency.

Federal policy should support new data systems so institutions, policymakers, and others can measure the equity of outcomes, support transparency and use that data to improve student outcomes.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Improve data systems and allow for a student level data system to reflect all of today’s students.
  2. Enable sharing of student data to evaluate student outcomes, while ensuring privacy of individual student information.
  3. Align commonly used definitions and metrics across federal agency programs and regulations.
  4. Harmonize accountability measures across key federal laws and regulations, including the Higher Education Act, the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act, career and technical education, and apprenticeships.