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Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. POLIS. Madam Chair, Congress should be the taxpayers' advocate to root out waste, fraud, and abuse wherever it occurs; and this is particularly true when it comes to student financial aid.

Both of my amendments pertain to this category of making sure we have the right structure in place to in one case incentivize and in another case have a strategy to combat waste, fraud, and abuse. Every dollar we lose to fraud and waste is a dollar that's not invested in our young people, a dollar of deficit spending, of government spending that is not producing the desired outcome of education or youth preparation of our workforce for jobs in the 21st century and improving our economic strength.

If we are eliminating some of the basic protections that are categorically applied under the bill, it's very important that we require institutions that are failing students to prove their value. And if schools have a chronically low graduation rate, a low completion rate or a high loan default rate they, in fact, should be required to be recognized by the State in which they are operating as a backstop against fraud, waste, and abuse to ensure that the students' complaints and questions are at least heard by their own State if they believe that they have been treated unfairly or unjustly by a college or university.

That's what my amendment would do. It would provide an incentive for colleges and universities to produce better outcome for students.

In both of my remarks, I am going to be talking a little bit about Carnegie units and how we determine time. Frankly, this bill is a very limited piece. What we need to do more broadly when we reauthorize the Higher Education Act is really look at outcome-based measurements for learning in higher education.

I think the Secretary, with his rules regarding gainful employment, provided some useful indicators around outcome-based measurements. There are many others that we should look at. That part of what we need to accomplish is freeing good-performing institutions up from the input restraints, the input barriers.

If they can effectively teach something that normally takes 2 hours in 5 minutes, that institution should be rewarded for that and encouraged to do that.

What a great way to invest our taxpayer money in some innovative institution of higher education that has figured out how to get 2 hours of legacy Carnegie credit into 5 minutes of rapid instruction. What a wonderful accomplishment, and I am hopeful that that and more can be accomplished.

My amendment would provide an incentive for colleges and universities to produce better outcomes. Where they are not performing, they would be subject to their State. Where they are performing, they would have the additional flexibility under this act, and I think that that's something we should encourage in higher education.

This amendment is simply unnecessary, and I oppose it. Since the day the President took office, members of his administration have been issuing one heavy-handed regulation after another, primarily in the name of program integrity. However, the regulations simply bring increased Federal intrusion into all aspects of our lives and do not provide the kind of accountability that we need to have throughout our Federal Government. Therefore, I oppose the amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. Madam Chairman, in what other government program would we somehow say it's all right to keep fuddling taxpayer money without accountability. Specifically, my amendment would retain State authorization requirements for institutions that have below-average graduation rates, below-average annual completion rates and above-average loan-default rates, free up the good-performing institutions to experiment and not holding them accountable to the Carnegie units that continue to reach out and prevent innovation in the education sector.

I believe the regulations are reasonable and a relatively low burden on colleges. I think by providing this incentive we could make sure that universities and institutions of higher education that are good custodians of our public dollars are freed up to engage in the kind of innovation that can produce a 21st-century workforce and drive education innovation into the new century. Those that continue that have below-average graduation rates, completion rates, and high default rates will make sure that there is a recourse, a recourse with their States, for those institutions.

I strongly urge a ``yes'' vote on this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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