The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) today held a hearing entitled, "Keeping College Within Reach: Exploring State Efforts to Curb Costs." The hearing brought together state and higher education leaders to discuss state-led initiatives to address rising college costs.
"In recent months, the issue of rising college costs has shifted to the forefront of our national discourse -- and rightly so, as millions of young people struggle to manage school debt and find job opportunities in the lagging economy," Rep. Foxx noted in her opening remarks. "Annual tuition and fees at public universities have increased 72 percent since 2001, and the cost of private institutions and two-year degree programs have similarly increased."
As our economy continues to struggle, state officials have been forced to make difficult budgetary decisions, such as reducing aid to higher education institutions. National Association of State Budget Officers Executive Director Scott Pattison explained state funding for higher education will be "unalterably different from the past" due to budget restrictions, adding, "Now more than ever, public higher education institutions and state officials will need to work together to improve access and performance while spending resources wisely and cutting costs."
In recent years, several states have taken steps to develop innovative programs that promote better use of limited resources while also encouraging higher education institutions to reduce the student debt burden. For example, Louisiana and Florida have successfully implemented comprehensive articulation agreements, which make it easier for students to transfer course credits between state institutions.
"Today, students can enroll at any community college in Louisiana, earn the Louisiana Transfer Degree--either an Associate's of Arts degree or an Associate's of Science degree and transfer to LSU or any of the state's 14 universities with junior status," said Dr. Joe May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. "As a result of this initiative, the average student saves $2,117 while the state of Louisiana saves $1,930 per transfer student...It is estimated that, on average, students would save over $10,000 of the cost of a Bachelor of Art's [degree]."
Indiana and Pennsylvania have introduced "pay for performance' structures that offer additional state resources to high-performing postsecondary institutions with the best retention, completion, and placement rates. According to Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers, "Funding for our state's colleges and universities should be tied to key values and needs, especially higher graduation rates and credentials that lead to greater economic opportunity for students and the state." Ms. Lubbers also noted Indiana's new performance funding formula is "rewarding successful remediation strategies, establishing targets for credit attainment, and incentivizing institutions to produce graduates in fields that support Indiana's economic-development goals."
"All of us have the best of intentions when it comes to helping students afford a college education. And we all agree debt should not be a foregone conclusion in higher education," Rep. Foxx concluded. "However, we must not forget heavy-handed federal regulations often yield results contradictory to their aim, weighing down states with another layer of burdensome red tape. Instead of leveraging new mandates on states and institutions, we should encourage innovation by continuing to highlight the successful efforts being made at the state and local level."
Today's hearing builds upon a previous Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee hearing that explored ways higher education institutions are working to lower tuition and help students graduate with less debt. To learn more about that hearing, click here. To read witness testimony, opening statements, or watch an archived webcast from today's hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.