Center on Higher Education Reform

American higher education has long been considered the best in the world. But concerns about the cost and quality of a college education, lackluster completion rates, and ballooning student debt have raised questions about the sustainability of our traditional approach to postsecondary education. Can the policies and institutions that served us so well for most of the 20th century answer the demands of the 21st without fundamental reform?  To answer these questions, AEI’s Center on Higher Education Reform (CHER) conducts independent, data-driven research and policy analysis designed to inform policymaking and shape the reform conversation.

A set of core principles will guide CHER’s work

Options and Choice: Students need an array of postsecondary options to choose from and the information necessary to find one that fits their goals, academic needs, and budget.

Shared Responsibility: Just as students must be prepared for college-level work, colleges must be prepared to provide students a high-quality education.

Productivity and Sustainability: Funding and financial aid policies should provide incentives for institutions and students to spend public investments wisely.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation: To bend the cost curve and enhance performance, reformers must rethink regulatory policies that inhibit innovation and limit competition.

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Making college affordable and responsive to student needs has to be about more than adding middle managers with new titles. Activists would be wise to focus on changing the incentives that lead to scarcity of opportunity in the first place.

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Higher education is a risky investment, and federal student loan programs should safeguard borrowers from risk while avoiding perverse incentives. Well-designed income-driven repayment plans can ensure borrowers have manageable payments and target aid to those who need it most.

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If we define the problem as student loan debt, that leads to one set of policies that tend to overlook the sector’s fundamental quality problems. But if we define this as a crisis of value, then we must pursue a policy agenda that changes incentives.

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To truly make headway on student debt, Republicans must do better than simply attaching a private facade to flawed existing programs or reform proposals.

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Over just a few years, college affordability has gone from a minor political issue to a headlining one. Why? A wider swath of the income distribution is feeling the pinch, and they are feeling it for longer.

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The Obama plan for tuition-free community college is a quite radical reform. It would move American higher education from a voucher-funded market to a system with a free public option much like traditional K‒12 public schools.

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More aid, higher tuition prices. That’s why simply pouring more aid into the system won’t create affordable college. To get there, we need reforms that actually change the incentives for colleges.

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The federal approach to financing higher education is on an unsustainable path and is too often failing to help those who need it most.

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The federal approach to financing higher education is on an unsustainable path and is too often failing to help those who need it most.

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Growing concerns about student loan debt and college costs in recent years have generated no shortage of federal reform proposals to improve the status quo in American higher education.

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