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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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Adults may not have a clear sense of the costs and benefits of further education. To the extent adults are foregoing college because they don’t recognize the costs and the benefits of these other options, it represents a lost opportunity for both individuals and for the economy.

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Americans see higher education as necessary, but too expensive and not well-suited to those with work and family commitments. Also, many adults without a degree do not aspire to a higher credential, but report being satisfied with their current level of education.

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At a time when Americans’ anxiety about the nation’s higher education system is at a peak, a debate focused largely on how much we spend would represent a missed opportunity to pursue fundamental, longer-term reforms.

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Using a new survey, this report explores how adults without a college degree perceive the postsecondary education system as a whole and the costs and benefits of their potential options.

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AEI’s Center on Higher Education Reform commissioned four case studies on high-quality occupational training programs that strive to prepare students for the workforce.

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U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks at the Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington March 11, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

It’s not that student loan programs aren’t generous enough. It’s that the existing protections they offer are poorly designed and difficult to use for the people who need them most.

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Higher education policymakers should look to learn from efforts to ensure quality, accountability, and consumer protection in other sectors.

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Competency-based education, in which credit is provided on the basis of student learning rather than credit or clock hours, is starting to gain traction with educators and policymakers, but many questions about it remain to be answered.

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By doubling down on this troubled model, the President’s plan would spend more without solving the structural problems that plague it.

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If you were listening for new higher-ed ideas in the State of the Union last night, you probably felt like it was 2009 all over again.

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