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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As long as we continue to define “the best colleges” as those that enroll the best students–as opposed to those that teach their students the most or deliver the best return on investment–rankings competition will do little to expand educational opportunity.
Paul Ryan’s 73-page blueprint for expanding opportunity is chock full of ideas for higher education and job training reform. And rightfully so: opportunities for high school grads have shriveled up, but the cost of postsecondary education is crushing American families. The standard federal solution—upping student aid to temporarily bring prices down—is failing.
Clunky and poorly-timed government application processes can depress participation rates among the very people the programs are designed to help.
Qualified students with college aspirations face a maze of tasks, deadlines, and paperwork that they must complete to access financial aid and a college education. Though the payoff for postsecondary education is large enough to justify the time and energy it takes to complete these tasks, many qualified students still fail to do so.