- House Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) said there's no timeline for the Higher Education Act reauthorization during her panel at The Atlantic's "Higher Education at a Crossroads" event Wednesday morning.
- "I wish I knew," said the congresswoman when asked when higher ed leaders can expect to see the legislation brought to get table again. She added that while she doesn't believe the majority sees HEA as a high priority, "certainly the meeting we had yesterday about affordability was an important one" toward the eventual goal of addressing the bill.
- When Congress does take up HEA, said Davis, adult and continuing education will be a priority. "Redefining what higher education is today, I hope, is a big part of what we do with this legislation," she said.
Addressing the needs of adult learners and non-traditional students is poised to define the next wave of innovation in higher ed in the same way a push for greater affordability has influenced the current discussions around the industry. It is in this area that for-profit institutions continue to have an edge over traditional or non-profit institutions. Adult and continuing learners require different marketing strategies, a faster operating efficiency, more flexibility and increased access to remote courses and materials.
However, this doesn't mean the conversations around access and affordability are fully satisfied. There is a belief by some Republican legislators, as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education's Eric Kelderman, that Pell grants and other programs to promote higher education access for low-income students hurt the middle class. In fact, many leaders in higher education — Trinity University President Patricia McGuire among the most outspoken of them — would attest to the fact that these programs actually more benefit middle-class students and families who are savvy enough to navigate the processes to secure the funding. As the push for affordability increases, it manifests as many more families who would have the means to pay for college contending they are entitled to have someone else cover the cost of education.
Institutions must do a thorough job of reaching out to non-traditional and low-income students, but particular attention must be paid to ensuring the proper supports exist on campus to promote success for these students. The survivability of the industry is dependent on its ability to enroll and graduate these students.