December 15, 2017
"to elevate the condition of
men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the
paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered
start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln
Chairman's Note: Higher Education
Needs a HERO
The dawn of the 21st century has
brought tremendous opportunities and changes to our economy.
Everyone now needs some kind of education after high school.
Yet, only four in ten Americans achieve an associate's degree or
It's a new game, and it's
essential that all citizens can still pursue their American
dreams. We need a higher education system that works better for
more Americans and their families. We can begin this process by
focusing on four key reform principles: accountability,
affordability, transparency, and innovation. These principles are
at the heart of the Higher Education Reform Opportunity (HERO)
Act introduced in the Senate this past week.
Between 1982 and 2007, the
average cost of a four-year college education rose by 439%,
according to the biennial report from the National Center for
Public Policy and Higher Education-and costs have only continued
to rise in the past decade. The typical solution to the
unaffordability problem has been to increase the amount and types
of loans that students can access.
However, this solution has
actually contributed to the exponential rise in tuition rates. In
2015, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York issued a study that
found "a pass-through effect on tuition of changes in subsidized
loan maximums of about 60 cents on the dollar." This means that
for every additional dollar the federal government allows
students to borrow, colleges and universities increase their
tuition by 60 cents, thus increasing the number of students who
"need" loans to "afford" college in the first place.
The HERO Act would address the
affordability issue by streamlining the current duplicative menu
of student loan programs into one option and creating one
repayment period for undergraduate loans and another for graduate
loans. Additionally, the act would establish caps on loan
amounts, which would help to keep university rate increases in
check and lower the amount of debt students need to repay once
they graduate from college.
Informed consumers are a critical
component of a free-market economy. Yet when it comes to choosing
a good college and major, parents and students are often left to
make these life-changing decisions in the dark.
The HERO Act would ensure that
parents and students have access to information about how
effective their college of choice is in helping students graduate
on time; how burdened by debt students are after obtaining their
degrees; and how successful graduates in a particular major are
at obtaining jobs that enable them to pay back their loans.
Nearly half of borrowers today
are not making payments on their student loans. This alarming
statistic is one of the reasons some economists have predicted
that student loans are the next financial bubble. It is time for
One promising solution is to make
sure that all parties in higher education have "skin in the
game." The HERO Act would ensure that colleges have a financial
stake in their programs by requiring schools with poor student
loan repayment rates to pay a fine. The possibility of a penalty
would motivate schools to invest in the success of their
Today's post-secondary students
come from a range of different backgrounds, from the traditional
18-year-old high school graduate, to the single mom going back to
school, to the laid-off worker who needs to retrain mid-career.
Meeting the needs of this diverse population means we need a lot
more options than we did when current federal policies were first
written decades ago.
The HERO Act would accomplish
this by changing the way schools are accredited. The HERO Act
would enable each state to accredit any institution that provides
post-secondary education. With this new accreditation power,
states would be able to authorize innovative new education
options (for example, massive online open courses,
competency-based offerings, and certification exams) for students
in any learning situation.
Today's students deserve an
innovative higher education system that provides more and better
options to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of
today's job market. The HERO Act is an important first step
toward building that new system. It would open the door to the
American Dream for the millions of Americans who are pursuing it.
Higher Education Reform
Click here to watch video
Issue in Focus: The Rise in Unwed
Too often, legislators pass bills
that seem to be solutions in search of problems. But those
problems are rarely as straightforward as they appear to be.
This is why my staff at the Joint
Economic Committee (JEC) have worked so tirelessly on the Social
Capital Project - a multi-year research initiative that explores
the evolving nature and importance of our associational life,
specifically why the health of those associational relationships
seems so compromised.
And of all the relationships
people have in their lives, the most important and formative is
the one children have with their parents. This relationship is
the foundation of a healthy associational life, which is why the
JEC's most recent study focused on parent/child relationships and
how they've changed in the last few generations.
As many of you already know,
there has been a significant uptick in children born to unwed
parents since 1960. And numerous studies show children of stable,
married couples outperform children born to single parents,
especially when it comes to laying the foundation for engagement
in associational life.
This isn't to say a child born to
single mother or father will necessarily face more challenges in
life, or that a child born to a married mother and father will
automatically succeed. But there is a statistically significant
pattern that shows having two stable parents in a committed
relationship does give a child a leg up.
Yet, in the past few decades,
we've shifted from this two-parent model of child-bearing. In
1960, just 5.3% of children were born to single mothers. As of
2008, that number jumped to 40%, and that number is even higher
for children born to mothers who are under 30. This means 35%
more of the children born today are born into a situation that
While it would be simple to point
to increased sexual activity as the obvious cause, our research
found two even larger factors: 1) there are fewer married women,
and 2) the cultural norm often referred to as the "shotgun"
marriage has all but disappeared.
The causes for these two trends
are also very complicated, but they appear to be a result of an
increase in affluence and opportunity in society as a whole.
Rising affluence and opportunity is absolutely something we
should celebrate, but that doesn't negate the fact that the
uptick in non-married births is something that should be
Problems are rarely as
straightforward as they appear to be. I am proud of the work my
staff on the JEC is doing to shine a light on the complexities of
this issue, and we will continue to pursue this line of inquiry
to ensure all children are born with the leg up they deserve.
361A Russell Senate
Salt Lake City
Wallace F. Bennett
125 South State,
Salt Lake City, UT
Office of Senator
Michael S. Lee
285 West Tabernacle,
St. George, UT 84770
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