As Congress begins conversations about reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), Kati Haycock laid out two priorities for lawmakers this week that could help more young people get the college diploma that is increasingly becoming the sole ticket to economic mobility in our country:

  1. Resources for the students who most need them, and
  2. Improved results for all groups of students through better data and improved institutional accountability.

On resources, Kati urged lawmakers to expand and protect the Pell Grant program, the cornerstone of federal financial aid in higher education. Congress should also leverage the federal investment in higher education to reverse the marked decline in state support for public higher education and create a renewed partnership with states to incentivize state investment.

But HEA can’t be just about resources. “This year, Congress will invest over $31 billion in Pell Grants and more than $180 billion in funding for higher education,” Kati said. “Federal lawmakers have a responsibility — and taxpayers have a right — to expect results for this investment ….” This starts with getting better data in order to shine a light on problems and successes. It also means expecting improvements for all groups of students, and acting when that improvement isn’t happening. Our research shows that what institutions do matters hugely when it comes to success for Pell recipients and students of color, so low-income students and students of color should be at the heart of institutional accountability.

“Students deserve a fair shot at the American dream,” Kati concluded. “To make that dream real for students and for the nation, higher education must be affordable for low-income students and students of color, comprehensive data on student outcomes must be available and accessible, and institutions must be accountable for student outcomes.”

We look forward to working on HEA reauthorization with members of Congress from both parties to help secure our country’s future and help low-income students and students of color realize their dreams.

You can see a video of the forum through Periscope here.

Photo credit: Smith College