Will on the Hill: Congressional Q&A

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Will on the Hill: Congressional Q&A 

Members of Congress seek answers to questions related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The last edition of Academic Pharmacy Now presented a general overview of discussions around the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). In this edition, let’s take a closer look at three issues that members of Congress frequently review: affordability, accreditation and innovation.

Throughout 2013, both House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over higher education issues have held at least a dozen hearings focused on issues that are impacted by provisions of the HEA. Academic pharmacy should contribute to these discussions by sharing how your institutions, and the Academy as a whole, are addressing the issues of affordability, accreditation and innovation. Here is a quick review of some of Congress’ ideas and thoughts expressed during these hearings:


It is often stated that higher education-related debt exceeds $1 trillion. The fact that much of this debt is federally-supported makes the cost of higher education a public concern. Members of Congress are worried that higher education institutions are doing very little to control costs. Higher education should adopt more business-like approaches. Regulation associated with maintaining student access to federal financial assistance over-burdens institutions. Students and their parents are unable to navigate financial aid options and there is a lack of transparency in the cost of attendance.

How would you respond to a member of Congress if he or she asked what approaches your institution is employing to rein in the cost of education?


What is the value of accreditation in higher education? The current link between accreditation and access to federal financial aid programs is tenuous in the minds of some members of Congress. This link could be severed to allow accrediting agencies the opportunity to focus on quality. Is accreditation really an opportunity for continuous quality improvement or a barrier to innovation? Accreditation is cloaked in mystery and the peer review process protects underperforming institutions and the status quo. Accreditation professionals should be responsible for monitoring the financial viability of institutions.

How would you respond to a member of Congress if he or she asked you to discuss the value of accreditation?


Traditional models of higher education no longer meet the needs of a changing student population. As the number of traditional students is surpassed by older students, is higher education meeting the needs of this growing population? Competency-based education is an opportunity to allow non-traditional students to get academic credit for life experience. Flexibility in the classroom is essential to accommodate new models of learning. Creative partnerships with the private sector help reduce costs, strengthen degree programs and enrich coursework to better meet the needs of a changing student body. Regulation authorized by provisions in the HEA prohibits innovation.

How would you respond to a member of Congress if he or she asked you to describe how your institution supports innovation in the classroom?

William G. Lang is Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at AACP; wlang@aacp.org.

Last updated on: 12/20/2013 12:40 PM 

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