Getting Our House in Order: Transforming the Federal Regulation of Higher Education as America Prepares for the Challenges of Tomorrow

Published March 2015
by Art Coleman, Terri Taylor, Bethany Little, Kate Lipper

American higher education presents greater opportunities but faces greater demands than ever before. Growth and diversity are present everywhere from student populations, program offerings, and institutions themselves. With a history of changing to meet new student demand and needs since the early days of the republic, American higher education once again must evolve to provide meaningful postsecondary opportunities for the diverse and growing population of 21st century students. As the Higher Education Act reaches its 50th anniversary, regulatory regimes must be re-examined so that unnecessary or duplicative requirements can be cut away and new regulatory approaches can be designed and implemented. To start, the overarching purpose, function, and responsible actors within regulatory regimes must be confirmed. Centered on the theory that the federal government should take limited but effective action – and that all action should relate directly to making American higher education better for students – this paper poses three central questions to assess the state of regulation today and how it should evolve.

  1. What goals and objectives should be achieved by the regulatory regime?
  2. How can those goals most effectively and efficiently be achieved in regulatory design?
  3. Who is best positioned to achieve those goals?