Policymakers | General Education

Sen. Judd Gregg: Making higher education more accountable and affordable

THE UNION LEADER   |  August 19, 2008 by Sen. Judd Gregg

Our motto in New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die,” reminds Granite Staters that our freedoms are important to our way of life and are to be protected.

The U.S. Senate has taken up reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and it is of great importance that basic American freedoms, such as freedom of speech and expression, be remembered, upheld and protected in our colleges and universities, as these institutions play a key role in preparing our students to be the nation’s next leaders.

That is why I included two key provisions in this important education bill that help protect students’ right of free speech and establish a grant program to help start or strengthen programs in traditional American history and the history and achievements of Western civilizations to encourage students’ participation in this important subject.

Colleges and universities depend upon having the full marketplace of ideas represented on campus, not just a narrow portion, and my “Protection of Student Speech and Association Rights” language protects the balance and diversity of this environment.

Education has no room for the political agenda of college or university faculty or administrators, and individuals on American campuses shouldn’t fear punishment, which has been known to range from the denial of tenure for a faculty member to a lower grade for a student, for expressing views that might be unpopular.

These same institutions of higher education have devoted vast resources toward establishing ethnic and gender diversity, but now is the time when it becomes essential to protect diversity of speech and thought, especially as important subjects are being squeezed out of our higher education institutions in favor of a politicized and interest-based set of courses. History should not be determined by liberal or conservative authors. We cannot afford to have a generation that has been indoctrinated with a one-sided curriculum.

Just as it is important to preserve free speech and cultural diversity, it is just as important to understand where these basic American freedoms and principles come from, which is why I have also included the “American History for Freedom” grant program in reauthorization. This provision establishes a three-year competitive grant to help institutions establish or strengthen their programs in traditional American history or the history and achievements of Western civilization.

A recent study by American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) found that nearly 90 percent of Americans believe that colleges and universities should be required to teach U.S. history and government, yet a previous joint ACTA and University of Connecticut study found that none of the 55 of the top-ranked colleges and universities required their students to take a history course. Most institutions forgo introductory traditional history classes, like the ones this grant program would foster, for ones that focus solely on classism, racism, sexism or sexuality–a decision that is detrimental to both the students and to the country.

The grants established by this bill will help faculty design and implement their own courses and lecture series on the history of American or Western civilization, while also allowing them to collaborate with local educational agencies to develop high-quality kindergarten-Grade 12 teacher preparation initiatives and professional development programs. Additionally, the grant program will support graduate and postgraduate courses, fellowships and research.

For these higher education goals as a whole to be effective, students must have the opportunity to be able to attend college. As too many families know, the price of higher education continues to grow, making it difficult for many students to gain access to the education that could help improve their lives or contribute to their communities and society. This package for higher education funding addresses the serious and growing issue of the cost of college.

The Higher Education Act empowers students and families by providing straightforward information on the costs of each institution, along with whether these costs have increased, where these increases occur, and in some instances, what the institution is doing to lower costs. These steps, which will be prepared by the Secretary of Education in the form of a cost-watch list beginning in 2011, will help hold universities publicly accountable for their costs and better inform students and families what tangible services students are receiving for their tuition.

Additionally, this bill includes an important measure that will directly monitor the effect of the new pilot PLUS Student Loan Auction I introduced in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which was signed into law last September. The PLUS Auction will help both the federal government and students save money on student loans by requiring lenders to bid on the reimbursement for federal government subsidies. Today’s reauthorization includes the evaluation tool, which will measure the effectiveness of this market-based system. I will closely monitor progress on this important measure to ensure we are doing what we can to lower costs for college for both students and taxpayers.

This year’s reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is an important step forward to help make it possible for students to go to college and take part in the American dream. I am pleased to have worked hard for passage of this important legislation that represents and protects America’s priorities in higher education, and I will continue to do my part to help strengthen these institutions that shape our next generations.

Judd Gregg, a Republican, represents New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.


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