Bennet, Rubio Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Lower Costs for Students Attending High-Quality Postsecondary Programs

The Higher Education Innovation Act Would Ensure Students Who Attend High-Quality Trade Schools, Community Colleges, & Other Postsecondary Programs Have Access to Federal Financial Aid

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced bipartisan legislation that would lower costs for students by allowing them to use federal financial aid to attend high-quality postsecondary programs.  

“As the needs of America’s economy and students continue to change, the higher education system must evolve too,” said Bennet. “Our bipartisan legislation will ensure that students have the opportunity to attend institutions like trade schools and community colleges that have a proven track record of success. This is an important step to grow our skilled workforce and lower costs for students who want to advance their education.”

“America needs a 21st century education system that embraces options beyond the traditional four-year college degree track,” said Rubio. “Our current accreditation system stifles innovation and leaves too many people with piles of student loan debt. This bill would help make higher education more affordable for students who choose high quality, nontraditional higher education pathways such as trade schools and community colleges.” 

"When it comes to higher education, we must think more boldly and more expansively. Non-traditional programs and pathways that demonstrably connect learners facing barriers to employment with an in-demand credential and a good-paying job need access to major public funding streams to allow them to scale. Colorado's ActivateWork applauds Senator Bennet and Senator Rubio for a bipartisan bill that will bring overdue outcomes-driven reform to our postsecondary system,” said Helen Young Hayes, Founder and CEO of Colorado's ActivateWork.

"The Higher Education Innovation Act prioritizes postsecondary federal resources based on what should matter most: whether a given institution, program or pathway measurably improves the lives of its learners. I thank Senators Bennet and Rubio for their leadership, and I hope Congress will pass this important bipartisan legislation,” said Roger Low, CEO & Founder, Colorado Equitable Economic Mobility Initiative.

"As a coalition of business leaders invested in education, Colorado Succeeds supports policies that expand and diversify learner access to high-quality industry credentials and promote equity and inclusion. That's why we support the Higher Education Innovation Act of 2022. By establishing an outcomes-based process for quality postsecondary institutions to receive authorization to participate in federal financial aid programs, students will have more opportunities to succeed in school and in their future careers. We're very thankful to Sen. Bennet for sponsoring this legislation alongside Sen. Marco Rubio and urge Congress to support this bipartisan effort,” said Scott Laband, President, Colorado Succeeds.

Currently, students who attend high-quality unaccredited postsecondary institutions are unable to receive federal student aid to help finance their education. As a result, many bright students can’t access the financial assistance they need to enroll in trade schools, community colleges, and other postsecondary institutions with a proven record of positive outcomes. The Higher Education Innovation Act would create a five-year pilot program for an alternative, outcomes-based process for high quality postsecondary institutions to receive authorization to participate in federal financial aid programs. 

The Higher Education Innovation Act would:

  • Support postsecondary institutions that promote and support student success outcomes and cost-effectiveness in postsecondary education by providing them the opportunity to participate in federal financial aid and other programs given to traditionally accredited institutions. 
  • Establish innovation authorizers to approve high-quality, evidence-based higher education providers as part of a five-year pilot program to reward innovative programs with successful student outcomes.
  • Allow students, especially nontraditional students to use federal financial aid to attend innovative authorized-institutions that embrace the new ways people learn and acquire skills that lead to good paying jobs without enormous student loan debt.
  • Promote educational programs that lead to a degree, certificate, or industry-recognized credential that meets the requirements for licensing in the relevant field.
  •  Require higher education providers to meet high student performance outcomes related to student learning and completion of education programs that benefit students and address college affordability.

The bill text is available HERE. A one page summary of the bill is available HERE