Bennet, Hatch, Young Introduce Innovation Grants Higher Education Bill

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Todd Young (R-IN) today introduced the Fund for Innovation and Success in Higher Education (FINISH) Act to promote innovation and efficiency in higher education. The legislation would improve evaluation authority while also authorizing innovative, evidence-based grant funding, Pay-for-Success projects, and open educational resources.

“We must work diligently to create flexibility and promote innovation in colleges and universities, so they can better prepare and support students from all backgrounds,” Bennet said. “This legislation will bring us one step closer to ensuring more students can complete higher education and succeed in the 21st century economy.”

The FINISH Act aims to enhance innovation in higher education so institutions can better support vulnerable students. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Authorize Innovation Grants: The bill amends the Fund for the Improvement of Secondary Education (FIPSE) to allow grant recipients to use a portion of their funds for tiered evidence-based grants to support initiatives that increase access to higher education for high-need students, increase degree attainment, and improve efficiency in our higher education systems. Institutes of higher education would partner with intermediary organizations—a non-profit, school district, SEA, or consortium of groups— in order to qualify for early-phase grants, mid-phase grants, and expansion grants awarded to accomplish these goals.
  • Encourage Open-Educational Resources: The bill encourages institutions to make all forms of postsecondary instructional content widely available. Doing so would result in significant cost-savings for students and increased efficiency to institutions of higher education.
  • Support Efficient and Innovative Uses of Taxpayer Funds Through Pay-for-Success Initiatives: The bill allows the Secretary of Education to approve up to five Pay-for-Success (PFS) pilot initiatives each fiscal year, which would allow grant recipients to partner with outside organizations to achieve the goals of federally funded higher education grant programs. In order to receive federal grant dollars, grant recipients must show concrete achievement of measurable outcomes. Pay-for-Success projects would directly result in an increase in public value and social benefit. This approach does not require grant recipients to use a Pay-for-Success model; it merely allows grant recipients to use this approach.
  • Establish Better Evaluation Authority: The bill provides additional evaluation authority by directing the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences, on a biennial basis, to develop an evaluation plan for these innovation initiatives.

The FINISH Act has received support from a variety of interest groups, including from the 82 signatories of this LETTER.