“Our new approach will aid students across all sectors of higher education and improve accountability,” DeVos said.
In July, the Chronicle of Higher Education conducted research on the presence of education deserts in the United States. The study found that 11.2 million Americans, or 3.5 percent of the adult population, live in areas of the country where the closest public college is at least a 60 minute drive away, and these areas are mainly comprised of white and impoverished populations.
The median household income for these areas is at $47,368, almost $6,500 below that of non-desert areas. The percentage of those below the poverty line is 12.8 percent, 1.4 above non-desert areas.
Nicholas Hillman, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying this issue, said that colleges as well as the state and federal government are taking little action to respond to the issue and encourage students to consider a variety of factors while choosing a college.
That same month, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-VA, the ranking member on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, along with the rest of the committee Democrats introduced the Aim Higher Act, which would be the most recent attempt to reauthorize of the Higher Education Act since 2008.
The Aim Higher Act aims to give every student the opportunity to earn a debt-free degree or credential, Scott said in a press release.
“It provides immediate and long-term relief to students and parents struggling with the cost of college, it puts a greater focus on helping students graduate on time with a quality degree that leads to a rewarding career and it cracks down on predatory for-profit colleges that peddle expensive, low-quality degrees at the expense of students and taxpayers,” Scott said.
This is the third reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to come before congress within the last two sessions. The first was the the College Transparency Act, proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-MI, and the second was the PROSPER Act, proposed by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-NC, last December.
In June, the White House released a comprehensive plan for overhauling the organization of the federal government that would have several education-related impacts.
The first change mentioned in the almost 130-page proposal is a merger of the Departments of Education and Labor, creating what would be the Department of Education and the Workforce. This merger stems from the White House’s continual efforts to make a coordinated plan of skill development from student to worker.
The proposed department would have four main sub-agencies: K-12, Higher Education/Workforce Development, Enforcement and Research/Evaluation/Administration.
“This would help create alignment throughout the education-to-career pipeline, while also creating coherence within the workforce development and higher education worlds,” the proposal said.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, the Chairman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, said in a press release that the federal government needs a serious overhaul.
“The proposed Department of Education and the Workforce is recognition of the clear relationship between education policy at every level and the needs of the growing American workforce,” Foxx said.
The plan also proposes eliminating government agencies that award research grants and fellowships to graduate students and transferring the responsibility on the National Science Foundation – an idea the proposal says would reduce waste of government resources.
The proposal would also create a Next Generation Federal Student Aid Processing and Servicing Environment, which it says will benefit Federal Student Aid customers and save taxpayers millions of dollars.
“This plan will serve as a cornerstone for a productive, bipartisan dialogue around making the federal government work for the 21st century,” the release said.