Given the extraordinary regulatory and political challenges facing career education, what improvements/innovations does the sector need to implement to remain a leader in higher education?
In these tough economic times, many Americans are eager for opportunities to gain new skills that will help them compete for job openings. Career colleges offer a wide variety of students the chance to take classes and gain the education necessary to succeed in the workforce and in life. To ensure students have access to the most relevant coursework and training, career colleges must continue to strengthen relationships with local leaders and area businesses. Institutions must constantly strive to update curricula and develop new programs that correlate with the needs of the local economy.
In the last couple of years, career colleges have been unfairly targeted by punitive federal mandates that drag down the whole sector in the name of weeding out a few bad apples. While my Republican colleagues and I continue to fight this regulatory overreach in Congress, we also need career colleges to self-police. If institutions follow the law and act in the best interests of students and taxpayers, we can quiet the call for federal intervention.
Please explain the innovations you’ve brought to (or observed in) career education. What led you to recognize the need for these innovations? What has been their impact on students and higher education?
I have long been impressed with the innovative programs and coursework available at career colleges. By providing opportunities to take classes year-round, offering distance education initiatives and implementing creative teaching practices, career colleges are helping students gain skills relevant to the workforce while graduating in less time.
In order to best prepare today’s students to join tomorrow’s workforce and promote continued ingenuity in higher education, the federal government must not overwhelm career colleges – or other types of colleges – with poorly conceived regulations that waste time and money. In 2010, the Department of Education advanced a package of so-called “program integrity” regulations that significantly increased federal intrusion in academic affairs. The House Education and the Workforce Committee immediately recognized two regulations in this package – the credit hour and state authorization regulations – as particularly burdensome, with the potential to create significant financial and bureaucratic problems for career colleges as well as other institutions of higher education.
Last year, Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., introduced legislation to eliminate these problematic regulations. I’m pleased to report the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act was approved by the full House of Representatives with bipartisan support in February. Rather than getting the federal government more involved in higher education, my colleagues and I will keep working to remove harmful regulations that pile unnecessary financial burdens on colleges and universities.
What quality about career colleges or their students motivates you personally?
Career colleges are unique in serving a broad swath of students – from veterans returning to school after serving our country and parents interested in rejoining the workforce to adults eager for new career opportunities. The stories I hear from these students are inspiring; they are working tirelessly to get the training and education they need for success regardless of circumstances, and they are always overwhelmingly appreciative of the knowledge and experience they gain in school. The determination, passion and resourcefulness of these students motivates me to continue working to ensure career colleges have the flexibility and support necessary to continue offering innovative programs and training to Americans nationwide.