Lamar Alexander Wants to Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Career College Central Summary:

  • Ask the average American to describe Senator Lamar Alexander, and they’ll probably mention the red-and-black plaid shirt that became the senator’s trademark when he campaigned for Tennessee's governorship in the late 1970s.
  • Ask the average college lobbyist or education aide, and they’ll paint a different picture: Lamar standing beside a tower of boxes stuffed with regulations, railing against the burden those rules impose on colleges. Or this image: Lamar waving the 10-page paper federal student-aid application, appealing for a shorter form.
  • For years, the Republican senator has been trotting out those two props in an effort to persuade his colleagues to roll back regulations and simplify, simplify, simplify student aid. And for years, the regulations and programs have kept on multiplying.
  • Now, with Republicans poised to reclaim the Senate in Tuesday’s elections, Mr. Alexander may finally be in a position to change things. As the presumptive chair of the Senate committee that oversees education, he would control the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the major law governing student aid. Already, he’s drafted legislation to shrink the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa, and to reduce the overall number of student-aid programs. He’s formed a commission to identify redundant regulations, and he's talked of "starting from scratch" on the reauthorization bill.
  • "My principal goal in higher education is to deregulate it," the senator said in an email interview…
  • He also warned that some accreditors of for-profit colleges were failing to protect students from shoddy programs—a warning Democrats have recently revived. At one point he even proposed eliminating the requirement that institutions be accredited to receive federal student aid.

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