Democrats are talking more about how failures happen across the higher education system, not just at for-profit colleges — their traditional punching bag. So can they agree with Republicans on new standards for all colleges?
For-profit colleges have for years been higher education’s boogeyman for consumer advocates and many Democrats in Congress. And those lawmakers have repeatedly called for tougher standards in response to the sector’s relatively high loan default rates and other poor outcomes.
But Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, suggested this month that his party hasn’t focused enough on failures happening at all colleges — including public and nonprofit institutions. And he argued that a reauthorized Higher Education Act should add accountability for all colleges that receive federal aid.
“By committing to fix the outcomes crisis across the board for every student, we can frankly bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats,” he said at an event hosted by the think tank Third Way.
Higher education experts have spent years debating the merits and proper design of an accountability system that would encompass the entire higher ed system. But Murphy, who sits on the Senate education committee, adds a prominent voice on the Democratic side to calls for expanding standards for all colleges, a top priority for the committee’s GOP chairman, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.