Robert Scott is president of Adelphi College in Long Island, New York.
Here, he offers his ideas about how to strengthen higher education and direct federal aid more thoughtfully to students.
First, he suggests a year of mandatory national service in communities after high school graduation. Rationale: This service year would help young people develop knowledge, skills, abilities and values outside of school by doing supervised, constructive work in communities and with organizations that need assistance. They would gain maturity needed to succeed in advanced study and save money for postsecondary opportunities.
Second, direct federal research grants to regional and community institutions of higher education. Rationale: The criteria for selecting such institutions for competitive grants could be based not only on their expertise, but on their success in enrolling students from low-income families and in graduating students in a timely manner without large amounts of debt.
Third, provide grant and loan forgiveness funding to students who enter high-need professions like nursing, health-related services (and, I might add, teaching). Rationale: We know that students’ employment decisions are influenced by the debt they accumulate in college. This program could not only help students manage their debt but encourage them to consider less well-paid employment and still help stimulate the economy.
President Scott subtly adds that some of the funding might be enhanced by reallocating federal aid from “institutions with high loan default rates and low graduation rates.” He refers to the large numbers of for-profit online “universities” that match those two criteria. Those institutions have high default rates and low graduation rates; they are protected by lobbyists from both parties in Washington, who keep these failed institutions eligible for federal aid despite their disservice to students and society.