On Feb. 8, 2023, WGU President Scott Pulsipher was invited to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce on the topic of “American Education in Crisis.” As part of his testimony, President Pulsipher outlined three deliverables upon which higher education should focus:
- Higher education should be accessible, traversable, and equitable. Our current system is leaving human potential on the table and is failing to serve as a catalyst for human progress. While many colleges and universities are innovating to create pathways to opportunity that are accessible to all, equity gaps stubbornly remain.
- Higher education must create value for students. The current state of higher education is perhaps best summarized by the Postsecondary Value Commission, supported by the Gates Foundation and the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Their study found that 650 institutions do not provide their students with minimum economic return after accounting for the cost of attendance.
- Higher education must meet the needs of the workforce. As an extension of providing individuals a pathway to opportunity, a secondary benefit is realized: Workforce needs become aligned with talent supply.
President Pulsipher advised that Congress must shift its policy approach to regulate outcomes over inputs. Outcomes must first be clarified and distractions or constraints that impede innovation must be removed. While institutional missions may vary, Congress should hold every college and university accountable to achieving these outcomes:
- Improved completion rates: Students who complete some college without attaining a degree are often worse off than they were previously.
- A strong return on investment: Affordability matters, but it means little to graduates if the credentials they earn aren’t aligned with the future needs of our economy and don’t lead to high-quality jobs.
- Equity in both access and attainment: Pathways to opportunity must be accessible to all.
As part of his testimony before the committee, President Pulsipher submitted a detailed written plan for how to make this shift, including policy recommendations. Those written remarks are available for download as a white paper.
President Pulsipher testified alongside Virginia Gentles, director of the Education Freedom Center; Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System; and Colorado Governor Jared Polis. Visit the subcommittee’s YouTube page to watch the full hearing.
President Pulsipher also spoke about the opportunity to testify on his LinkedIn profile.
Correction: August 18, 2023
A previous version of this article and associated whitepaper misstated Postsecondary Value Commission data, citing that nearly one-third of four-year institutions leave their students with zero economic return. In fact, 650 institutions do not provide their students with minimum economic return.