Dr. George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College, shared his concerns about several initiatives proposed by the U.S. Department of Education and the importance of considering nontraditional students when determining education policies today during his testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Pruitt, the only New Jersey college or university president to testify at the hearing today, told federal legislators the most significant impediment facing higher education is the current regulatory culture in Washington.
“During my 31-year presidency, I have served in an advisory capacity to five secretaries of education, under three presidents of both parties, and I have never before seen such a predisposition for overreaching, intrusive and, sometimes, destructive use of regulatory authority,” said Pruitt. “Such initiatives as credit-hour definition, state authorization and the proposed federal ratings system, while well-intentioned, are ill-conceived and actually harmful. They stifle innovation, undermine sound academic judgment and drive up costs. We need a regulatory framework that supports accountability and innovation. However, what we have now supports compliance over quality, conformity over diversity, and attempts to federalize and bureaucratize judgments that should be left to the academy, the accreditors and the states.”
Pruitt also warned legislators about making higher education policy based on federal data that only counts first-time, full-time freshman and treats transfer students as drop outs.
According to the Department of Education, the largest enrollment projections from 2011 through 2022 are among students who are 25 and older and considered nontraditional students.
“My best advice to you, collectively and individually, is that when you return to your districts, meet with the presidents of your colleges and universities and get their counsel about the issues that concern you,” Pruitt told the committee. “I think you will find that we all share the same objectives. Right now, we are headed in the wrong direction.”
The hearing, “Keeping College Within Reach: Meeting the Needs of Contemporary Students,” was held at the Rayburn House Office Building. In addition to Pruitt, additional witnesses included Kevin Gilligan, chairman and CEO of Capella Education Company; David K. Moldoff, founder and CEO of AcademyOne, Inc.; Dr. Joann A. Broughman, senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs of the University of Maryland system; Stan Jones, president of Complete College America; and Dr. Brooks A. Keel, president of Georgia Southern University.
The committee also streamed a live webcast of the hearing.