A conversation with Sens. Wyden and Rubio: Holding higher education accountable
About This Event

Post-Event Summary
U.S. students and their families are currently faced with ever-climbing college tuition costs and uncertainty about the labor market value of a postsecondary degree, which makes choosing the right school and major all the more important. But considering the lack of transparency in higher education, emphasized Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at an AEI event on Wednesday, this task becomes extremely difficult.

Sen. Wyden began by emphasizing that information about the return on investment in a particular major at a particular college is at best incomplete. In an effort to improve transparency, Senators Wyden and Rubio have introduced legislation that would unearth existing — but currently inaccessible — data to paint a more comprehensive picture of the higher education landscape.

Higher education experts agreed with Sen. Rubio's opinion that higher education transparency is significant to building a capable workforce, but they disagreed with each other about the ways in which a standard data collection system for higher education could be implemented.

Amy Jones of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce asked whether it is the responsibility of the states or the federal government to collect this data. Pauline Abernathy of the Institute for College Access & Success concluded that going forward, it is crucial to establish what defines meaningful disclosure of information in order to improve the system for students, taxpayers and higher education institutions themselves.

--Lauren Blair Aronson

Event Description
What’s the return on an investment in U.S. higher education? With rising college costs, an aggregate student loan debt reaching $1 trillion and dim job forecasts for recent graduates, prospective students and their families are seeking more information about the value of college degrees. And answers are not easy to come by, given that the higher education market lacks transparency regarding college costs, student learning and post-college success.

In response, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., with the co-sponsorship of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has drafted the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, a proposal that aims to dramatically increase higher education transparency. At this AEI and New America Foundation event, Sens. Wyden and Rubio will discuss the federal role in promoting higher education transparency and accountability. A panel of higher education experts will respond.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


1:15 PM

1:30 PM
Panel I: A Conversation with Senators Wyden and Rubio

Ron Wyden
, U.S. Senate (D-Ore.)
Marco Rubio
, U.S. Senate (R-Fla.)

Andrew P. Kelly, AEI

1:50 PM
Moderated Question and Answer Session

2:00 PM
Panel II: Solving the Information Deficit: Improving Transparency in Higher Education

Pauline Abernathy, The Institute for College Access & Success
Anthony Carnevale
, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
Amy Jones, House Committee on Education and the Workforce
Mark Schneider, American Institutes for Research

Kevin Carey, New America Foundation

3:00 PM
Moderated Question and Answer Session

3:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Lauren Aronson at [email protected], 202.862.5904.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.

Speaker Biographies

Pauline Abernathy oversees national policy and advocacy strategy for The Institute for College Access and Success. She previously served as senior adviser to Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and as deputy director of health and human services policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts, where she initiated, designed and managed national initiatives related to student debt, retirement savings, child welfare and public health policies. Before joining Pew, she served in senior positions at the U.S. Department of Education and at the White House National Economic Council and Domestic Policy Council. Abernathy also worked in the U.S. Senate and at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Kevin Carey is director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation. An expert on Pre-K–12 and higher education issues, Carey has published articles on education and other topics in magazines including The New Republic, Washington Monthly, The American Prospect and Democracy. He also writes monthly columns on education for The Chronicle of Higher Education and The New Republic and edits the annual “Washington Monthly College Guide.” Carey's research includes higher education reform, improving college graduation rates, college rankings, community colleges and the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. His writing was anthologized in Best American Legal Writing 2009 and he received an Education Writers Association award for commentary in 2010. He appears frequently on media outlets including CNN, C-SPAN and NPR. His articles, columns, blog posts and tweets are available at www.kevincarey.net. Before joining New America, Carey worked at the Education Trust and as the policy director of Education Sector. Previously, he worked as an analyst in the Indiana Senate and as Indiana's assistant state budget director. He also teaches education policy at Johns Hopkins University.

Anthony Carnevale is an expert in education, training and employment. He has served as vice president for public leadership at the Educational Testing Service and has been appointed to notable positions by three U.S. presidents: he was appointed to the White House Commission on Technology and Adult Education by President George W. Bush, was named chair of the National Commission on Employment Policy by President Bill Clinton and was named chair of the Human Resources Subcommittee of the White House Commission on Productivity by President Ronald Reagan.

Amy Jones specializes in higher education, student loan policy and legal issues arising in education policy for Chairman John Kline of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Previously, she was an attorney at Dean Blakey, where she handled issues pertaining to the higher education community and the student loan industry. Jones also clerked at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.

Andrew P. Kelly is a research fellow in education policy studies at AEI. His research focuses on higher education policy, innovation in education, the politics of education reform and consumer choice in education. Previously, he was a research assistant at AEI, where his work focused on the preparation of school leaders, collective bargaining in public schools and the politics of education. His research has appeared in Teachers College Record, Educational Policy, Policy Studies Journal, Education Next and Education Week, as well as popular outlets such as Inside Higher Education, Forbes, The Atlantic, National Review and The Huffington Post. Kelly is co-editor of “Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit: Lessons from A Half-Century of Federal Efforts to Improve America's Schools” (Harvard Education Press, 2011), “Reinventing Higher Education: The Promise of Innovation” (Harvard Education Press, 2011) and “Getting to Graduation: The Completion Agenda in Higher Education” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012). In 2011, Kelly was named one of 16 "Next Generation Leaders" in education policy by Education Week’s Policy Notebook blog . 

Marco Rubio
was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 on a pledge to stand up to the federal government’s reckless spending and its assault on the free enterprise system. Today, he proudly represents the state of Florida, where he works to fulfill his promise to restore fiscal discipline and to give job creators more certainty and confidence to open new businesses or expand existing ones. Rubio served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008. His committee assignments as senator currently include commerce, science and transportation; foreign relations; intelligence and small business and entrepreneurship.
Mark Schneider is a visiting scholar at AEI and vice president of the American Institutes for Research (AIR), both of which are based in Washington, D.C. Before joining AIR, he served as the U.S. commissioner of education statistics from 2005 to 2008. He is also a distinguished professor emeritus of political science at Stony Brook University. Schneider is the author and editor of numerous articles and books on education policy, including “Getting to Graduation: The Completion Agenda in Higher Education” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), “Higher Education Accountability” (Palgrave, 2010), “Charter Schools: Hope or Hype?” (Princeton University Press, 2007) and “Choosing Schools” (Princeton University Press, 2000), which won the Policy Study Organization’s Aaron Wildavsky Best Book Award. Schneider has been working to increase accountability by making data on college productivity more publicly available. To that end, he is one of the creators of www.collegemeasures.org and serves as the president of College Measures LLC, a joint venture of AIR and Matrix Knowledge Group.

Ron Wyden
has been standing up for Oregon in the U.S. Senate since 1996, when he became the first U.S. senator elected in a vote-by-mail election. Throughout his public service, Sen. Wyden has earned a reputation as an independent voice for Oregonians and the nation, offering creative, common-sense solutions to issues associated with bipartisan proposals on health care, tax reform, infrastructure development, Internet freedom and reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels through alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass. He has been a proponent of education initiatives that both expand access to quality education for America’s students and increase transparency in the higher education marketplace. Sen. Wyden was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1980 to represent Oregon’s 3rd district.

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