WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Education hosted an A-list of 150 higher education leaders and "disrupters" for a discussion Monday on how the federal government can encourage the more efficient production of college degrees and credentials.
A recurring theme of the daylong meeting, most of which was off the record, was that policymaking on higher education is a balancing act of encouraging innovation and safeguarding investments. And while the federal government has plenty of influence, it has only the “blunt instruments” of financial aid programs to actually tell colleges what to do.
“It’s an ambitious challenge. None of this is easy,” Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said at the meeting, which was held at Georgetown University. (Organizers allowed the news media to attend the gathering but requested no quoting of participants, except for Duncan.)
Duncan said the White House wants to help decrease college costs and increase completion rates, all while protecting academic quality.
“The last thing we want to do is hand out paper that isn’t real,” he said.