Goal:

Reinvent Higher Education in America to be affordable, accessible, and for everyone, everywhere.

Mission:

Scott attended the University of Washington for five years in the 1980s.  He qualified for Pell Grants, NDSL loans, and work-study.   At the end of the five years his total debt was in the range of $5,000.   Adjusting for inflation that is no more than $10,000 in today’s dollars.   That seems like a fair price for today’s students. It’s also what students are charged in some other countries.   That’s the system (and the highest cost) that Scott wants for our young people today. That would be a fair social compact with our younger generation. It’s not what we have now.

If elected, Scott will focus on the big things needed to reinvent Higher Education in America to:

1) Make it dramatically cheaper and easier for young people leaving high school to access and pay for college and graduate without high student debt,

2) Restructure higher education for working Americans over the age of 25 to reduce cost by 90% while increasing enrollment by 400%,

3) Address the massive student debt problem, now $1.7 trillion, that is robbing graduates of a chance to form families, buy homes, and be financially successful – what we once called the American Dream.

If we do these three things we can begin a massive re-skilling of Americans for jobs of the future at scale and speed, reduce polarization, and empower communities in every part of America.  A top-line benefit would be an increase in annual economic growth potential of 1% or more per year.  And, it may also significantly reduce social inequality across all groups by a significant factor.

To achieve that agenda, Scott will focus on the following three projects:

Project 1: Institutional X-Ray

Scott’s first step will be to seek an institutional X-ray comparing the cost structure of American public universities against their lower cost equals in Europe and other countries.   We should get objective data on why college costs so much in America and what the drivers are and how they have changed over time.   How can we have created a structure of higher education that indentures so many students while simultaneously impoverishing so many adjunct faculty that do the lion’s share of teaching?

Let’s do this in comparison to other countries, adjusted for purchasing power parity, in similarly advanced economies.   For instance, universities in the Netherlands charge their own citizens just $2,500 per year for tuition at even the most prestigious schools.   Is this driven just by higher taxes and subsidies or is there a lower cost structure as well?   Let’s create a common language that is fact-driven and bipartisan.  

Project 2: Zero-interest Debt Conversion

The social contract we have written with an entire generation of young people represents a breach of faith between generations.  As noted, Scott attended a public university for five years in the 80s and graduated with a total student debt of $5,000 (NDSL Loans).  Adjusted for inflation (roughly double), that total debt of about $10,000 or less seems like a fair deal for today’s students.  

Scott believes a debt greater than $10,000 for a four year degree is an illegitimate burden we are imposing on our own population.  While outright forgiveness is not fair – one person’s forgiveness is another’s tax obligation – we can and should stop loading additional costs on top of and systematically exploiting that original debt. 

If elected, Scott will propose a national Zero-Interest Conversion program to be implemented for all federally funded student loans ($1.59 trillion of loans today) that forgives and re-credits back all interest, penalties, and additional fees that have been unfairly imposed on top of an already unfair debt burden.  Interest, penalties, and fees are usury and profiteering imposed on our own people through our own policies on top of the injustice of high cost tuition.   These unfair fees on federally funded student debt should be rolled back, the original loan balance recalculated to credit all interest and fees paid as a reduction in the principal balance due. This is not ‘forgiveness’ but simple ‘fairness.’

Graduates should be responsible for paying the principle that they signed up for, no matter how unfair a social contract this represents, but they should only be responsible for this principal.  No more. Our government has chosen to create this debt burden through its policies, it can therefore take responsibility for making that burden devoid of usury and profiteering.

In addition, Scott believes in programs such as income-dependent payment plan, targeted forgiveness in exchange for public service, and higher levels of grant programs for students entering from low income or disadvantaged backgrounds. Finally, Scott will focus on the $1.6 trillion publicly funded student debt and investigate whether this public funding can be separated from the general fund and dedicated to education expansion and innovation.

Project 3: Restructure Higher Ed for Working Adults

Reinvent Higher Education in America for working Americans over the age of 25 to begin reskilling for jobs of the future at scale and speed, reduce polarization, increase the empowerment of communities in every part of America, and increase economic growth potential by 1% or more per year.

GOALS:

GOAL 1) 50M New College Degrees for Working Americans in the next 10 years
GOAL 2) 100K New College Degrees for Working Adults in Oregon’s First District

  • 100,000 New College Degrees in 10 years (net new) in Oregon 1st District (50M nationally)
  • At 10% of the cost (per person) or lower
  • For adults over the age of 25 (working adults)
  • With complete control over how to learn and who to learn from
  • Completely transferrable credits, good at any college or university
  • No new bureaucracy
  • No big new federal program or debt
  • No big hand-outs or give-aways to Silicon Valley

Key Points:

  • Every church, community center, or book club can be a university
  • Anyone can learn, any way they want, from anyone they choose
  • If you are willing to do the work, you should be able to start earning college credits any time you want
  • No permission needed, no application demanded, no aptitude test required.
  • Any college credits you earn will be completely transferrable between institutions and recognized by every institution that takes federal funding.
  • Cost does not have to be an issue – you can go DIY and buy a used book, study a free site, join a study group, or hire a tutor depending on how you learn best.
  • We need no new bureaucracy or expensive new program to get started
  • We can leverage existing institutions and infrastructure already in place.
  • Upgrade our country to become the most educated and competitive on the planet
  • Globally, the OECD ranks the US #6 today for % of population with some college education, and #10 for % completing college or advanced degree. Let’s create a pathway to getting back to #1.
  • We can revitalize communities by studying together instead of bowling alone.

How it Could Work:

Three structural changes can make this future feasible

  • Expand College Credit Testing infrastructure.
    • Current programs for testing for college credit such as CLEP (College Level Examination Program) testing are too limited in accessibility, inconvenient in hours, and expensive to take a test for college credit.
    • Expand testing infrastructure to make it easy, cheap, and available to get college credit by taking an in-person test, at public locations (libraries, city halls, public schools, etc.).
    • Testing should be easy, cheap, and ubiquitous.
  • Divide the College Curriculum between Facts and Context
    • Facts are impartial and make up the bulk of the college curriculum; context requires experience and nuance and a professor’s insight and knowledge
    • Lower level courses are mostly facts, higher level courses mostly context
    • Up to 75% of a standard degree program is learning facts & factual material
    • Allow adult learners over the age of 25 to learn factual material any way they want, from anyone they wish, using any material that works (online or off, MOOC or book)
    • Make these modules available for independent study and testing
  • Require Intensive Campus Residencies for degree completion
    • Make the campus experience a 4—6 week intensive residency in order to complete a degree, 40-hours per week, 100% of the time with a professor.
    • Pay teaching professors a premium for this kind of program

Conclusion:

A public college is not a profit center.  Its mission is not to enrich shareholders.   Its management should be frugal and fair.  Its students are citizens not consumers to be pandered to with extravagant amenities that they will spend decades paying for.   Let’s get back to basics in higher education to build a system that is fair, equitable, high quality, and accessible to all.

Like this idea?  Show your support for reinventing higher education in America: