The Obama Administration has made ensuring that all students have access to a high-quality, affordable education a key priority. Last month, we vastly increased the quality of data available and published a new tool to help students and families make more informed decisions when choosing colleges. The Department of Education (ED) also awarded $60 million in First in the World grants to colleges and universities to help them design and test innovative approaches to teaching and supporting students.
I am therefore pleased to announce that ED is now inviting applications for the Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) experiment. As part of ED’s experimental sites authority under HEA, EQUIP will accelerate and evaluate innovation through partnerships between colleges and universities and non-traditional providers of education, such as intensive “boot camps” building skills in particular fields, specific programs awarding certificates aligned to employer needs, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Eligible programs will lead to a degree or certificate, build students’ transferable academic credits, and provide students with the ever-changing skills they need for today’s economy. The experimental sites authority allows the Secretary to waive certain provisions regarding federal financial aid in order to improve the results achieved with federal student aid dollars.
A critical component of this program will be to increase transparency and generate data regarding the quality of these programs. Participation will require a partnership among a postsecondary institution, one or more non-traditional providers, and a quality assurance entity that will make student outcomes transparent in areas such as learning and employment, and provide tools for ongoing quality improvement. The Department has already begun a conversation about innovation and quality in higher education, through which we have received significant input reaffirming the need for this effort and providing guidance from institutions, providers, student advocates, and other in the field about the best ways to move forward.
We encourage interested colleges and universities, non-traditional providers of education, and potential quality assurance entities to find details about the program in this Federal Register notice. To share your thoughts or to be notified of updates, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ted Mitchell is U.S. Under Secretary of Education.