RELEASE: The College Affordability Act Would Overhaul Efforts to Ensure Quality in Higher Education

Washington, D.C. — The Center for American Progress has released three new columns exploring how the College Affordability Act would strengthen quality assurance and accountability in America’s higher education system—including by establishing an on-time repayment rate metric, reforming accreditation, and closing the default rate loophole. The College Affordability Act would comprehensively update the Higher Education Act (HEA) for the first time since 2008. Since then, numerous failing colleges have shuttered, increasing the need to focus on improving quality in America’s higher education system.

“Students willing to spend their time and money getting a higher education shouldn’t have to worry about whether their institutions are equipped to hold up their end of the bargain,” said Ben Miller, vice president for Postsecondary Education at CAP. “The College Affordability Act would significantly improve efforts to hold colleges accountable for the outcomes they produce and better protect students and taxpayers.”

  • On-time repayment rate: The College Affordability Act adopts a metric that would judge colleges on whether students make their required payments. On-time repayment tracks what percentage of a school’s borrowers have made at least 90 percent of their required payments by the end of the federal fiscal year in which they hit their 36th month in repayment.
  • Accreditation reform: The College Affordability Act would strengthen the accreditation review process by putting a greater emphasis on student outcomes; requiring accreditors to seek guaranteed transfer plans from schools exhibiting certain risk factors; reducing conflicts of interest on accreditor decision-making boards; bolstering the U.S. Department of Education’s role in oversight of accrediting agencies; and streamlining and increasing transparency between accrediting agencies, schools, and the Department of Education.
  • Closing the default rate loophole: Current law allows many schools to evade scrutiny over poor outcomes by pushing students into payment-pausing repayment options, such as deferment or forbearance. The College Affordability Act would address this loophole by pushing borrowers who have used discretionary forbearances for 18 to 36 months of their initial repayment period to a later cohort and treating longer usage of these repayment options akin to a default. This would allow the government to track whether borrowers eventually restarted the repayment process.

Click here to read “The Value of an On-Time Repayment Rate” by Ben Miller.

Click here to read “The College Affordability Act Makes Major Improvements to Quality Oversight of Colleges” by Antoinette Flores.

Click here to read “Closing a Major Loophole in Default Rate Accountability” by Ben Miller.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at or 202.741.6292.