Skip to main content

New BPC Task Force to Look at Student Debt, Graduation Rates in Higher Education

Washington, D.C.– The Bipartisan Policy Center has launched a task force to look at high student debt and low graduation rates, and produce policy recommendations to promote affordability and accountability in the higher education system.

The BPC Task Force on Higher Education Financing and Student Outcomes is co-chaired by former Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and former Rep. George Miller (D-CA), both former chairmen of the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Since the Higher Education Act was last reauthorized ten years ago, the education landscape has dramatically changed, with colleges now serving growing numbers of adult learners and embracing new options such as online education.

Student debt reached $1.4 trillion in 2017, reflecting a recent sharp increase driven in part by rising tuition prices and declining state support for higher education. Given that only 60 percent of first-time, full-time students graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years, it is time for federal and state governments to rethink their roles in the higher education system.

“The U.S. higher education system has long been considered the best in the world, but it faces significant challenges. We must strive for policies that will help equip students with the skills needed for the job market of today and improve graduation rates,” McKeon said.

“Students and their families should not be struggling under a mountain of debt just to get an education. We must make the student loan process more transparent and promote affordability so that students can focus on acquiring knowledge rather than greater debt,” Miller said. “It has been a decade since the Higher Education Act was last reauthorized. It is time for lawmakers to come together and produce forward-thinking legislation that improves the system for all Americans.”

The task force co-chairs, along with other experts, will discuss the future of higher education and confronting its challenges at a BPC event tomorrow.

The following individuals are on BPC’s Task Force on Higher Education Financing and Student Outcomes:


  • Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Former U.S. Representative (R-CA)
  • George Miller, Former U.S. Representative (D-CA)


  • F. King Alexander, President of LSU
  • Garrey Carruthers, Former Chancellor, New Mexico State University
  • Michelle Asha Cooper, President, Institute for Higher Education Policy
  • James H. Douglas, Former Governor of Vermont
  • Brian K. Fitzgerald, CEO, Business-Higher Education Forum
  • Christine Gregoire, Former Governor of Washington
  • Dianne G. Van Hook, Chancellor, College of the Canyons
  • Martha J. Kanter, Executive Director, College Promise Campaign
  • Walter M. Kimbrough, President, Dillard University
  • William J. Lennox Jr., Lieutenant General, United States Army, Retired
  • Thomas C. Leppert, Former Mayor of Dallas
  • Adam Looney, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
  • Cheryl A. Oldham, Vice President of Education Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Tom Petri, Former U.S. Representative (R-WI)
  • Wil Del Pilar, Vice President of Higher Education Policy and Practice, The Education Trust
  • John Tierney, Former U.S. Representative (D-MA)