Fiscal Responsibility in Higher Education Academy

The ALEC Center for State Fiscal Reform and the ALEC Education Workforce and Development Task Force co-hosted a Fiscal Responsibility in Higher Education Academy earlier this month. Dr. Richard Vedder, an ALEC Scholar, also played an instrumental role in the planning and execution of this academy. The event took place in Arlington, Virginia at the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School. The purpose of the academy was to provide nonpartisan policy training and a forum for legislators to discuss detailed policy solutions. In particular, the group discussed solutions to reduce skyrocketing higher education costs and how to handle the free speech crisis on university campuses. Attendees of the academy included 25 state legislators that represent 18 diverse states.

In addition to policy sessions, attendees had the opportunity to visit the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in downtown Washington, D.C., to hear Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Kevin Hassett discuss federal tax reform efforts. This was especially timely considering the once-in-a-generation opportunity for tax reform at the federal level. State legislators were able to weigh in on specific proposals and share how federal tax reform could positively impact their respective states. They also had the opportunity to hear video messages from former U.S. Speaker Newt Gingrich and Purdue President Mitch Daniels. During our closing lunch, economist Stephen Moore delivered remarks to attendees.

“We operate in our own bubbles and our challenges appear unique; the solutions unattainable. Then we gather at an ALEC academy and rediscover our challenges are very much those of others. A healthy venting is followed by the emerging core of an answer, a way forward. Perhaps many ways forward. The joy of public service surfaces again. We can help make life better for those we represent,” said state Representative Chuck Weber of Kansas’ 85th district.

“I was very impressed with the two-day “academy” format. The speakers were well prepared, interesting and highly informative. This event was focused and gave us the opportunity to get into the weeds and really understand the fiscal and political issues facing higher education. I returned home better equipped to represent my district, with newfound knowledge about innovative options to make higher education more affordable, less political and more relevant to the needs of the current job market. I highly recommend the ALEC academies,” said state Representative Susan Beckman of Colorado’s 38th district.

The ALEC academies grant state legislators the opportunity to share ideas and network in an environment conducive to a deep-dive into particular issue areas. It is exciting to see an increase in interstate collaboration following these events and a renewed vigor for solving some of the toughest problems facing the nation today.