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Guest Thinkers

Education strategy

The Brookings

Institution’s Hamilton Project

recently released a report titled An Education

Strategy to Promote Opportunity, Prosperity, and Growth

. After noting that

approximately $874 billion per year is spent on education in the United States,

the authors highlight the economic and educational benefits of universal

preschool and rethinking our current system of financial aid for higher

education. Here are some interesting quotes from the report…


Jens Ludwig of Georgetown University and Isabel Sawhill of The Brookings

Institution propose a program called Success by Ten. This program would give

children from low-income families high-quality, full-time education for the

first five years of life, and then would use proven-effective methods to give

them extra help during their elementary school years. The early childhood

program would be based on the successful Abecedarian Project; it could be

thought of as “Head Start on steroids,” as it would combine, expand, and

transform the Early Head Start and Head Start programs. Ludwig and Sawhill

estimate that, if fully implemented, Success by Ten could increase GDP by up to

0.8 percent, while, on an individual level, bringing the dramatic benefits of

Abecedarian – greater employment and college entry, reduced teen pregnancy and

crime – to millions of American children.

Higher education

Susan Dynarski and Judith Scott-Clayton, both of Harvard University,

argue that the complexity and sluggishness of the federal system for

distributing student financial aid creates serious obstacles to college

attendance by making it enormously difficult for low- and moderate-income

students to assess their eligibility for aid. Indeed, studies have found scant

evidence that the federal program of grants and tax credits actually increases

enrollment, in contrast to the proven effects of much simpler programs such as

the Social Security Student Benefit Program and Georgia’s HOPE program. While

the complexity of the current system is intended to target aid to those who need

it most, Dynarski and Scott-Clayton show that a dramatically simplified aid

process could nearly reproduce the current distribution of aid. Under their

proposal, students could figure out their grant aid eligibility by looking at a

small, simple table that fits easily on a postcard. In fact, the table would be

put on a postcard and distributed through schools and the mail so that aid

information could be simple, certain, and delivered early. Meanwhile, the

application process could be as easy as checking a box on the family’s regular

tax returns. Dynarski and Scott-Clayton estimate that their proposed program

would increase enrollment among the grant-eligible population by between 5.6 and

7.4 percentage points.

The authors also discuss the teacher labor market and K-12 curricular

experimentation, among other things. Even if you’re not interested in

large-scale education policy issues, the report might be worth a quick read

just to familiarize yourself with some of the ways national policymakers think

about K-12 education.


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