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Against the backdrop of college closures, admission scandals, and rising rancor over student debt, Laura Arnold travels to Washington, D.C., to talk to policy experts Lanae Erickson and Kevin Carey about the ingrained problems with America’s higher education system.

Listen to the Podcast

Their conversation turns up fundamental flaws that have led to a market breakdown in higher education. For decades the U.S. has sought to expand access to colleges and universities to help high school graduates compete in the labor market, pumping an estimated $130 billion in grants and loans into higher education each year.

Remarkably, the federal government asks very little from schools in exchange for that funding, and there are few quality assurance measures in place to protect consumers. What’s more, students’ returns on their investments in higher education vary widely; there is only limited information available about how graduates from different programs fare in their careers.

This “blank check” system has led to some big issues: Institutions with terrible track records on student outcomes continue to rake in federal dollars, while students are taking out mountains of debt to attend colleges where they have just a one in 10 chance of graduating.

As Congress continues to debate fixes, Erickson, a vice president at the leading think tank Third Way, and Carey, a higher education policy expert and writer at the nonprofit New America, lay out their vision: a push to hold schools accountable for outcomes, a real investment in community colleges that are serving non-traditional students, and a movement to put information in the hands of students who can use it.

About the podcast

In each “Deep Dive with Laura Arnold” episode, Arnold talks to people at the center of the fight for policy change, disentangles complex issues, and reminds us that entrenched interests make reform difficult, but not impossible. Episodes feature a range of topics, including probation and parole and drug pricing.

How to listen

Listen to the podcast here, on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher or your favorite podcast app.

About the host

Laura Arnold is the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Arnold Ventures, founded in 2010, and an attorney and former oil company executive. Read more about her here.