Sherrill and Katko Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral FINISH Act to Support Innovation and Success in Higher Education

March 4, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC — Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) joined with Representative John Katko (NY-24) this week to introduce the Fund for Innovation and Success in Higher Education (FINISH) Act to help students succeed in our community, technical, and four-year colleges and universities. The legislation authorizes innovation grants to develop and scale evidence-based initiatives that improve outcomes in higher education, such as degree attainment by enrolled students and access to higher education for high-need students. The bipartisan FINISH Act is a companion to legislation introduced this week by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Todd Young (R-IN).

“Higher education is a key pathway to the middle class for millions of Americans, and I know that our colleges and universities will play an important role in helping our residents and our economy recover from this pandemic,” said Rep. Sherrill. “However, too many of our students face significant barriers to finishing their degree and gaining a good, well-paying job after graduation. The FINISH Act helps those students to succeed in school and the workforce by directing funds to initiatives that have a track record of success in helping students graduate with a degree or credential.”

“An effective higher education system is critical to the long-term success of our students and our economy. Too often, high-need students, such as first-generation students and students from low income backgrounds, are underserved and under supported by our colleges and universities. The FINISH Act will promote innovation, flexibility, and evaluation in higher education to help improve educational attainment and outcomes for all students,” said Senator Bennet.

“Even before the pandemic, our higher education system was already falling short in serving our vulnerable students. In fact, every year, 1.2 million low-income or first-generation students enroll in college, but only a quarter of them will leave with a job related to their studies or enter graduate school. As our economy continues to struggle, we must be cognizant of student debt. It’s more important than ever to incentivize innovation through evidence-based solutions and set students up for success,” said Senator Young. “The FINISH Act works to ensure our students have the tools to finish a credential or degree pathway – not just start – by using incentives to adopt innovative solutions.”

The FINISH Act is supported by over 100 local, state, and national organizations, including America Forward, the Institute for College Access and Success, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Knowledge Alliance, New America, and Results for America.

"We commend Representatives Sherrill and Katko for introducing bipartisan legislation that would leverage the power of data and evidence to improve outcomes in higher education,” said Michele Jolin, CEO & Co-Founder of Results for America. “The FINISH Act would accelerate innovation and support efforts to test and scale solutions that help more students access and succeed in college.”

"The FINISH Act would provide a critical investment in innovation for the U.S. higher education system when it's never been more needed,” said Amy Laitinen, Director for Higher Education at New America. “With millions of students struggling to stay in school and finish their programs, especially now, this bill would provide critical support for colleges to implement ambitious, evidence-based strategies to help those students succeed in school and enter well-paying jobs.”

“The bipartisan FINISH Act will provide a necessary investment in innovation and an evidence base to improve access and completion in higher education for all students,” said Jacki Ball, President of Knowledge Alliance. “The need to focus on what works for students, educators and our nation’s education system using research and also evidence-based practices has always been critical, and now more than ever, as we confront the effects of the pandemic, it is imperative to ensure we can meet the profound learning and social and emotional needs of students. We cannot confront these challenges without research and the use of evidenced-based interventions.”

"Across the country, millions of Americans face significant barriers to accessing and completing post-secondary education, contributing to persistent opportunity gaps and constraining entire communities,” said Deborah Smolover, Executive Director of America Forward. “The bipartisan FINISH Act would make our higher education system more equitable by focusing attention and resources on measurably improving outcomes for the current and prospective college students today who urgently need a more functional ladder to opportunity and prosperity."

The FINISH Act takes important steps to support access to higher education and degree attainment among students, by:

  • Authorizing innovation grants: This bill amends the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) to allow institutions of higher education to use grant funding to develop and scale evidence-based initiatives that improve outcomes in education, such as degree attainment by enrolled students and access to higher education for high-need students.
  • Developing better evaluations of higher education initiatives: This legislation provides the Institute of Education Sciences the authority to evaluate the effectiveness of higher education initiatives that seek to improve student outcomes, with the goal of creating an evidence base of what works for students.
  • Authorizing pay-for-success grants that invest in proven initiatives: This bill allows the Department of Education to approve five Pay-for-Success initiatives that have demonstrated and measurable impacts on student outcomes each year.
  • Supporting the adoption of open-educational resources: This legislation encourages institutions of higher education to put their educational content online and make it widely available for students around the country.