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.