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Young, Hassan, Braun, Kaine Reintroduce Bill to Create Innovation Zones in Higher Education, Improve Student Success

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) reintroduced the Innovation Zone (IZ) Act, which would reform the underutilized and inefficient Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI) authorized under the Higher Education Act. The IZ Act would rename experimental sites to “Innovation Zones” to better reflect the program’s mission of encouraging higher education institutions to pursue innovative strategies that increase student success.

Experimental sites were first introduced in the mid-1980s. However, a lack of evaluation and transparent data collection has prevented Congress from using information from the experimental sites to make real policy changes. These experiments are a vital part of understanding how to improve student success and reduce onerous regulation within the framework of higher education.

“While experimental sites have the ability to improve the lives of students, we must have a way to measure success. Our bill would create ‘Innovation Zones’ to improve data collection and instill best practices so that students can save money, graduate on time, start careers, and support their families,” said Senator Young.

“Allowing colleges and universities to find innovative ways to support students – and then ensuring that the successes are shared widely so they can be replicated elsewhere – is an important tool in helping better prepare students for their futures,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan bill would help colleges and universities refine strategies to better serve students, increase efficiencies, and advance excellence in higher education.”

This bipartisan bill will help gather more data to make decisions about how to help students get better results from their education and better careers,” said Senator Braun.

“It’s important that our higher education institutions have the tools they need to help their students succeed,” said Senator Kaine. “This legislation would improve data collection so that colleges and universities can better understand how to help more students complete their degrees, reduce student loan debt, and get good-paying jobs.”

The IZ Act would require the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education to establish a methodology for capturing data before an experiment begins, provide colleges with a clear direction for reporting data, and gives institutions of higher education and stakeholders an opportunity to submit suggestions for future experiments.

Supporters of the IZ Act include New America, Education Trust, Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana University, the Association for Career and Technical Education, and the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Senator Young first introduced the Innovation Zone Act in 2018 and reintroduced the legislation in 2021.

Full bill text is available here.