July 26, 2018

Young, Bipartisan Senators Introduce Innovation Grants Higher Education Bill


Washington, DC— Today, Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced the Fund for Innovation and Success in Higher Education (FINISHAct to promote innovation and efficiency in higher education. The legislation will improve evaluation authority while also authorizing innovative, evidence-based grant funding, Pay-for-Success projects, and open educational resources.

 “Both in the House and Senate, I have been a strong champion for innovative solutions when seeking reforms to improve higher education. Postsecondary education needs to be catered to help our students succeed, and I’m glad to introduce bipartisan legislation that would deliver on that,” said Young. “This bill would enable the use of evidence-based approaches through innovation grants to improve outcomes for our students who need it most using the pay for success model.”

“Innovation partnerships and Pay-for-Success projects have the potential to expand opportunity for millions of students and significantly improve the quality of our colleges,” said Hatch. “This legislation encourages college access, retention, and completion, and allows schools to choose what works best for them and their students. The value of higher education cannot be emphasized enough. I’m grateful to once again work with Senator Bennet and Senator Young to introduce legislation that will help a new generation of students complete college and earn a degree.” 

“We must work diligently to create flexibility and promote innovation in colleges and universities, so they can better prepare and support students from all backgrounds,” said Bennet. “This legislation will bring us one step closer to ensuring more students can complete higher education and succeed in the 21st century economy.”

Statements of Support

Greg Johnson, CEO, Bottom Line

“As a nonprofit organization working on building transformative evidenced-based partnerships like Pay for Success with institutions of higher education, we enthusiastically support this bill. We are particularly thrilled that it prioritizes an innovative approach to solve some of higher education’s long standing challenges.” 

Jim McCorkell, CEO, College Possible

“We strongly support this bill because it would reward nonprofits who have a significant base of evidence. The best and smartest way to invest government dollars is to focus on organizations with proven track records of achieving measurable results. We especially like the focus on innovation in this bill, and the funds to support evaluation of those efforts.” 

Michele Jolin, CEO and Co-Founder, Results for America

“We are thrilled that Senator Hatch, Senator Bennet, and Senator Young have introduced bipartisan legislation that would leverage the power of evidence and innovation to improve outcomes in higher education. This legislation would promote innovation in higher education, provide resources for evaluating federal higher education programs, and invest in evidence-based higher education solutions.”

Michele McLaughlin, President, Knowledge Alliance

“Knowledge Alliance strongly supports the FINISH Act. In particular, we are thrilled that the bill includes an evidence-based innovation fund to help ensure that students get “to and through” post-secondary. We believe that integrating evidence into post-secondary support programs will lead to better outcomes for students, particularly those most at-risk of dropping out.”

The FINISH Act has received support from a variety of interest groups with a letter signed by 82 entities. Click (HERE) for letter.

“American colleges and universities have great untapped potential to increase economic opportunity and strengthen our democracy. Yet despite the fact that a growing number of higher education institutions and their partners have developed an increasing number of evidence-based solutions, we must accelerate this progress more broadly across the country.”

“We commend you for introducing the FINISH Act, which would leverage the power of evidence and innovation to improve outcomes in higher education. We believe that strategic investments in innovation, evidence-based practices, and evaluations have the potential to help many more students access and succeed in higher education. Thank you for your continued efforts to ensure that federal taxpayer dollars are invested in what works in higher education.”


There is a growing need for innovation in higher education. It has become increasingly evident that a single model for higher education does not fit the diversity of our nation’s learners. Institutions receiving federal funding should have some regulatory flexibility to meet the needs of vulnerable students and ensure that those entering college have the support and resources needed to gain access to and complete higher education. Just as important is ensuring accountability over federal funds in higher education. To this end, the FINISH Act aims to:  

  • Authorize Innovation Grants: The legislation amends the Fund for the Improvement of Secondary Education (FIPSE) to allow grant recipients to use a portion of their funds for tiered evidence-based grants to support initiatives that increase access to higher education for high-need students, increase degree attainment, and improve efficiency in our higher education systems. Institutes of higher education would partner with intermediary organizations—a non-profit, school district, SEA, or consortium of groups— in order to qualify for early-phase grants, mid-phase grants, and expansion grants awarded to accomplish these goals.
  • Encourage Open-Educational Resources: The bill also encourages institutions to make all forms of postsecondary instructional content widely available. Doing so would result in significant cost-savings for students and increased efficiency to institutions of higher education. 
  • Support Efficient and Innovative Uses of Taxpayer Funds Through Pay for Success Initiatives: The bill would allow the Secretary of Education to approve up to five Pay-for-Success (PFS) pilot initiatives each fiscal year, which would allow grant recipients to partner with outside organizations to achieve the goals of federally funded higher education grant programs. In order to receive federal grant dollars, grant recipients must show concrete achievement of measurable outcomes. Pay-for-Success projects would directly result in an increase in public value and social benefit. This approach does not require grant recipients to use a Pay-for-Success model; it merely allows grant recipients to utilize this approach. 
  • Establish Better Evaluation Authority: This bill provides additional evaluation authority by having the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences, on a biennial basis, develop an evaluation plan for these innovation initiatives.