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...

Preschool

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.