Video: Freedom to Learn

National Association of Scholars

Editor's Note: NAS has published a lightly edited transcript of Board Chair Keith Whitaker's closing remarks. To read and share his speech, click here.


American higher education is in dire need of reform. But where should we start, and what specific changes are needed? 

Ideally, our colleges and universities would repair themselves from within, but time and time again we see professors, administrators, and other staff unwilling to protect academic freedom, promote disinterested scholarship, and operate their institutions with integrity. This has hollowed out academia, leaving liberal education a mere shell of what it once was. Moreover, it reveals that, now more than ever, change needs to come from the outside.

One way to influence the academy from without is to amend the Higher Education Act (HEA). The HEA, which lists the conditions that American colleges and universities must satisfy in order to receive federal funding, was first passed in 1965 but has not been reauthorized since 2008. If we can change the HEA and we change higher education almost overnight—schools must cater for taxpayer money, which now accounts for about one half of their revenue. How can we reform the HEA to promote educational excellence, integrity, and access?

Freedom to Learn: Amending the Higher Education Actproposes a slate of reforms to the HEA in finance, rights, the American national interest, equality, and regulatory reform. 

Our proposals would restore higher education to its foundational principles of intellectual freedom and academic rigor. To achieve such a transformation will take courage from all involved—but it will be worth it.

Speakers: Teresa Manning, Policy Director, National Association of Scholars; Jonathan Pidluzney, Vice President of Academic Affairs, American Council of Trustees and Alumni; Dennis Hayes, Director, Academics for Academic Freedom (UK); Mary Clare Amselem, Policy Analyst, Center for Education Policy, Heritage Foundation; Peter W. Wood, President, National Association of Scholars; Richard Vedder, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Ohio University; Jenna Robinson, President, The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal; Neetu Arnold, Research Associate, National Association of Scholars; Keith Whitaker, Chairman, Board of Directors, National Association of Scholars. 

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