Amy Laitinen and Clare McCann wrote for the Hill about the Department of Education's experimental sites initiative:
With postsecondary education more important than ever for entering and staying in the middle class, our nation urgently needs to find better ways to help more Americans access higher education and complete their degrees. To advance that goal, Congress years ago gave the U.S. Department of Education the authority to partner with colleges and universities to test out new federal higher education policies, and report back on their effectiveness, through the Experimental Sites Initiative.
Since the mid-1990s, the department has launched 30 “experiments” with this authority. They include new approaches to competency-based education that focuses on learning rather than time in school, funding dual enrollment programs so high school students can more easily take college classes, and adjustments to federal loan limits in order to better manage student borrowing. The idea is to try out these types of innovative approaches on a small scale to learn whether they are effective and, if so, recommend that Congress scale up those innovations.