DC Shuttle: Congress Looks to Redraw PK-12, Higher Ed Laws

Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is due for reauthorization and proposals have been introduced in the House and Senate. (The last reauthorization of ESEA was the No Child Left Behind under President George W. Bush.) On July 19, the House passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). The bill would reduce the federal role in public education and cede decisions back to states. Senate Democrats and the administration have said they do not support the bill. In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved its own reauthorization bill (S. 1094) on June 12. The administration continues to grant waivers to states from the requirements of NCLB.

HEA & ESRA reauthorization. The Higher Education Act (HEA) is due for reauthorization and will likely be addressed in the next six months. Student loan interest rates could be reconsidered during that debate. The Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) may also be reauthorized, with the House Education Committee to hold its second hearing on the federal education research law in mid-September. The two may be packaged together since the ESEA reauthorization is looking more controversial and will likely move slowly.

Student loan interest rates. On Aug. 9, the president signed the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act (H.R. 1911). The law ties student interest rates to the market rate and includes a cap on how high they can rise. Under the law, rates only increased slightly, and will remain low as long as interest rates remain low. Critics charge that rates will increase as markets improve and that the compromise is not a viable long-term model. Some lawmakers would like to re-address the issue during reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. If changes are not included in that legislation, it would be unlikely that student loan interest rates will be addressed soon on their own.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Sept. 9, 2013 “Back-to-Congress” edition of the Council’s Weekly Washington Report.

Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.


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