Parties Tout their Principles on Higher Ed Reauthorization

DC Shuttle …

Senate Democrats introduce draft HEA reauthorization language. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) put forth a draft bill, previewing the Higher Education Affordability Act he will introduce and summarizing Democrats’ priorities for reauthorization, he explained in a press release. The bill would create several new grant programs aimed at reducing college costs, crack down on for-profit colleges, and take steps to reduce student loan defaults. Provisions would standardize financial aid award letters, provide more upfront disclosures to borrowers and restore the ability to discharge student loans in bankruptcy. The proposal would hold colleges responsible for how successfully their graduates repay their loans, and it would set up a commission to explore “holding low-performing institutions financially responsible for poor student outcomes.”

House Republicans release HEA reauthorization principles and bills. House Republicans released Republican Priorities for Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. Republicans started with three bills to simplify the student loan application, connect students and families to important information about college costs and increase financial aid counseling. The Republican plan would limit the federal role in higher education. The plan calls for radically simplifying federal student-aid and loan-repayment programs, encouraging online and competency-based learning and easing the regulatory burden on colleges. The plan would block President Obama’s planned college-rating system, while rolling back recent “program integrity” rules that expanded state oversight over colleges, defined the credit hour and conditioned a college’s receipt of student-loan funds on its graduates’ “gainful employment.” The Republican plan singles out competency-based education and direct assessment programs as two types of innovation they hope to promote. The first bills introduced were the Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act, the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act and Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act.

Campus sexual assault hearing. The Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on campus sexual assault. Senators suggested giving the U.S. Department of Education additional tools to punish colleges that are out of compliance. Under existing law, the Education Department’s only available punishment for schools that fall out of compliance with Title IX is to completely revoke a college’s eligibility for federal funding. This has never happened but the department has threatened it. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has said alternative penalties are needed for the department to have a credible penalty option and has taken the lead in drafting a legislative proposal. Sen. McCaskill said she is working on a bill with Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Hearings on student welfare. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on student debt and the tax system. The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies joined with the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Secondary Education for a hearing on data mining and student privacy. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Policy held a hearing on recent graduates and the economy.

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 Council’s Weekly Washington Report of June 30, 2014.

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:



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