Throughout our history, NAICU has been heavily engaged in HEA reauthorization discussions, and we continue to be active participants in the process.  We have focused on assuring that programs and policies are shaped in a way that recognizes the needs and diversity of independent higher education, while also participating in higher education community-wide efforts that support all students and institutions.


The Higher Education Act (HEA) sets out the requirements that students, institutions, and others must meet in order to participate in federal student aid and related higher education programs.

The HEA is updated periodically through a process known as reauthorization, which last occurred in 2008. The Act is behind schedule for reauthorization, although important groundwork has been laid.  Members of the House and Senate committees with HEA jurisdiction are primarily responsible for developing reauthorization legislation.

The Process Begins Again

After a failed attempt to rewrite the HEA in 2017-18, both parties in the House and the Senate are now engaged in more meaningful conversations about how to get a bill done in the 116th Congress.  The lead bi-partisan Senate staff are holed up behind closed doors, hoping to have a bill ready for mark-up this fall.  In the House, the Committee on Education and the Workforce has held five bi-partisan hearings and hopes to have a bill ready by September.

The current process is the next phase in an effort that made significant progress in the House in the last Congress.  On December 1, 2017, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced a comprehensive rewrite of the Higher Education Act.  Just ten days later, and with only modest changes, the legislation was passed by the committee along a party line vote.  NAICU expressed serious reservations about the bill's effects on students which are reflected in the bill summary prepared by NAICU staff.  Rep. Foxx did not receive enough support to bring her bill up for consideration by the full House.

In September 2018, the lead Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), introduced the AIM Higher Act, the Democrats' own comprehensive bill to rewrite the Higher Education Act.  While the bill had more generous benefits for students, it also included proposals for free two-year public college, greater federal control of accreditation, and teacher education provisions that were reminiscent of older proposals from the Obama Administration.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) also began its work with preliminary, bi-partisan conversations. Early work included a string of hearings in early 2018, as well as a bi-partisan request for reauthorization proposals, which NAICU responded to both on its own and as part of the broader higher education community. In addition, Committee Chair Sen, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released his own white paper on accountability to which NAICU also responded.  However, as the House failed to act, and political and policy tensions started to affect conversations in the Senate, the Committee was unable to find common ground on a bill.

The Lead Up to Reauthorization