NAICU Washington Update

NAICU Presidents Help Slow Down HEA

December 20, 2007

NAICU presidents across the country contacted their representatives in Congress during late November and early December in a successful attempt to assure careful consideration of the Higher Education Act reauthorization legislation. Presidents began their efforts after it became apparent that the bill was on a very fast track, and might be passed in the House without sufficient time for constituents to analyze and react to the 800-plus page bill.

Late in the day on Friday, November 9, going into the Veterans' Day weekend, the House Education and Labor Committee Chair George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced the bill and announced it would be marked up the following Wednesday. True to his word, Miller began the session that day. In deliberations lasting until nearly midnight and resuming the next morning, three dozen amendments were added to an already-modified, yet-to-be-digested H.R. 2669, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007. The bill passed unanimously, with members on both sides of the aisle railing against increase in college prices. At the time, Miller suggested that the bill would be voted on by the full House in early December, once Congress returned from the Thanksgiving recess.

The Washington higher education associations scrambled under the proposed timeline to address the most pressing issues, while NAICU presidents spread the word throughout Congress of the need for a careful review of the massive piece of legislation. The message they carried seemed to reach the leadership, and the looming threat of the House passing and then conferencing with the Senate on the bill before the new year began to wane.

NAICU staff have been diligently working on a short list of concerns in such diverse areas as college cost, accreditation, mandated curriculum requirements for teacher education programs, articulation agreements, and institutional aid packaging (see key issues). These issues and others remain in the bill, and having time to work on improving them will result in a better bill.  (See checklist of bill provisions)

It is now expected that the HEA reauthorization will be considered on the floor after the first of the year. Our collective efforts will be required as the process goes forward, so stay tuned for more action after the holidays.