NAICU Washington Update

Higher Education Act Set to Receive Final Approval in July

After several years of start-again, stop-again wrestling, the Higher Education Act finally stands poised for formal reauthorization. In the House, Democrats and Republicans are working closely together, while the Senate continues to whittle down the number of outstanding issues raised by members. Although conferees have not been officially appointed, both sides agree that there are only a handful of issues left unresolved between the two chambers of Congress.

While NAICU would prefer to continue current law over a new bill, a new bill is going to pass, and it will contain many improvements over previous versions close to enactment during the past several years. For private colleges, the principal problem in the bill will be "watch lists" of colleges whose tuition or tuition increases fall above the rest of their sector (see the College Cost item in the "HEA Predicted Accomplishments and Compromises" chart). The most expensive aspect of the legislation will be the costs to colleges in implementing the extensive list of new reporting requirements on a vast array of new topics.

However, while both the cost provisions and the reporting requirements will not be to the liking of private colleges, the active lobbying of NAICU presidents also has improved nearly every problematic requirement in the course of a long legislative process. No final language has yet been released, but in private meetings, bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate have indicated that many modifications have been made. Based on those meetings, and the legislative language that has been made available, NAICU has assembled a preliminary list of legislative accomplishments and compromises that are likely to be in the final bill (see our detailed "HEA Predicted Accomplishments and Compromises" chart).

The newest twist in the legislative process is the indication by Sen. Kennedy's staff that the bill will be extended one more time - until July 31- to allow Senator Kennedy to fly in from his treatments in Massachusetts for the vote on the final conference report sometime in July. Once the final issues are resolved, the vote most likely will take place at a time that meets his health needs. Conference reports are not open to amendment, so once a final deal is struck, passage is all but assured. The president is expected to sign the measure.

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