NAICU Washington Update

HEA Reauthorization Hearings Begin

February 23, 2017

The House Education and the Workforce Committee held the first hearing dedicated to higher education policy in the newly-formed 115th Congress. It is expected that Congress will attempt again to reauthorize the Higher Education Act during this Congress. The hearing covered a wide array of topics, with Members questioning witnesses on policies both general and specific. 

Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) focused her opening statement on both the challenges and opportunities facing postsecondary institutions. While she reaffirmed her position that a postsecondary degree is “still vitally important to helping individuals pursue successful and fulfilling careers,” she also raised concerns about rising college costs and stagnant graduation rates. Chairwoman Foxx also used the hearing to lay out her four guiding principles for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: (1) empowering students and families to make informed decisions; (2) simplifying and improving student aid; (3) promoting innovation, access, and completion; and (4) providing strong accountability and a limited federal role.

Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) highlighted his desire to focus on both two-year and four-year public colleges, given that they collectively enroll 75% of American students. Rep. Scott also called for increased resources to help students afford a college degree, and a strong federal program integrity triad consisting of the federal government, the states, and accreditors. He also stressed his desire to discuss the “intangible benefits” of higher education not necessarily related to one’s career path. 

Other members of the committee raised issues related to the over-regulation of colleges and universities, student debt, accreditation, loan forgiveness programs, transfer of credit, a federal student unit record system, income-share agreements, and other topics. 

The next hearing concerning the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act has not yet been announced. 

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