NAICU Washington Update

House Education Committee Advances Bills on Campus Supportive Services

May 20, 2022

The House Committee on Education and Labor held a mark-up this week on a series of education-related legislative proposals, including bills addressing campus mental health, substance abuse, and special education services.  The committee voted to advance all three bills, with the mental health and substance abuse bills passing by voice vote and the more controversial special education legislation passing in a party-line vote.

The mental health bill – the Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act (H.R. 5407) – would amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to require the Secretary of Education to “make efforts to encourage institutions of higher education to develop and implement comprehensive campus mental health and suicide prevention plans.”

The substance abuse legislation – the Campus Prevention and Recovery Services for Students Act of 2022 (H.R. 6493) – would amend the HEA by softening language regarding requiring institutions to provide a substance and alcohol abuse prevention program. While institutions would still be required to provide such programs, the legislative focus would shift away from substance “abuse” to “evidence-based programs” that address “misuse” and would place a greater emphasis on treatment and rehabilitation services. The bill would also require the Secretary to provide compliance assistance to institutions. 

The special education bill – the Mental Health Matters Act (H.R. 7780) – would primarily focus on mental health support for pre-k and k-12 students. However, the legislation also incorporates the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act (H.R. 4786), a bill that would add requirements to the HEA regarding students with disabilities. Specifically, the bill would require colleges and universities to allow students to use certain documents, including individualized education programs or plans established under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to establish their disabilities. Institutions would also be required to make transparent their policies for determining accommodations for students with disabilities, as well as to submit data on students with disabilities to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

According to Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the committee, “these bills will advance Americans' financial, mental, and physical health – steps that are sorely needed to ensure every American has the opportunity to succeed.” Although supportive of the first two bills, ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) criticized the special education bill and other legislation that advanced during the markup. She stated, “With the exception of H.R. 6493 and H.R. 5407, the bills Democrats passed today are largely unnecessary and far too expensive.”

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