• HIGHER EDUCATION REAUTHORIZATION ACT AND SELECTED ISSUES
    JULY 22, 2014, UPDATE
    FOR NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COLLEGES AND EMPLOYERS (NACE)


    Prepared by MWW Group Vice President Ellen S. Smith and Vice President Alanna Suda


    After a series of hearings in the House Education and Workforce Committee, chaired by Congressman Kline (R-MN) and the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the House and Senate are taking different approaches to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. Similar to their approaches in other areas, the House is taking an incremental approach and the Senate is working on a comprehensive bill. The House introduced the first three in what is expected to be a series of bills while Senate Chairman Harkin released a comprehensive reauthorization bill. NACE leadership and staff met with key Committee staff on these issues.

    House of Representatives

    On June 24, House Education and the Workforce Chairman Kline (R-MN) and House Higher Education Subcommittee Chairwoman Foxx (R-NC) released a white paper outlining their key principles guiding reauthorization efforts. The four principles outlined in the white paper are:

    • Empowering students and families to make informed decisions;
    • Simplifying and improving student aid;
    • Promoting innovation, access, and completion;
    • And ensuring strong accountability and a limited federal role.

    The week of June 30, 2014, the House majority introduced the first three in a series of bills to begin their reauthorization efforts:

    • H.R. 3136, Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act of 2014
      The bill would reserve $1 million from funding for the Department of Education to authorize the Secretary to select up to 20 eligible entities to participate in demonstration projects related to competency-based education. This bill is scheduled for House floor action on July 23, 2014. [Editor’s Note: This bill passed the House on July 23, 2014.]
    • H.R. 4984, Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act
      The bill would change the requirements for the counseling of students who participate in the federal student aid programs, such as federal student loans and Pell grants. This bill expands the counseling requirements for borrowers (yearly) and includes counseling on Pell eligibility. This bill is scheduled for House floor action on July 23, 2014 under suspension of rules. [Editor’s Note: This bill passed the House on July 24, 2014.]
    • H.R. 4983, Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act
      The bill would replace the current College Navigator website with a new website and change the type of information that the website would need to provide. The bill also would amend the requirements for the department’s net-price calculator, which provides details on the costs of post-secondary education. Staff intend with a redundancy provision to have the Dashboard also replace the Scorecard. This bill is scheduled for House floor action under suspension of the rules on July 23, 2014. [Editor’s Note: This bill passed the House on July 23, 2014.]

      The bill includes a proposal for a new much more comprehensive College Dashboard, which attempts to address some of the concerns that have been raised about the scorecard. The dashboard encourages the inclusion of nontraditional student data so would include information on the completion rates of all students, including contemporary students and Pell grant recipients.

      The new legislation requires the Secretary of Education to publish on Internet webpages that are linked to through the College Dashboard website for the most recent academic year for which satisfactory data is available for:

      • Enrollment Information;
      • Completion Information;
      • Costs;
      • And a description of students on financial aid.

    Senate

    The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee convened 10 hearings to discuss the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) where the Committee heard from stakeholders on how to improve the higher education system to make it more accessible and affordable for all Americans.

    Chairman Harkin Draft Legislation
    On June 25, 2014, Senate Chairman Harkin released a 785-page draft proposal for the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The proposal focuses on four main goals:

    • Increasing college affordability,
    • Helping struggling borrowers,
    • Strengthening accountability,
    • And improving transparency.

    Chairman Harkin noted that there are policies that are not yet included in his bill that he believes need to be addressed as part of any reauthorization of HEA. These include:

    • The development of a student unit record system,
    • Reforming accreditation,
    • And additional simplification measures.

    Chairman Harkin indicated when he released the draft that he looked forward to a robust discussion and interested in feedback from the community on the draft. His office created an e-mail, HEAA2014@help.senate.gov, for the submission of feedback. Submissions are due by 5 p.m. on August 29, 2014. Senator Harkin has indicated his intent to hold a hearing on his bill prior to the bill’s markup which will not occur until sometime after the August recess.

    Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Alexander (R-TN) Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency (FAST) Act
    This bill simplifies the process of applying for and receiving federal financial aid to attend college, allows the year-round use of Pell Grants, discourages over-borrowing, and simplifies repayments.

    Institute of Education Sciences (IES) House Bill

    In early May, 2014, the House passed a bill reauthorizing the Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES), which includes the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and three other centers. IES was created in 2002 with the original IES authorization bill, the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA).

    The bill the House passed in May, H.R. 4366, the Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA), contains provisions that lessen NCES authority, autonomy, and stature beyond provisions of ESRA and the 2012 law, The Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 (PAESA.). Concerns have been raised that the law does not allow necessary autonomy and authority that are a requisite for its products and data to be objective, accurate, and publicly accepted—all essential requirements to the central purpose of informing national education policy.

    At this stage, the Senate HELP Committee is not addressing the Institute for Education Sciences. It is not expected to become part of the Higher Education bill.


Higher Education Reauthorization Act