House and Senate Release Proposals for Higher Education Act Reauthorization

July 2014

Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), released their respective drafts for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in late June. The House version is separated into three bills; the Senate version is one comprehensive bill, the Higher Education Affordability Act.

Harkin’s draft discussion bill includes provisions to authorize three longitudinal studies by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), investigating the effectiveness of student loan counseling, the causes of student loan default, and the impact of recent federal financial aid changes on graduate students. Each of these studies would be authorized for five years.

Harkin’s proposal would also establish an Institutional Risk-Sharing Commission that would include a representative from the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, IES would be responsible for the evaluation and dissemination of best practices for several programs, including teacher preparation competitive grants.

One of the House Republican bills, the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, would replace the “College Navigator” consumer-oriented web tool with “College Dashboard.” Several of the existing data categories would remain, such as the percentage of undergraduate students enrolled disaggregated by gender, full-time status, race and ethnicity, and disability.

New data that institutions would be required to submit include the percentage of students who are veterans; the average federal student loan debt incurred; and disaggregation of degree completers, not only by length of time to completion but also by the type of federal assistance received. Some information currently required under HEA would be dropped from the proposed College Dashboard, such as the average annual change in tuition and fees over the three most recent academic years.