Senate HELP Committee Turns Attention to Higher Education

May 2015

Higher education was the focus of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in May as it held two hearings on specific issues related to the Higher Education Act (HEA). The committee is currently drafting legislation to reauthorize the law.

The HELP Committee held a hearing on the role of consumer information in college choice on May 6. Committee members and hearing witnesses discussed current federal collection of postsecondary data and whether that information is useful to students in selecting the college they attend. Witnesses included AERA member Mark Schneider, vice president at the American Institutes for Research and president at College Measures.

On May 20, the HELP Committee turned its attention to institutional risk-sharing in its third hearing overall on reauthorizing HEA. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) provided remarks that summarized data on student loans and default rates, while also discussing legislation that he helped introduce, the Protect Student Borrowers Act. In sum, this legislation would hold colleges and universities accountable for student loan defaults by requiring them to repay a percentage of defaulted loans when their default rate exceeds 15 percent.

In addition, HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) also announced four working groups open to all committee members to examine topics related to the HEA reauthorization: Accountability, Accreditation, College Affordability and Financial Aid, and Campus Sexual Assault and Safety.