Senate Kicks Off HEA Reauthorization
Senate Kicks Off HEA Reauthorization
Senate Kicks Off HEA Reauthorization

October 2013

The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act officially got underway last month, as the Senate education committee held the first of 12 hearings that will lay the groundwork for policy makers’ renewal of the law.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, described the September 19 hearing as an examination of the “triad,” the three-legged collegiate regulatory system that includes the federal government, states, and accreditors.

“Does each leg understand its responsibility to the other two?” asked Harkin.

Harkin said the committee’s goal was to produce a bill in the early part of 2014. In coming hearings, he and other lawmakers hope to address:

·         Improvements that could potentially streamline the student financial-aid process across all legs of the “triad.”

·         Ways to increase the quality of higher education without sacrificing student success.

·         Reforms of teacher-preparation programs.

·         President Obama’s plan to allocate aid to colleges based on measures of access, affordability, and student outcomes.

·         The Department of Education’s enforcement of federal financial aid rules and ability to evaluate the financial health of publicly traded institutions.

While some are calling for a complete rewrite of HEA, others in the committee would prefer a top-to-bottom revision. At the end of the hearing, everyone could at least agree that “the status quo is not working,” said Harkin. “Maybe we should start from scratch.”

The Higher Education Act, signed into law in 1972, was last renewed in 2008, after several years of unprecedented delay. The last reauthorization, widely seen as the most contentious in the law’s history, focused on reining in tuition costs, helping students make better decisions, and making colleges more accountable.


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