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"It's Reauthorization of Higher Education Time!"


JULY 30, 2014

Leadership of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House of Representatives Eduction and Workforce Committee recently introduced bills and released proposed legislation for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).  First passed in 1965, the HEA, which governs higher eduction, financial aid, accreditation, and other related issues, was last reauthorized by Congress in 2008.

Newly confirmed Under Secretary of Education, Ted Mitchell, reported on June 25 at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation Summer Workshop that the Department of Education agenda centers around quality issues such as accreditation, access, attainment, affordability, and innovation.  He stressed the importance of clarifying the role of accrediting agencies, the federal government, and the states, while affirming USDE's support for accreditation retraining its role as the gatekeeper for quality assurance and Title IV federal funds.

On June 25, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee released its proposed reauthorization legislationentitled "The Higher Education Affordability Act" which includes a wide range of topics with specific requirements for accreditation to be more transparent to the general public on such matters as institutional self-study documents, team reports, accrediting commission decisions, and reports on adverse actions against accredited institutions and programs.

The House Education and Workforce Committee introduced three bills on June 26 addressing transparency and federal aid.  Included in this proposed legislation are the "Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act" which would make a range of information on colleges and universities available to students and parents including completion rates, graduation rates, cost of attendance, and student debt and default statistics; the "Empowering Students through Financial Counseling Act" which directs USDE to provide enhanced counseling for students taking out federal loans; and the "Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act" which would direct USDE to base calculations on a family's income two years prior to seeking a student loan, and would also require more data sharing between the Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service.

There are many other bills that are being proposed in  the reauthorization of higher education process through both the Senate and the House committees.  I have only provided you with some of the key elements that relate primarily to accreditation and financial aid.  The reauthorization of the Higher Eduction ACT will be a long and arduous journey with thousands of hours of discussion and negotiation taking place between elected officials, higher education agency representatives, accreditors, and "grass roots" college and university leaders.  The two major channels of participation for private, faith-based institutions are the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.  It's reauthorization of higher education time--let the journey begin!

Larry J. McKinney
Higher Education Consultant
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