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Reauthorization of Higher Education Act

DECEMBER 11, 2017

For more than fifty years, American colleges and universities have been governed by various iterations of the Higher Education Act (HEA).  First passed in 1965 as part of Lyndon B. Johnson's vision for a Great Society, the HEA's original goals were "to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary education."  It has since been reauthorized eight times and grown in both length and complexity, with new elements being added or modified to reflect trends in society and in higher education.

It has been nine years since the HEA was last reauthorized in 2008.  While basic provisions have been temporarily extended for the past few years as a stopgap measure, the legislation is overdue for a comprehensive reauthorization.  The HEA reauthorization could be a straightforward reauthorization with relatively few dramatic changes, or it could fundamentally change the landscape of higher education.  

As with most legislation, there are numerous stakeholders and a wide variety of issues, which weave together to create  a very complex process.  Listed below are four key issues that are the subject of significant debates:

1. What programs should be eligible for federal aid?
2. How much control should the government have over accreditation?
3. What level of student outcome data should be collected and available?
4. How should institutions and accreditors credit professional experience?

Christian higher education institutions are in a unique position in that they have many concerns that are similar to other institutions, but also have additional concerns as faith-based organizations.  Simply put, Christian higher education institutions are both Christian and Colleges, with unique needs and concerns derived from each fundamental characteristic.  In addition to issues broadly affecting higher education, some topics of particular interest to Christian higher education that are likely to be included in the HEA reauthorization are accreditation and financial aid in relation to Title IV and regulatory burdens and religious freedom protections in relation to Title IX.

Larry J. McKinney
Higher Education Consultant
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