Legislators consider overhauling Higher Education Act
- Both U.S. Secretary or Education Betsy DeVos and several members of Congress have expressed a desire to completely revamp the Higher Education Act of 1965, which has been re-authorized eight times and is due for another reauthorization, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Supporters of the idea say a significant retooling of the legislation could help address issues with student debt and accreditation, as well as issues regarding the lack of comprehensive and accessible data for students and parents to make informed college choices.
- However, crafting a new piece of legislation that is as wide-ranging could be very difficult in a political climate marked by partisan gridlock and low public approval ratings.
As the definition of a "typical" college student continues to transform, multiple lawmakers stress that any revamping of the HEA, or additional legislation addressing higher ed regulation, needs to deal with the pronounced growth in adult and continuing education students. House Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) made this point during a March panel, in which she also surmised that reauthorization of the HEA did not seem to be a “high priority” for the new presidential administration and Congress.
However, the question of affordability and financial aid which many consider a foundational aspect of the HEA still remains a chief concern; in fact, rising tuition costs and state budget cuts could put colleges and universities further out of the reach of students from low-income backgrounds. College presidents concerned about affordability may be worried that questions about financial aid could become overly politicized and marred in gridlock if the current Congress takes up HEA reauthorization. As state lawmakers are increasingly unsure about continuing to fund such assistance, school leaders should focus on better communicating the importance of ensuring the federal government remains a robust partner in offering such aid.
- Chronicle of Higher Education What Would the Repeal of Higher Ed’s Foundational Law Mean for Colleges?