Higher Education Act Reauthorization Proposals Emerge

This week the Republicans in the House and Senate released proposals to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

Senate

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Republican  leader on the U.S. Senate education committee unveiled his plan for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) focused his proposals on changing federal student aid programs.

Alexander’s legislation, which is cosponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), would:

  • Eliminate the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In its replace the legislation would require students and families to provide only their family size and household income. Currently the FAFSA asks more than 100 questions about their finances.
  • Restore year-round eligibility for Pell Grants and provide more flexibility for how Pell Grants are used by students.
  • Streamline federal student aid programs. Among the changes would be the creation of a “one grant and one loan” structure.

House

Representative John Kline (R-MN), the Chair of the U.S. House education committee unveiled his plan for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  The House Republican proposal would:

  • Update the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to capture data on non-traditional students.
  • Streamline information to students with a focus on greater coordination among federal agencies to avoid duplication and increase transparency.
  • Enhance financial literacy.
  • Prevent the implementation of a federal government rating system of colleges and universities.
  • Streamline federal student aid programs by creating a one grant, one loan and one work-study program.
  • Streamline repayment options for students, creating a two options a standard repayment plan and a modified income-based repayment plan.
  • Create the  “Flex Pell Grant” which would allow a student to learn of the amount of Pell funds he/she is eligible to receive over a six year period and then be able to draw funds as needed until the student either completes an academic program or exhausts the allocated funds.
  • Ensure the long-term stability of the Pell Grant program.
  • Encourage online learning by minimizing laws and federal regulation barriers.
  • Create a competency-based education demonstration project to allow institutions to explore new ways of providing education to students and require evaluations of these programs.
  • Support at-risk and minority students through reforms to improve college access programs and maintain vital institutional aid programs.
  • Eliminate overly burdensome federal regulations.
  • Strengthen teacher preparation programs by streamlining existing federal programs, reforming reporting requirements, and facilitating partnerships between school districts and institutions of higher education to reform preparation and better connect pre-service training to in-service practice.
  • Rebalance the responsibility for program integrity by recognizing the important role of the accreditation.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the education committee, is expected to release his proposal later this week.

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