The House of Representatives voted 303-114 yesterday to repeal the Education Department's (ED) state authorization and credit hour regulations that went into effect July 1, 2011.
One amendment offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) also passed, which repeals the distinction between “clock hours” and “credit hours” included in the new rule. This distinction would have limited the amount of federal financial aid students enrolled in clock-hour programs could receive.
The state authorization regulation forces institutions to meet any state requirements necessary to offer distance education in the state where the student is located, a process which is extremely complicated for institutions and greatly increases the cost of providing those courses. The new credit hour definition opens the door to federal interference in core academic decisions better left to individual institutions. It is also ambiguous, and the lack of effective guidance on implementation could pose serious compliance challenges for campuses.
Proponents of the bill during Tuesday’s debate said the credit hour and state authorization regulations would lead to undue burdens on colleges and universities, ultimately driving up costs for students. The bill’s detractors argued that repealing the regulations would undermine ED’s ability to safeguard the federal government’s investment in student aid programs. President Obama issued a Statement of Administration Policy against the bill Monday but has not indicated whether he will veto it if it passes the Senate.
“The first principle of federal support for higher education is the Department of Education will not meddle in academic affairs,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad on the bill’s passage. “We are pleased that a bipartisan majority of the House agrees.”
Although not related to H.R. 2117, opponents of the bill brought up the upcoming increase in the interest rate for subsidized Stafford Loans. Rates for newly-issued Stafford loans currently are scheduled to increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent as of July 1.
ACE, in coalition with 98 higher education organizations, sent a letter Monday to House members asking them to vote in favor of the bill. Foxx cited portions of the letter during the debate.
“We see no justification for two regulations that so fundamentally alter the relationships among the federal government, states, accreditors and institutions,” the groups wrote. “We believe the outcome of this unprecedented regulatory overreach will be inappropriate federal interference in campus-based decisions in which the faculty play a central role. The end result will be a curtailment of student access to high-quality education opportunities.”
A Senate version of the bill (S. 1297) was introduced in June 2011.
For more information on the regulations, see talking points ACE issued after the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved the bill last summer.
For more on the bill's passage, see the following:
House Votes to Repeal 2 Controversial Education Department Rules
The Chronicle of Higher Education
U.S. House Votes to Ease Restrictions on For-Profit Colleges
House Votes to Roll Back Department of Education Rules
House Passes Bill to Repeal Credit Hour, State Authorization
Inside Higher Ed