ACE, Other Associations Respond to House HEA Reauthorization Bill
Published: October 28, 2019

​​​​​​ACE and 32 other higher education associations today sent a letter to the leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee outlining areas of support and concern—and where questions remain—with the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674), the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization bill introduced Oct. 15 by Committ​ee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA).

The committee is scheduled to mark up the legislation tomorrow.

First signed into law in 1965, the HEA is supposed to be renewed every five years. The last reauthorization was in 2008, and it has been running on temporary extensions for the past several years while lawmakers start—then stop—the reauthorization process, only to have to begin again when a new Congress is sworn in.

This latest bill is based on a measure Democrats introduced in the previous Congress, titled the Aim Higher Act (H.R. 6543). At 1,100-plus pages, the new iteration is a substantial rewriting and expansion of the HEA. For a comprehensive summary of the College Affordability Act prepared by ACE, click here.

The College Affordability Act contains a number of provisions that colleges and universities have long supported and that would be beneficial for students and institutions, such as significant increases in student aid and institutional support, especially for institutions that have historically been under resourced. However, these are offset by “intrusive, complicated, or burdensome processes that will undercut the bill's primary goal to make higher education more affordable and undermine many of the other worthy goals of the legislation," the letter notes.

As a result, the letter notes that “while this bill makes substantive improvements in major areas," the higher education community's concerns “are sufficiently significant to prevent our support of the bill as introduced." It is unclear whether the bill, which is expected to pass the Committee on a party-line vote, will move forward for vote on the floor.

Meanwhile, HEA discussions in the Senate are currently stalled, although Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has attempted to revive the process with a bill containing a handful of changes to the HEA that he released last month. Alexander last week, along with Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) also introduced legislation to simplify the process for applying for federal financial aid. Neither of those efforts have significant support from Democrats, and appear unlikely to advance.

For more information about the overall HEA reauthorization process in the House and the Senate, click here.