Renewing the Higher Education Act

The Issue

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Higher Education Act (HEA) is the single most important piece of legislation overseeing the relationship between the federal government, colleges and universities, and students. It authorizes various federal aid programs within the Department of Education that support students pursuing a postsecondary education, including grant programs that support efforts to expand and increase access for low-income and first-generation students, such as Pell Grants. The HEA also includes rules and regulations that higher education institutions must comply with to be eligible for Title IV federal student aid programs, including the Clery Act, which requires annual campus crime reports; rules governing the accreditation process; and financial responsibility requirements.

The HEA, first signed into law in 1965, is supposed to be renewed every five years. However, the last reauthorization was in 2008, and it has been running on a series of temporary extensions ever since. There have been efforts in each Congress to pass a bill or series of bills; however, none have ever gone beyond the committee level.

HEA in the 116th Congress

On Oct. 15, 2019, House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the College Affordability Act (CAA) (H.R. 4674), which,​ at over 1,200 pages, represents a substantial rewriting and expansion of the HEA. The House Education and Labor Committee voted along party lines Oct. 31 to pass the bill. 

The CAA is a dense, complicated piece of legislation, with a number of provisions that would be beneficial for students and institutions, such as significant increases in student aid and support for institutions that have historically been under resourced. However, these provisions are offset by intrusive, complicated, or burdensome requirements that will undercut the bill's primary goal to make higher education more affordable. 

The version of the bill introduced Oct. 15 had a number of issues ACE and the higher education association community believed were significant enough to prevent our support. Committee staff addressed many of these concerns in a revised bill they made public on Oct. 28, and that bill was further amended in markup before the final vote.

In the Senate

Meanwhile, bipartisan comprehensive HEA discussions in the Senate are currently stalled. 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, the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019​. Alexander and Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) also have​ introduced legislation to simplify the process for applying for federal financial aid. ​​Alexander also has ​announced his support for a bipartisan bill​ that would make changes to the 90/10 rule. ​

ACE Engage Resources

​ACE Engage®​, ACE's peer-to-peer online learning platform, offers higher education leaders the ability to solve their day-to-day challenges by connecting with other campus leaders, and includes on-demand access to a curated content library, microcourses, exclusive events, and more. Don't have an ACE Engage account? Learn more about joining or create your account​! ​

Whither HEA Reauthorization?
Whither HEA Reauthorization?
This webinar provided overview of the prospects for HEA reauthorization, major issues involved with the legislation, and the implications for colleges and universities. Only on ACE Engage—Create your account!
Whither Higher Education Act Reauthorization Q&A
Whither Higher Education Act Reauthorization Q&A
ACE's Terry Hartle and Jon Fansmith host a follow-up session to the "Whither HEA Reauthorization" webinar, answering attendees' questions about the legislation. Only on ACE Engage—Create your account!
Public Policy Pop-Up: January 2020
Public Policy Pop-Up: January 2020
In January's edition of the Public Policy Pop-Up, ACE's government relations experts discussed Section 117, Title IX, and more. Listen to the discussion on ACE Engage. Not an ACE Engage user? Create a complimentary account!
Public Policy Pop-Up: December 2019
Public Policy Pop-Up: December 2019
ACE's government relations experts discuss the latest developments in federal policy affecting higher education, from the federal budget and Title IX, to foreign gift and contract reporting. Only on ACE Engage. Create an account!
 
 
 

Page updated ​November 2019