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House Committee Approves Higher Education Act Reauthorization Bill

December 13, 2017

ACE, higher education groups express frustration at fast pace of legislation

​The House Committee on Education and the Workforce yesterday voted 23 to 17 along party lines to approve its bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), less than two weeks after the measure was introduced. It now goes to the full House for consideration. 

The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act (H.R. 4508) updates the primary federal law governing colleges and universities, last renewed in 2008. The most significant proposals have the potential to upend the system of federal financial aid by cutting programs, restructuring policies, and imposing new regulations that are harmful to students and families, as ACE and other associations wrote in a letter Dec. 11. The letter also expressed frustration at the fast pace of the legislation, which left very little time for analysis. 

  • Programs slated for elimination or reduction under the bill include: 
  • The in-school interest subsidy for undergraduate students 
  • The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program 
  • Loan forgiveness and other benefits currently available in the student loan programs, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
  • Title III, Part A - Strengthening Institutions Program
  • The Teacher Quality Partnership Grants

In addition, graduate students would lose Federal Work-Study eligibility and have their federal graduate loans limited, forcing them to borrow at higher costs and with fewer protections in the private market. 

As Inside Higher Ed reported this morning, among the 60 amendments offered during Tuesday’s markup were 40 proposed by Democrats, including one to make Pell Grant funding mandatory, increase the maximum grant by $500, and index the value of the grant to inflation. 

Other amendments sought to expand eligibility for federal student aid to students covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival policy; attach the DREAM Act to the legislation; repeal the federal student unit record ban; restore Obama-era regulations on for-profit colleges; and make recipients of the new single federal student loan included in the bill eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. 

All failed along party lines.

HEA reauthorization efforts also are underway in the Senate. The Chronicle of Higher Education says Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate education committee, plans to introduce a version of the bill as the "first order of business" in the new year.

For more on provisions in the House bill that would impact accreditation, federal regulation of higher education, and other issues, see this summary prepared by ACE. 

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