House Republicans Eye Sweeping Changes in Higher Education Act

The Chronicle of Higher Education

House Republicans Eye Sweeping Changes in Higher Education Act

NOVEMBER 29, 2017
Updated (11/29/2017, 1:45 p.m.) with information about bipartisan efforts at reauthorization.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to release a bill this week that would reauthorize the federal law governing higher education, the Higher Education Act of 1965, and it includes several significant changes, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reviewed a summary of the proposal.

Among the changes in the overhaul package from the U.S. House’s education committee, led by Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, are a plan to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the Fafsa, and cap the amount that students may borrow. And it would end a loan-forgiveness program for public servants who have made payments on their loans for 10 years.

The bill would repeal the gainful-employment regulation, a thorn in the side of for-profit colleges, which is slated to undergo negotiated rule-making next week and be rewritten. The House Republicans’ bill also would expand job-training and apprenticeship opportunities, which have been championed by the Trump administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The bill would also maintain the ban on a unit-record system, which would foster the tracking of students’ attainments and has seen a groundswell of bipartisan support.

And while funding levels for historically black colleges and minority-serving institutions would remain flat with 2017 appropriations levels, the bill would tie Title III and Title V federal funds to institutions’ ability to graduate or transfer 25 percent of their students.The bill, known as the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity Through Education Reform Act, or the Prosper Act, is expected to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office this week. The legislation, once proposed, will undergo a range of changes and is likely to look very different than the original version, but the proposal offers a glimpse into House Republicans’ thinking on higher education.

During a hearing on Tuesday of the U.S. Senate’s education committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, its chair, announced that its first order of business after the New Year would be to mark up its own version of the legislation.

Both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate expressed their willingness — and intention — to develop bipartisan reauthorization legislation. “This committee has a record of bipartisan solutions to big, complex problems,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the panel’s top Democrat, on Tuesday. “And I’m confident we can find a bipartisan path forward to tackle these issues head-on.”

However, House Democrats say there has been little to no bipartisan discussion in their chamber so far, and Wednesday’s news followed months of silence from House Republicans.