Cynthia A. Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU
Where Are We on HEA Reauthorization?
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has begun a series of hearings as part of the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) initiated three white papers on HEA: Risk Sharing, Data Transparency and Accreditation. AJCU submitted comments on all three white papers and joined the higher education communities’ joint responses initiated by the American Council on Education (ACE).
The first white paper hearing was on the role of consumer information in college choice. It focused on the various data requirements for colleges and universities and how difficult it is for consumers to learn what information is available from the U.S. Department of Education. Earlier this year, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on the impact of over regulations for higher education after the release of the report, “Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities: A Report from the Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education.” This week, on May 20th, a hearing on risk sharing focused on alternative ways that higher education institutions would be held responsible for increased student debt burden. Sen. Alexander has announced that the next hearing will be held on June 3rd, and that HEA legislative language would be finished by this fall.
On the House side, there has been a series of hearings on HEA over the past year. A few legislative pieces have passed on Financial Counseling, the Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act and the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, which also passed the Floor of the House. Other Committee hearings have focused on accreditation, simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, innovative partnerships, simplifying Federal student aid programs and Pell grants, and the teaching profession.
While Congress has not yet finished the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act, HEA is next in line. Now is the time to work with Congress to assure that the campus-based aid programs are preserved and that the inclusion of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, S.590, works for all impacted parties. AJCU will continue these efforts until the end of reauthorization.
College Ratings System Is Still Moving Forward
After countless meetings with Administration officials over the potential development and release of a college ratings system, we hoped for a slow backing away from it due to myriad issues and complications. But, it turns out that that is not the case, and it is projected that a technical paper on the system will be released in early August, followed by the final report in September. Unfortunately, the higher education community will not have the opportunity to comment on this document, nor see it before it is made public.
Save Student Aid
The Student Aid Alliance (SAA) recently launched a social media campaign featuring the hashtag: #SaveStudentAid. AJCU and many Jesuit institutions are participating in the campaign to raise awareness of potential student aid cuts to the FY16 budget. During the summer, AJCU encourages all Jesuit institutions’ employees and students to use #SaveStudentAid on Facebook and Twitter to voice their concern for saving campus-based aid programs like the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) and Perkins Loans.