The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee met on February 6 to consider "Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Improving College Affordability" as the Senate moves forward to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). The hearing witnesses included Dr. Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute; Zakiya Smith of the Lumina Foundation; Dr. Jenna Robinson from the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal; Dr. Robert Anderson of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association; and Dr. DeRionne Pollard of Montgomery College. The witnesses written testimony can be accessed here.
The HELP Committee Chairman, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), noted Congress can help students afford college by looking more closely at the $28 billion in grants and $92 billion in loans the federal government currently spends annually. This will likely mean simplifying student aid, redirecting existing dollars for additional Pell grants, helping students complete college more rapidly, and holding colleges more accountable for students repaying loans.
The Committee's Ranking Member, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), described four areas that Democrats would like to see addressed in a comprehensive HEA reauthorization: college affordability; increased access for underrepresented students; holding colleges and universities accountable for student success and outcomes; and addressing the growing amount of discrimination, harassment, and assault occurring on college campuses.
Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray are expected to negotiate a comprehensive HEA reauthorization bill over the coming months.
Courtesy NSBA Federal Update - Week of February 5, 2018