Congress has mounted several attempts during the past five years to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. According to the first excerpt below from a NACUBO report, reauthorization may be at hand -- if it is not derailed by policy disputes around unresolved issues, such as the Federal role in accreditation. The second excerpt, from USA Today, offers a more consumer-oriented version of the reauthorization that is awaiting the President's signature.
Congress Advances HEA Update; More to Follow
NACUBO, September 18, 2007
Over the August break, leaders of the two congressional committees charged with renewing the Higher Education Act completed the process of blending the House- and Senate-passed versions, which contained changes with implications for federal spending. President Bush’s signature on the act will mark another chapter in the five-year effort to update HEA, which governs the allocation of federal student financial aid and the rules and requirements for institutions that participate in programs covered by the law. In order to ease passage of this legislation--the College Cost Reduction and Access Act--Congress used rules associated with the budget process. As part of that process, the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over HEA were instructed to develop legislation that would reduce entitlement spending during the next five fiscal years, albeit by relatively small amounts. Both the House and Senate have passed legislation conforming to this requirement, and each bill achieves the required savings through cuts in payments to Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program lenders and guaranty agencies. Both bills actually generate substantially higher levels of savings in mandatory spending than were required by the budget directive. The additional savings are intended to offset costs associated with a broad array of new or enhanced student-aid benefits. However, one requirement of using the federal budget process, known as "reconciliation to minimize legislative barriers," is that Congress can only make changes to the law that will either increase or decrease federal spending. As a result, other programmatic changes to the Higher Education Act were dropped during the development of the compromise legislation and will need to be addressed separately. The path that this separate bill might take and the timing for its consideration on Capitol Hill are far from clear. Read more ...
White House gets $20B college aid bill
Sandra Block, USA Today, September 18, 2007
Democratic leaders formally signed a $20 billion college aid bill Tuesday that will boost federal grants for low-income students and lower interest rates for student loans. Supporters say the bill, which President Bush is expected to sign within 10 days, is the largest investment in college education since the 1944 GI bill provided tuition aid to millions of World War II vets. "This is obviously a very big day for students and their families," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. Read more ...