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House Committee Approves Five Higher Education Bills

June 27, 2016

On Wednesday, June 22, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed five bills on a voice vote.

The package of legislation includes provisions that would affect college data collection and reporting, financial aid applications, and some funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).

After reviewing the bills, NACUBO signed on to a letter with the American Council on Education and other higher education associations stating:

We are encouraged by the Committee's focus on improving the financial aid process, enhancing consumer information and strengthening federal programs that support the work of minority serving institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions. Taken together, these bills represent a significant step forward in the ongoing process of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, and meaningfully advance the discussion on these critical issues.

The letter expresses support for the bills but raises concerns with two: the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 3178) and the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 3179).

It is unlikely the bills will be approved by the Senate, but they represent the direction lawmakers are likely to take as they tackle the larger effort to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.  The five bills include:

H.R. 3178, Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act

In 2015, the Department of Education created the College Scorecard in an effort to publish clear, concise information to help students make better choices about which institution to attend. The bill would create a new College Dashboard in an attempt to streamline information available from the federal government, on the College Scorecard and elsewhere. H.R. 3178 would also attempt to improve completion data to include non-traditional students and enhance net price calculators. The provisions are complex and would likely be difficult to implement.

H.R. 3179, Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act

The legislation stipulates financial aid counseling responsibilities for institutions. While many agree that new approaches to student counseling are needed, there are concerns that this legislation is overly prescriptive.

H.R. 5528, Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act

Last year, ED announced it would allow the use of "prior-prior year" tax return information to ease the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  This bill would mandate that change, require the Department to develop a tool that would allow applicants to fill out and submit the FAFSA on mobile devices, and urge ED to make full use of the Internal Revenue Service data retrieval tool to automatically populate the FAFSA with required data and to streamline the process.

H.R. 5529, Accessing Higher Education Opportunities Act

This legislation would add uses of funds to HEA's Title V program for Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Funding would become available to help students transition from baccalaureate programs to doctoral programs in health-care occupations and to develop or expand access to dual enrollment or early college high school programs.

H.R. 5530, HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act

This bill would address oversight and access concerned with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Capital Financing Program.

Additional background information on each of these bills is available from the House Education and the Workforce Committee:

Contact

Liz Clark
Director, Federal Affairs
202.861.2553
E-mail