Higher Education Act Reauthorization Process Begins
In a letter sent to Capitol Hill on August 2, NACUBO joined the American Council on Education and 37 other higher education associations in sharing initial thoughts on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The letter takes a broad look at concerns facing colleges, universities, and students, including:
- Increasing college access, persistence, and completion.
- Providing better information for consumers.
- Simplifying and improving the student loan program.
- Accreditation and appropriate oversight.
- Improving college affordability and reducing costs.
- Promoting innovation to improve access to and delivery of higher education.
- Reducing federal regulatory burdens while maintaining adequate safeguards.
The letter strongly recommended that Congress address the Department of Education's financial responsibility scores, stating:
Congress should take legislative action to force the Department of Education to ensure it treats private, non-profit colleges fairly under the federal Financial Responsibility Standards system. Independent accounting experts have found serious flaws in the methods used by the Department, and even worse, institutions that have been inaccurately assessed penalties have no clear recourse. At the least, Congress should establish a formal appeals process for affected institutions; create an advisory board of independent accounting experts to assist the Department of Education in its processes; and strengthen the current legal requirement under Section 498(c)(3)C) of the HEA, to ensure the Secretary steps back and examines the "total financial circumstances" of institutions that fail the ratios test before assessing penalties.
While the current law is set to expire at the end of 2013, an automatic one-year extension is expected; most likely, additional time will be needed before final legislation passes. The 2008 reauthorization, for example, followed five years of temporary extensions.
The letter was sent in response to a request from the leaders of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.