The 874-page Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA) introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) on November 20 represents the outgoing chairman's goals and priorities for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. HEAA is unlikely to become law in the next GOP-led Congress. However, it will serve as an important point of reference in the development and negotiation process as the Republican-led Senate works on efforts to rewrite the current Act.
The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has provided a brief overview and section-by-section analysis of the provisions of the HEAA.
NACUBO, together with a number of higher education associations, responded to a draft version of the legislation released earlier this year. The bill released by Harkin in November is similar to the earlier draft, but notably includes a new section authorizing the creation of a federal "unit-record" data system, "so that policymakers and families can have a more accurate picture of how institutions of higher education are performing along critical measures of access, persistence, and completion."
In January, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will take the reins as chairman of the HELP Committee. Under his direction, priorities for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act will shift. Alexander has a keen interest in addressing regulatory burden and simplifying the federal student aid process.