INSIDE HIGHER ED: With Deregulatory Slant, A Higher Ed Act Push

Career College Central Summary:

  • Senator Lamar Alexander on Tuesday committed to finishing a rewrite of the Higher Education Act by the end of this year as he backed a plan written by colleges and universities to roll back federal requirements on higher education.  
  • “We’ll get it done this year,” Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, told reporters.
  • He said he planned to hold a round of hearings in April, draft a version of the bill by summer, and then have a vote on the Senate floor after the August recess.
  • A key priority for Alexander in renewing the massive law that governs colleges and universities is reducing federal red tape in higher education that “should be an embarrassment to all of us in the federal government.”
  • Alexander said that he would use as a guide for cutting down on regulations a report prepared by 12 higher education leaders and the American Council on Education, an umbrella organization that represents colleges and universities in Washington.
  • The report, which was published last week, was commissioned by Alexander and Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, both Republicans, as well as Democratic Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.
  • Mikulski said at a hearing Tuesday that the report’s recommendations were a “road map” for improving quality and innovation in higher education.
  • She said she wanted to make sure the federal student aid system “does lead to jobs — but not necessarily more jobs at the Department of Education” for people who write regulations.
  • But some Democrats as well as consumer and student groups have pushed back against the report, saying its recommendations would undermine key protections for students.
  • Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, said that colleges must be run effectively and efficiently but worried about removing important rules to hold institutions accountable.
  • “It would be a mistake to roll back important protections for faculty, students and families,” she said.
  • Murray singled out federal regulations in the Clery Act and Title IX that govern sexual assault on college campuses.
  • “We shouldn’t move in the wrong direction by unraveling these core protections that provide students with a safe learning environment,” she said.
  • The Institute for College Access and Success and a coalition of 13 other advocacy groups and unions echoed those concerns in a statement Monday.
  • “It should surprise no one that regulated entities want less regulation and fewer strings attached to the taxpayer funds they receive,” the groups wrote. “While there are some recommendations in the report with which we agree, the report is by no means a consensus opinion among all higher education stakeholders."

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